Questions and answers from “Car Doctor” – Saratogian

Q. I have a 1996 Honda Accord and occasionally on the highway the car just starts shaking. If it slows down, it usually goes away. In the past if I had vibrations it was usually caused by a tire or balance issue and the steering wheel would shake Any thoughts on this old car? If it helps, the problem seems to have occurred after I had a low tire. Could the tire be damaged? it still works great and i want to keep it.

A. I would start by thoroughly checking all the tires and the suspension, paying particular attention to the tire that was low. If all the tires look good, one strange thing I’ve seen before is that if the air compressor you’re using is pumping a lot of water with the air, the water inside the tire can cause vibrations.

Q. I have an old car that hasn’t been driven/started in years and I want to let it go. So far I have charged the battery, there is a spark and the fuel gauge shows full, but it still won’t fire. Any ideas?

A. Someone recently asked me to look at a car that also hadn’t been driven in a while. Like your car, the battery was fine, there was spark in the spark plugs, but the car wouldn’t start even with jump start spray. I pulled the spark plugs and they were heavily fouled which was sure to cause a hard start. I then asked how long it had been parked. The owner thought it was about 5 years, but after a little more research it turned out to be about 10 years. The problem was a combination of dirty spark plugs and stale gasoline. Removing the spark plugs is the first place to start, followed by using fresh gasoline. You may also find that the fuel lines are clogged and the fuel pump is damaged. The condition of the spark plugs is the first chapter in this restoration story.

Q. I have a 2001 Dodge truck and the engine runs fine, but on the highway the heater goes from hot to cold and then sometimes the engine overheats. What do you think the problem is?

A. This is a classic symptom of a leaking cylinder head gasket. The heating system can be connected to air and stop the circulation of hot water. A head gasket problem can be ruled out or confirmed by using a block check kit that looks for exhaust gases in the cooling system. If you can find a shop with an exhaust gas analyzer, a hydrocarbon reading in the radiator will also indicate if there is a problem.

Q. I have a headlight that is dim, I changed the bulb and it is still dim. When I hit the high beams the lights look fine. What could be the problem?

A. Every electrical system needs a power supply and a ground circuit. I suspect there is a faulty ground wire to that weak bulb. After carefully checking the bulb socket, try using a jumper wire connected to a solid ground and connect it to the bulb’s ground wire. If the spots glow with normal brightness, you’ve found your problem.

Q. We purchased a 2022 Honda CRV, within a few months the car would not start and had to be jumpstarted. They changed the battery twice. No one knew the problem except that they said it should be driven more often than two or three times a week for short distances. After this happened again we traded it in for a 2023 CR-V. The dead battery keeps happening and the battery has been replaced once but it has jumped three times. This is very frustrating and in one of your columns you mentioned other models that have had similar problems. My wife wants to get a new car but we want to know what other cars have this problem. She looks at the Toyota RAV4 and Mazda, among others. Can you tell us the other models to avoid?

A. This is a problem we are seeing more and more often. I recently looked at a two-year-old car that had 38 separate computers. All of these computers use little electricity when the engine is off. Driving short distances just a few times a week effectively takes more electricity from the battery than you get back during normal driving/recharging. Luxury and near-luxury models with the latest technology can be a problem. So far, from what I hear, the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Tucson have been trouble free. Although it can really be a function of how the vehicle is driven. A solution that can help is to have a service cable in a solar battery charger. You can leave the solar panel on the dashboard and the electricity generated by the sun can help keep the battery charged.

Q. I inherited my grandmother’s 2010 Toyota Corolla and recently had a friend change the oil. About 1000 miles later I got a message that the oil needed to be changed. I went back to my friend and he checked the oil which was full and said either ignore the message or go to a dealer to turn off or reset the light. The local Toyota dealer and quite a drive from school.

A. Oil reset is something you can do yourself. Start with the engine off and the odometer reading A. Turn the key to the on position while holding the odometer reset button until the odometer reading shows six zeros. This should reset the light.

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