If this is your first time reading my Auto Specialist column, welcome. Our purpose here is to help readers figure out what is happening under the hood of their vehicles. After all, car parts don’t last forever. The older they get, the more likely they are to malfunction, or fail entirely. The problem is that when they do, the reason is not always clear. What’s more, it’s often not even clear which part is causing the problem in the first place.
I’ve been receiving a ton of great questions from readers. So, thanks to all of you. I’d like to remind those of you writing in with your car problems to include your vehicle’s make, model, year, and mileage. You may be surprised by how much that helps.
Let’s jump right in with today’s questions.
Question: I own a gorgeous 1998 Ford Mustang with a little over 121,000 miles. Last week, I took the normal brake pads off and had the guy at my local garage put on Hawk Performance Ceramic pads. That same day, my brakes started to squeal. Now, I realize that new pads can sometimes do that, but it hasn’t gone away. In fact, the squealing seems to be getting louder.
Here’s my question for you. Are the performance brake pads not suited for my Mustang? Or, did the mechanic put them on badly? I realize that squealing is usually caused by vibrations between the pad and rotor. But, I’m pretty sure the pads aren’t loose, because they came with clips that lock into place. For what it’s worth, my car stops on a dime with these brakes, so I don’t want to get rid of them. Care to give me your best guess on why they’re squealing?
Answer: Hi Chad. The answer is probably simpler than you imagine, but I doubt you’ll like it. The fact is, performance brakes squeal. Even if they’re locked into place, they’re noisy. That means your options are limited to tolerating the noise or putting the old brake pads back on. From what you’ve described, I don’t think they’re malfunctioning.
Question: I have a 2003 Toyota Sienna and the odometer reads 82,000. In December of last year, my car’s alternator died. I had it towed to a garage near where I live and asked the guys working there to replace it. They also did a check for fault codes, but didn’t find any.
In February, the replacement died when I was on the freeway. Very frustrating to say the least. I had my car towed to the same repair shop and had them check it out. Again, no fault codes. But, they replaced the alternator and didn’t charge me for it. A few weeks ago, the darn thing died again. This is the third alternator. My car is sitting in my garage, because I’m not sure what to do. Luckily, my wife can drive me back and forth to work. Any ideas?
Answer: Thanks for your question, Gary. My first guess is that the repair garage is putting in low-quality alternators in your car. I don’t know where they’re buying them from, but I’ll bet they’re not OEM. If they are OEM or high-quality replacements, I’d be willing to bet there’s a problem with the PCM. That could be why the mechanics are not finding any fault codes.
First, I’d ask them about the quality of their alternators. If you need to pay a little more for a top-notch replacement, it’s worth it.
Thanks again to Chad and Gary. Both of your questions will add nicely to our growing library of automotive knowledge. We’ll attack a few new questions in the next segment, so make sure to join me for it. Until then, drive safely.