With the prices of new cars rising year after year, it makes more sense than ever to continue driving your current vehicle. Regular maintenance goes a long way toward keeping your car running smoothly. Of course, maintenance alone won’t prevent auto parts from failing.
Because parts wear down over time, older cars are more susceptible to problems than later models. Unfortunately, most drivers don’t have a proper understanding about how car parts work or why they malfunction. Our goal with this column is to resolve that lack of automotive education. In today’s segment, we’ll take a look at a reader’s issue with his Accord’s engine sputtering. I’ll also help another reader remove the spark plugs from his Infiniti J30.
Question: I purchased a 2005 Honda Accord back when it was new. It has a little over 50,400 miles and has always run smoothly. Two months ago, it started idling really rough whenever I stopped at a signal or stop sign. Then, it started idling rough at low speeds, which happens a lot because I’m always in heavy traffic.
When I’m cruising at 65 mph, the problem disappears. And when I put it into Park and let the engine run, it doesn’t idle rough at all. About a month ago, I had one of the technicians at the dealership replace the spark plugs. It didn’t fix the problem. They mentioned a diagnostic code, but I can’t remember what it was (something about the EGR, I think). They replaced the valves, checked the hoses going to the radiator, but my engine still struggles. What do you think the problem is?
Answer: My first thought was that it’s probably a leak in your head gasket. But, it may also be the cylinder head. If there’s a crack in it, antifreeze may be finding its way into your engine. That would cause it to idle poorly when you’re in traffic, but you wouldn’t a problem at 65 mpg. Go back to your dealership and ask the technician to look at the head gasket. That’s where I’m betting the problem is.
Question: I have a 1997 Infiniti J30 with 176,000 miles. It’s a great car and has never given me any headaches (no major ones, anyway). My problem is actually a small one. When I replaced the spark plugs a few years ago, I had a heck of a time because the threads in the head were semi-stripped. I got them out, but it was tough. I assume they’re going to be hard to remove when I change them again. Any advice?
Answer: The first issue is to get the current spark plugs out. Try this: unscrew the plugs a little and start lightly spraying oil on the threads. That should loosen them up so you can remove them more easily. Second, visit your auto supply store and buy a thread repair kit. Otherwise, you’ll continue to have this problem each time you replace your spark plugs.
That last question was a simple one, but it’s still a good addition to the library of car information we’re building. Remember, the goal of this library is not for you to be able to do all of your auto repairs yourself. Chances are, you won’t have access to the tools or equipment you’ll need. Instead, the goal is to increase your knowledge about cars and the parts which make them operate smoothly. We’ll have a new round of provocative questions in the next installment.