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  • Vibration problem shakes driver of Toyota van

    Posted on 27, March, 2017

    Q. I read your column all the time and love it so when this problem came up with my van, I thought, who better to get a straight answer from than you.

    Some history -- in July I purchased a 2007 Toyota Sienna certified vehicle from a Toyota dealership. The van had 70,000 miles and was in excellent condition. Shortly after taking possession (and a road trip), I noticed between 30-35 and 45-50 mph (especially 1,300 to 1,400 rpm) there was a louder "droning noise," as Toyota calls it. Along with this noise was a vibration that reverberated throughout the cabin and was felt in my seat.

    I should mention that right after I purchased the van, I had a set of Hankook H737 Optimo tires put on with an alignment.

    The first time I took the van back to the dealer, they indicated they could not find a problem and they would want to try driving another van (same year, mileage, model, etc.) to determine if this is just how the van operates. They did not have such van at the dealership.

    I investigated online and found a van with all the same specs at another dealership and took it for a test drive. That van did not have the louder humming and vibration at those speeds. I took the van back to the dealership and they looked over the van again and found that the transmission fluid was "black" (I was upset about that especially because this was a certified vehicle and that should have been checked before they sold it to me) and that it was probably the cause. They did a complete transmission flush no charge

    When I picked up the van, I wasn't more than three blocks from the dealership when I noticed the same occurrence of the humming and vibration. I returned to the dealership. The technicians consulted with their Field Technical Specialist and opened a case report. They determined next that it was the center front motor mount that was the cause of the problem. They replaced that part at no charge.

    When I picked up that van and drove it a few blocks, the same noise occurred. I returned it to the dealership. After discussing it with the specialist again, they decided to adjust and reposition the exhaust mounts. This did solve the 30-35 mph hum and vibration, but did nothing for the 45-50 mph problem. So once again I returned to the dealership and they again contacted the specialist.

    This time the dealership contacted me and stated that upon review for that model year and engine that this problem has been brought up with Toyota, they investigated it, and tried to identify the problem but were unable to. So the dealership told me in so many words that "there is no fix for this problem" and that Toyota is aware of it. I feel as though the dealership doesn't want to spend any more time on my issue because this was not the first time the specialist was involved and if there were such a documented problem within Toyota, then why didn't they tell me that the first time the specialist was involved

    I would have thought if the 30-35 mph noise/vibration was eliminated by adjusting the exhaust, that some further manipulation of the exhaust or replacement of the entire system (which is still under warranty) would solve the problem. I've read online of similar issues with noise/vibration at certain rpm resolved by an exhaust system fix.

    I'm hoping you might be able to confirm this is a documented issue with Toyota and hopefully have a fix for this type of a situation.

    A. Thanks for reading the column and for a great question.

    First, I had one of my technicians check our online sources to see if there were any known or common problems with your van relating to vibration issues. While we found nothing on our normal technical forums, it seems Toyota has not been able to figure out the problem. On a simple Google search I found a lot of Sienna owners who have gone through the same thing you experienced. Most of what dealers are finding is related to an engine vibration or the transmission of vibration through the body of the van via the exhaust system, causing some harmonics.

     

    The majority of responses I found seem to relate to the exhaust system. These problems can be hard to pin down. Exhaust pipes that touch, and motor mounts can be the source of the problem. Sometimes it can be as simple as some loose heat shields. Now that the droning sound at the lower speed is corrected, I wonder if the other noise is more related to the rolling of the van, like a wheel bearing or maybe even tire noise. A technician should be able to determine if it is a rolling vibration or more of a harmonics in the body on his test drive.

    The way you worded your explanation it seems you did not notice this initially. Is it since the tire replacement? With so many folks complaining about this issue I would love the opportunity to drive your car and see if I can get anywhere with it.

    Tagged: Vibrations
  • Rust usually excluded from warranties

    Posted on 20, March, 2017

    Q. I read with interest your recent column regarding the Santa Fe and rust, which is a related issue with my 2003 Santa Fe. In December I spent almost $2,300 at the Hyundai dealership replacing the front exhaust pipe assembly, which had rusted out and fallen off the car.

    When I took it to my regular mechanic in January for an oil change and checkup, he told me the rust on the bottom of the car -- brake backing plates, gas tank shield, etc. -- was so bad it looked like the car had 300,000 miles on it instead of the 90,000+ miles it does have.

    I still have a few thousand miles left and about six months on my 10-year, 100,000 mile warranty. Do I have any recourse to get the car repaired or the rust problem addressed before the whole car falls apart? I believe there have been multiple lawsuits against Hyundai on the rust issue in "Salt Belt" states but not much came of it. Your recommendation?

     

    A. Thanks for reading the column and sorry you are having all those issues with your car. My assumption is that your warranty excludes rust as car companies typically will not cover rust. You are probably on your own with this.

    The only thing I can suggest you do if you are not getting satisfaction from Hyundai is to phone or write to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or online at www.nhtsa.gov if you prefer. If there are enough complaints on this then maybe something will get done.

    Generally speaking, it does require a large amount of complaints on the exact same issue before the government will step in and force a recall. Check first with Hyundai because sometimes if you squeak enough they will take care of you in some fashion.

    Hyundai is working hard to build their brand and they are building really nice cars these days, so maybe you can get some help if you get to the right person. Good luck with this.

    Tagged: Douglas Q&A
  • Mice can do significant damage to autos

    Posted on 13, March, 2017

    We have seen several cars brought into the shop this year with rodent damage.

    I don't know if this is because of the extremely long and cold winter we experienced here in the Chicago area but, whatever the reason, we have seen more of this damage recently than in years past.

    The damage has ranged from fairly minor, about $200 in repairs, all the way up to more than $1,500 worth of repairs.

    On the minor side, typically you find a nest under the hood and then some wiring to one of the sensors on the engine has been chewed through. After we clean out all of the nest material and repair the wiring, the vehicle is usually good to go.

    We always check the air filter box and the cabin air filter for more debris because they can get in there, too.

    The car that suffered the worst damage, by far, was a Mustang. It was parked in a garage for several months while the owner was out of state over the winter. The damage under the hood was minor compared to what was done on the inside of the car.

    Mice had burrowed into the back-seat foam and did what any good rodent will do. The carpet was full of mouse droppings and urine, leaving a horrible smell.

    We had to remove the whole interior and send it out to be treated. We would have replaced the carpeting but it was no longer available, so it was cleaned. We removed the leather from the rear seat and had the foam chemically treated.

    The finished product turned out well but it was sure a nasty mess when we started.

    The obvious solution to this problem is to try and keep the mice outside and out of the car in the first place. However, sometimes this is easier said than done. There are so many places a mouse can gain entry into a car, or at least under the hood, once they make their way inside the garage.

    If you can seal up the garage, that would be best. In searching the Internet, I found all kinds of deterrents suggested such as liquid sprays, electronic devices, moth balls and Bounce dryer sheets. Even getting a cat was recommended.

    Email me your surefire way to keep out the rodents. It will be interesting to see the results!

  • Loose wire remains elusive for a decade

    Posted on 06, March, 2017

    Q. I purchased a new 2000 Lincoln Cartier Town Car. Within a few years, the whole system just stopped; no air, no heat, no blower. For about the last ten years, this has continued about every three to six months after service by the Lincoln dealer. New modules, new blower, new wire, etc.

    This June when in Michigan, it again went out. The Lincoln dealer put in another module and it worked fine for one day. I took it back to the same dealer, and when they opened the hood and touched a wire in front of the firewall, the system started up. So he replaced the wire

    The car worked fine until I sold it to a friend of mine three weeks ago. Guess what? It went out again. After about a week, it started to work again. This pattern of working and then not, driving a half-hour or sometimes a day or two before things are fine, has been going on for years and has the Lincoln mechanics stumped. Have you had any problems like this with the Town Cars?

    By the way, the car had 222,000 miles on it when I sold it. It was in immaculate shape. My layman's theory is there is a loose electron running around.

     

    A. This is a tough one. I am leaning more toward an open wire somewhere that has to be found.

    Whether or not it is the same open wire that was found in Michigan remains to be seen. The fact that it goes on and off fits more with an open wire than a failed module. It could be a wire or one of the connections, or it's possible it could be a problem right at the fuse box. The other thing we have seen cause weird problems on the Lincolns is an alternator that puts out AC voltage. This can play havoc with the electrical system and is fairly easy to test and diagnose.

    Based on the history of your car, though, I would still look for an open wire somewhere in the wiring for that system.

  • "What causes engine 'tick'”

    Posted on 27, February, 2017

    Q. When I first start my car in the morning, I hear a ticking noise coming from the engine. It's a 2003 Ford Escape Limited with a V-6 engine and 70,000 miles. It goes away after 30 seconds or less and doesn't do it upon subsequent warm startups, like after a visit to the grocery store. I've changed oil on a routine basis, but just to be sure I didn't get inferior oil or the wrong weight put in on the last oil change, I had it changed again at the Ford dealer using their super blend oil. That didn't help -- it still does the "ticking" noise on cold starts.

    Is this something serious to worry about? I've heard differing opinions. What could be the problem and how can I get it properly diagnosed?

    A. Good question, John! It really depends on how severe the noise is and how long it lasts. It sounds, from your description, like you have a lifter or two that is bleeding down when the car sits overnight. When you start it cold it takes a few seconds for the oil to build pressure and pump the lifter back up and that is when the noise goes away.

    If that is all it is I don't think you need to worry, the vehicle will perform fine indefinitely like that. If you want to try something to improve the situation, you could put a can of Valvoline oil additive in the oil; sometimes that will cure a lazy lifter. If nothing else it will improve the oil flow when cold.

    Tagged: Oil Changes