- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

Dear Auto Doctor: My folks are in Decatur, Ala., and drive a 2001 Buick LeSabre that has a popping noise in the front end when turning to the right. My parents have taken the car to the shop several times but they can’t get the car to duplicate the noise. Do you have any ideas on what this could be and what the repair cost would be? - Liz

Dear Liz: A commonly overlooked item is a worn lower control arm rubber bushing, where the control arm bolts into the sub frame. Outer sway bar links and lower steering shaft joints are also common contributors in this situation - and there is even the possibility of brake pad movement. As far as a fair repair cost goes, I recommend you get three estimates from reputable shops in your area to make a judgment on the price you want to pay.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2004 Nissan Titan pickup with 83,000 miles. When I press on the brake, I hear a very subtle noise, like something rubbing. I had two mechanics check it out to no avail. Also, the emergency brake (rear brakes) barely engages when I’m parked or driving. I switched the rotors to a set of drilled and slotted about three months prior. - Julio

Dear Julio: Congratulations on the slotted brake rotors. There will be some noise from disc brake pads rubbing against the rotors, especially slotted or drilled rotors. When you are stopped and depress the brake pedal and hear some noise, it can be coming from the power vacuum brake booster. As for the weak parking brake, make sure the parking brake cables are adjusted properly and move freely. If your truck has separate rear parking brake shoes, make sure they are not worn out and the adjusters are not binding.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2004 Dodge Dakota with 60,000 miles and I maintain it properly. It started leaking transmission fluid. After most of it had drained out, I had it towed to the dealership, where they told me that the leak was caused by the cooler lines rotting. They said it was so bad that the lines rotted into my radiator and that would have to be replaced, too, for over $1,000. Is the age of my SUV too soon a time period to have something that drastic happen? - Brian

Dear Brian: I have seen a lot of rusted-out lines on all makes of vehicles with low miles. The quality of all metal lines used today is not the best. You are not alone. If the radiator itself is not leaking, then an alternative to the $1,000 replacement is an aftermarket transmission cooler for around $200 installed. This can be done at most any repair shop.

Dear Doctor: I purchased for my son a 2000 Honda Prelude with a drop suspension two years ago. Recently I drove the Prelude and noticed at high speed the car would shake or sway, especially on the curves. My mechanic put it on the lift and told me that everything is tight and he sees no problem. He corrected the tire pressure. Do you think a camber alignment would help? - Wilfredo

Dear Wilfredo: I have seen on some small cars the front axle C/V joints bind from being compressed too much when turning. For the shake on the straightaway at 35 mph and above, I would look at both inner C/V joints and any play in the front drive axle. A tire out of round will also cause a shake. A shake above 55 mph is usually related to tire balance. On some rare occasions I have seen overly tightened rear drum brakes cause a shake. You may want to try another shop for another opinion.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2004 Buick LeSabre Limited 3800 Series II V6 engine. I am having trouble with the gas gauge and speedometer. I can be driving along and looking down at the gas gauge creep up to full and beyond. The speedometer sometimes goes up to 140 mph and beyond no matter what my speed. Sometimes they both act up at the same time or sometimes it is one only. Is this an electrical problem? - Ross

Dear Ross: The first step is to check the body computer for fault codes. I did look on our Identifix database and found multiple dash cluster failures, which might be the culprit in your case. I have replaced many dash clusters at my shop. You will need to bring the vehicle to a qualified technician. If the problem is the dash cluster, then it will be replaced with a factory reconditioned unit.

• Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. E-mail questions to [email protected]

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