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Broken gear found after repair suspicious

Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 3:58 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, June 6, 2014 4:01 p.m. CDT

The water pump was leaking in my 1999 Toyota Camry with a 4-cylinder engine. My shop replaced the pump, but when they were finished, the car would not start. Now they want to replace a gear on the crankshaft. The car ran fine when I took it to them. Did they do something wrong? – S.P., email

The part they want to replace is more than likely the crankshaft timing gear. It’s near the water pump and is not something that breaks easily. Without examining the part and knowing the history of the vehicle, it would be difficult to determine if they have anything to do with the need to replace it, but it is suspicious.

I have a 1995 Lincoln Town Car with 191,000 miles and a 4.6-liter V-8 engine. It’s in great condition. I follow the factory maintenance schedule, but now and then the engine begins to hesitate, and when it does, it wants to stall and feels like it will cut out. Just as suddenly as this happens, the engine returns to normal and purrs along as if nothing happened. This condition might last a few minutes, or it might last only a few seconds. Once it returns to normal, it may be weeks before it happens again or it could happen three times in one day. There is no warning. It just happens.

I’ve taken the car to three different repair shops. It never acts up. One shop had the car for three days. The shop owner drove it for errands and to and from home. It never acted up for him. 

I’m worried that one of these days the car will stall and leave me stranded. I don’t want to get rid of it. I know sometimes you make jokes like dump it. Do you have any suggestions short of getting rid of the car? – P.W.P., email

I appreciate how a person might become attached to a vehicle. Don’t get rid of it. Park it and plant flowers around it. All kidding aside, it might be a good idea for a technician to check ground connections for security and corrosion. Also check plugs at the engine control module and plugs near the battery for security and corrosion. Poor connections in older vehicles can cause problems such as you describe.

Ask your favorite shop to consider this during your next visit.

My 2007 Saturn Relay has 158,000 miles and a 3.9-liter engine. I have a dilemma. I use the vehicle to tow a small trailer to haul a variety items that can range from furniture to lawn tractors that I buy at auctions for my resale business. About 30,000 miles ago, the transmission was not shifting normally. I went to a shop. They checked the fluid. It was black. They said it would be risky to flush the fluid because sometimes a transmission fails right after a flush. I decided to have them flush it. It turned out fine, and normal operation returned. 

Recently, the transmission started to act up again. I was towing my small trailer filled with auction buys. I went to a shop. They found the fluid was black just as before. Just as the other shop advised, they said that flushing the fluid was risky and that I might not make it out of the parking lot or home a few hundred miles away. 

After a test drive, they suggested not to tow the trailer. I took their advice regarding a fluid flush, but I did not leave the trailer behind. I drove home but barely made it. The transmission was slipping so badly I barely made into my store parking lot. The next time I wanted to drive, it would not move.

My local repair shop has the vehicle. They said I have three options. They can install a low mileage used transmission from a salvage yard with a 90-day warranty. My second option is to have them overhaul the original transmission with a one year warranty or install a transmission from a company that remanufactures transmissions with a two year warranty. I’m leaning toward the used transmission. 

If I had flushed the transmission before making the trip, would the transmission be OK today? Also, I intend to keep the van a few more years. Which transmission do you think I should have installed? – A.D., email

It’s good you did not flush the transmission. It probably would not have restored normal function and probably would have left you stranded at the shop far from home. Also, you are lucky it did not strand you somewhere in between. 

As for which transmission to authorize, it depends on the terms of the warranty and price. Having said that, because you intend to keep the vehicle a few more years, the best option might be installation of a remanufactured unit. The warranty might cover parts and labor, and it might be less expensive to replace it than to overhaul the original transmission. Additionally, if the remanufactured unit fails while you are far from home, it’s likely the warranty will cover repairs at another shop. The warranty on your local shop overhaul might only cover parts and not labor, and they might not warranty the work done at another shop. 

Hopefully, I have instilled a few new questions to ask shop personnel. Whatever you decide, be sure to receive warranty information in writing.

The sunroof in my 2007 Mercedes-Benz R350 is not working right after the battery died. I had a local shop install a new battery. Since then, I can open the roof, but it won’t go all the way back or close unless I hold down the switch. The local shop that installed the battery says they did not do anything to the sunroof. They think it needs reprogramming due to the dead battery. They suggest I take the car to a dealership for the programming.

Did they do something to cause the sunroof to malfunction? Is it necessary to go to a dealership for the programming or can a local shop do the work? – G.T.K., email

Your local shop would have no reason to touch the sunroof to replace a dead battery. It’s likely the sunroof is not functioning as designed as a result of lost memory due to the dead battery. I have a preponderance of confidence that you are qualified to do the repair. 

More than likely the sunroof needs to go through a relearn process. To do this, hold the switch down to fully open and close the sunroof. Repeat this operation four or five times. Next, tap the switch to express open and close the unit. You might have to tap four of five times, or it might express open with the first tap. If so, cease any further manipulation of the switch. The procedure is complete, and the unit should be working as designed. If not, it’s time to visit a Mercedes dealership to have them look into the issue.

Recently, I replaced the brakes on my 2003 Kia Rio. After the work, I hear a clunk sound when stopping in reverse or forward gears. I’ve checked the calipers, and everything is tight. I hear the noise every time I stop. Other than this, the brakes work normally. What do you think is causing the clunk? – N.S., email

I commend you for tackling a brake job. If it is not done correctly, the results could be catastrophic. Your work resulted in normal stops and not failure.

Sometimes, noises such as you describe are caused by the brake pads shifting within the calipers. It’s possible the pads have a loose fit. Check them. Enlist the help of another person so you can observe the pads with the tires removed while another person applies the brakes. The vehicle will need to be properly supported with the engine running in gear.

As the brakes are applied, the pads might shift and make the sound. If so, it’s time to discuss the issue with your auto parts supplier so you receive a replacement set of pads that have a proper fit.

Every so often, my 2005 Hyundai Elantra GLS will not start. It has a 4-cyliner engine. I’ve been tinkering with cars for many years, so I’m trying to cure this trouble on my own. When it won’t start, the engine cranks normally, but it does not even try to start. If I crank it two, three or four times, it starts and runs fine. This does not happen too often, but I’m worried one of these days it won’t start at all. It might not happen for two months, or it might happen once a day for three consecutive days. I just never know. There is no warning.

Twice, I have been able to be under the hood when it wouldn’t start. As my wife cranked the engine, I could hear and feel the transmission and engine relays clicking at the same speed as if they are synchronized. When the engine starts normally, these relays click once and that’s it. Do you think the relays are the cause of the trouble? – M.C.V., email

The relays might be the trouble, but both relays clicking at the same synchronized rate points toward another issue. It might be a poor ground connection. Check all of the ground connections in the engine bay for security and corrosion. I think you will find that a main ground such as the negative battery cable or even a ground between the engine and body might have a poor connection. You might need to replace the battery negative cable, but the repair all depends on what you find.

• Phil Arendt is a columnist, consultant and A.S.E.-certified master technician. Readers may send questions to Dr. Gizmo at P.O. Box 548, Cary, IL 60013 or drgizmo@drgizmo.ws. Information is available on his website, http://drgizmo89.blogspot.com.

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