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
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Q. I worked for an automotive center and I'm wondering if TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) is really necessary as opposed to traditional valve stems for automobile tires. Considering the fragility of TPMS units and the product cost and expense associated with replacing them, are motorists paying unnecessarily high replacement costs for an item that has little or marginal value for a car?
A. There is no doubt about the fact that the TPMS can become a considerable additional expense when dealing with tires on today's cars. Let's spend a minute and talk about the negatives of TPMS and then we'll talk about the positives.
We'll start with the fact that it is a government mandate. The push for TPMS started when we had the Firestone tire recall in the late 1990s. The Clinton administration enacted the Tread Act that required TPMS technology to be phased in starting in 2005. By 2008 the whole U.S. fleet weighing less than 10,000 pounds was outfitted
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Q. My wife and I live in Alexandria, Minn. and were passing through Chicago on May 29. I bought the Daily Herald and saw your auto article about a 1996 Lincoln Town Car that would die when temperatures rose above 70 degrees. My daughter, who lives in Atlanta, has a 1998 Buick Regal that seems to be doing the same thing. It has the 3800 engine with 217,000 miles on the odometer. Sometimes it kills or abruptly hesitates upon acceleration or sometimes seems to sputter under load while going uphill. During the winter in Atlanta it hardly ever happened. However when it gets more warm and humid the frequency increases. Sometimes it kills on her when making a turn.
We have suspected the MAF sensor, which to my knowledge has been an issue with that car but have not tried changing it. The fuel filter has about 16,000 miles on it. When the car gets to cruising speed it seems to run absolutely fine so I don't suspect a fuel filter issue. There is no check engine light that indicate
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Q. Why would the tire store have put two new tires on the back of my car when it is a front wheel drive vehicle? It seems to me you would want the better traction in the front of the car going into winter.
A. It does seem counter intuitive but they did the right thing. Whether it is front-wheel drive or not and you are only replacing two tires, you always put them on the back of the car. The reason they go on the back is for safety while stopping. If you have your best traction on the front and you go into a panic stop or a hard stop on slippery pavement, there is a possibility the front of the car could stop faster than the back causing a bad skid. So for safety and liability purposes, the tire manufacturers require new tires be put on the rear of the car