Q & A #25 With The Auto Specialist
Welcome back to the Auto Specialist. In today’s installment, I’m going to respond to a reader’s question about a noisy fan belt in a car he’s thinking about buying. We’re also going to take a look at a misfire problem that a reader is experiencing.
Before we get into today’s car problems, I want to make a quick comment about buying parts. From your emails, it’s clear that specific components – from alternators to fuel pumps to engines – need to be replaced. I suspect that a few of you are relying upon low-cost rebuilt units. Be careful. The quality can range from fantastic to poor. If you have the budget, definitely consider investing in Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. They’re more expensive, but they’re reliable.
Let’s get started.
Question: I went to a local used lot yesterday and saw a 2003 Pontiac Vibe with 82,000 miles on it. I’m thinking about purchasing it because it looks and drives clean. The only thing is that something under the hood is making an awful noise when the engine is on. I have a feeling the noise is coming from the fan belt. The sales guy on the lot said it’s nothing to worry about, but I wanted to get your opinion. Do you think it’s the fan belt? And assuming the noise doesn’t go away on its own, am I going to be on the hook for an expensive repair job?
Answer: Thanks for writing, Jake. The noise you’ve described may be caused by the fan belt or it could be caused by a pulley. There’s even a small chance it’s coming from the water pump, clutch, or something else. Because your email didn’t mention it, I’ll assume you haven’t sprayed WD40 on the belt yet. That’s the first test. Turn the engine on, pop the hood, and wait for the noise. When you hear it, spray the belt.
If that eliminates the noise, it means the rubber of the fan belt is likely cracked or hardened. Replacing it will probably cost between $100 and $200, including labor.
Question: I have a 2004 Volkswagen Passat with a little over 69,000 miles. For the past month, I’ve been getting a misfire. It feels like it’s coughing when I hit the gas pedal. It happens sporadically and used to only occur when I was accelerating to get onto the freeway. But, now, the misfiring is happening at lower speeds and more often. Here’s the thing, the mechanic at the Volkswagen dealership said there are no codes when they run the tests. Any ideas about what’s causing it?
Answer: Thanks for your email, Doreen. My first thought is that your fuel pump may be failing. I’d have the mechanics check that first. If the fuel pump is fine, I’d go through and replace the spark plugs, wires, and filters. Basically, I’d have the auto techs at your dealership perform a tune-up, even though 69,000 miles is early for it. If my guess is right, that should resolve the misfire.
Thanks for your questions Jake and Doreen. Both make nice additions to our growing library of car problems and solutions. Next time, we’ll help a reader with his car’s air conditioning issue. We’ll also take a look at another gentleman’s fuel injection system. Until then, drive safely.