Q & A #87 With The Auto Specialist
Thanks for joining me for another installment of the Auto Specialist. Perhaps due to uncertainty regarding the direction of fuel prices, consumers seem to be leery of buying large pickup trucks. Reuters is reporting that large pickups are moving very slowly off dealership lots, causing concern among automakers. General Motors, in particular, has attracted notice from analysts due to their stagnant inventory of Silverados and Sierras. Both models have been among the slowest large trucks to move recently. Earlier in the year, this class of vehicles had represented a pocket of strong growth for automakers. This may yet still prove to be the case, but it remains to be seen.
In other auto news, a recent consumer poll was conducted asking participants to rate the automotive brands they perceive in the best light. The results were surprising. Ford Motor Company earned the top spot by a wide margin over the second-highest rated brand (Honda).
In today’s segment, we’ll help Miguel with a question about his Grand Prix’s fuel injectors. We’ll also address Lori’s concerns regarding the tires on her Sonata. Lastly, we’ll help Stephen figure out whether he can trust a local mechanic to do a good job at a fair price. There’s a lot to cover today, so let’s get started.
Question: I’m driving a 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix with 154,000 miles. I’ve been having some trouble with the engine lately. It misfires every once in awhile, and it seems to hesitate when I press the accelerator too quickly. I took it into the shop last Tuesday to have the mechanic take a look. He told me two of the fuel injectors were dirty and needed to be replaced. First, how do they get dirty? Second, does his advice seem reasonable to you?
Answer: Thanks for writing in, Miguel. To your first question, fuel injectors don’t technically attract dirt, though mechanics often describe them as “dirty.” The injectors actually become clogged. There are chemicals present in gasoline that accumulate in the nozzle’s holes, and leave deposits. The deposits prevent fuel from passing through the holes. The result is that the cylinders receive less fuel than normal, which causes a misfire or hesitation when you accelerate.
To your second question, yes. Given the age of your car and the number of miles on the engine, it is possible for the injectors to have become clogged. Replacing those that are blocked should resolve the engine problems you’ve experienced recently.
Question: I own a 2006 Hyundai Sonata. It has about 73,000 miles on it. The tire on the front passenger side seems to wear out really quickly. But only on the outside. I can feel the treads on the inside shoulder, and they seem fine. This happened in the past, and I had the tire replaced. But now it’s happening again. Do you have any idea what is causing this?
Answer: Thanks for sending in your question, Lori. There’s a good chance your Sonata’s wheels are misaligned. Wheel alignment involves a few measurements, including toe, caster, and camber. When treadwear occurs on one shoulder of the tire, the cause is usually a camber misalignment. Before replacing your tire again, have the camber angle aligned properly. That will prevent the same problem occurring down the road.
Question: My car is a 2005 Ford Thunderbird, and the engine has 58,400 miles. I just moved into the area, and have been looking for a mechanic. I’m not sure who to trust. Basically, I want to make sure the shop does a good job when working on my car, but at a reasonable price. How would you look for a mechanic?
Answer: Thank you for your question, Stephen. Most independent mechanics I’ve known are knowledgeable, trustworthy, and hard-working individuals. That said, there are a few bad apples. Here’s what I would do:
First, narrow your list of prospective shops based on location and price. Second, take your car in for one or two minor service items, such as replacing the brake pads, spark plugs, or changing the oil. The purpose of doing so is to test the shop. Do they treat you well? Or, do they attempt to sell you on a litany of other services? Are their prices fair? When the shop gives you an invoice, is it detailed, listing every item performed on your car? As you gain confidence in the shop’s mechanics, have them perform larger jobs.
Become a loyal customer early. Don’t wait until you need major work done on your car to visit a repair shop for the first time.
That’s it for today’s installment. Thanks again to Miguel, Lori, and Stephen for writing in, and giving us a chance to answer their automotive questions. Join us for the next segment when we’ll have a new batch of interesting car problems to troubleshoot. Until then, drive safely.