Dear Doctor: I have a well-maintained 2000 Toyota Camry LE 2.2 with 128,000 miles. The car runs well, but occasionally flashes an ABS and the radio light flickers with it, too. I also noticed one night that the headlight flickers with it as well. I’ve asked around and some people tell me it’s the alternator or battery. What do you advise? Ed
Dear Ed: The flickering indicates charging voltage variation. A test of the charging system needs to be performed. The problem might be the alternator. Before replacing it, an additional test of the battery and all ground connections should be done. If you do end up replacing the alternator, then I prefer the Bosch brand for its quality and 2-year warranty.
Dear Doctor: I’m looking for the definitive answer on whether it is truly mandated that premium gas be used in the Nissan Murano as suggested by the manufacturer. I’ve been told that it is not a problem to burn regular gas. There is obviously a reason why the manufacturer is recommending premium gas. It has always been my contention that various sensors in the vehicle are set to monitor the consumption of a specific octane and that you could disrupt the sensor’s function by burning the wrong gas. Can you hurt the engine by extensive use of lesser octane over a several year period? Mark
Dear Mark: The engine in your Nissan is a high performance V-6. The engine is high tech with high compression and variable valve timing with 24 valves. The fuel delivery is also precise. The lower octane gasoline burns off at lower heat than the high octane. They both have cleaning additives. The use of regular octane gasoline will limit the power under hard and full acceleration. It will not cause hesitation, but it will cause additional carbon buildup in the combustion chambers. The 20-cent a gallon difference only equals a few cups of coffee a week. I personally would not make it a habit to fill the tank with regular unleaded gasoline. The gas mileage will also be lower with the use of regular unleaded. When it comes to gasoline put in what the manufacturer recommends. Also, the use of full-synthetic oil can increase gas mileage up to 1-mpg, which helps make up the added cost of the premium fuel.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2004 Dodge Caravan 3.3L V-6 with the automatic transmission and 57,600 miles. Something new has been happening when I go for a gas fill at a local brand name station. After filling up my minivan it runs fine, initially. Then when I am a few blocks down the street it begins to buck and jerk and may occasionally stall out. It starts right up and I continue to have this for 2 to 3 blocks. After that period of time the car continues to run fine until the next fill-up. I always check that the gas cap has been tightened. What can the problem be? Al
Dear Al: We see the problem often on this vehicle. There is a rollover valve to prevent gas from escaping during a rollover accident. When the vale sticks it causes a rich fuel condition, causing your complaint.
Dear Doctor: I recently opened a small repair shop out of my garage at home. Things are going well, but I am running into a lot of electrical problems that I’m unfamiliar with and have to refer the vehicle to another shop or the dealer. Do you have any suggestions on how I can get help with these and other problems? Steven
Dear Steven: Do not feel badly about this, as I have learned no one has all the answers to today’s complex vehicles. At both of my shops, we use Alldata and Identifix for help when needed. There is no way we could make the proper repairs without the correct information. Alldata has a special going on for $99 for the first three months. Call toll free 1-800-829-8727; use code HBF6 for the discount.
Dear Doctor: I am interested in the new 2011 Volkswagen Touareg Hybrid and wonder if you have had the chance to drive one? Bernie
Dear Bernie: During the snowy, winter month of January I drove the 2011 Touareg for a week. My first impression is that this vehicle is unlike the older model. The 2011 Touareg is all-new and a lot of thought went into it for the U.S. driver. Nothing in the vehicle is confusing or a challenge to find or operate. The large panoramic-style glass roof lets in the light on a gloomy winter day. The ride over broken pavement is not harsh, the transition from electric to gas motor operation is seamless — and the power is amazing. Fuel economy averages in the 20s, and it does require premium gas. If this is the type of SUV of choice for you, then there are strong reasons to take it out for a test-drive. — Junior Damato, Motor Matters
Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician.
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