Welcome back to the Auto Specialist. This past week, I was talking with a few mechanic friends who have been in the business for many years. We traded our favorites stories, including the one about the guy whose brake pads were so worn down that his rotors may as well have been toothpicks. Or, the lady who had accidentally put transmission fluid into her power steering reservoir. These types of mistakes happen more often than you think.
Above all, my friends agreed that fewer people than ever seem to know much about their cars. That’s part of the reason I started this regular column: to offer simple answers to seemingly complex automotive problems.
With that in mind, let’s jump into today’s batch of questions. We’re going to help Josh figure out why his Infiniti’s engine won’t crank. We’ll also answer a question from Marlene about her PT Cruiser’s head gasket.
Question: I own a 2000 Infiniti I30 with the mileage at 113,400. It’s been a great car ever since I bought it new. However, the engine has begun to give me problems (actually, that may or may not be the problem). A few months ago, I was having sporadic trouble cranking the engine. I’d turn the key and nothing would happen. With a few tries, the engine would turn over and everything would then work fine.
The problem is getting worse. Not only does it happen more frequently, but a few times, the engine has even died while I’m driving on the freeway. It just completely turns off. I’ve had the dealership look at it, but they can’t duplicate the issue. Meanwhile, I’m not sure what to do. Any ideas?
Answer: Thanks for your question, Josh. From what you’ve described, I’m going to guess the culprit is the starter. I suggest taking your car back to the mechanic and asking him to run a test on it. If the starter is fine, there’s probably a bad connection somewhere.
Question: I’m driving a 2002 Chrysler PT Cruiser with 68,000 miles. A little more than three years ago, I had the head gasket replaced. I’m not sure what was wrong with it, but my mechanic said it was failing. Ever since then, I’ve had to have the darn thing replaced three times, which is really expensive. I can’t believe this is normal. How often should I need to replace the head gasket?
Answer: Thanks for writing in, Marlene. First, it’s not uncommon for a head gasket to last the life of your vehicle. I’ve seen them last for 200,000 miles. So, replacing it three times in three years should definitely be unnecessary. The head gasket sits between the engine block and cylinder head. Chances are, the surface of one of them (if not both) is uneven. I would ask your mechanic to check the surfaces and smooth them, if necessary.
That’s it for today’s segment. I’d like to thank both Josh and Marlene again for sending in their questions. I know a lot of you have written in with your own questions and are still waiting for me to address them in this column. I will soon. In the next installment, we’ll help Todd with his Mirage’s timing belt and Erin with her Accord’s battery. Until next time, drive safely.