Ask The Auto Guru !
Q. In 2000 I bought a used Chevrolet Cavalier with the four-cylinder
engine. It had 34,000 miles. I purchased an extended warranty from the
dealership for $2000. Last year I had a water pump, an oxygen sensor
and a cruise control module replaced. It was done at the dealership
because of the zero deductible insurance. In December of last year the
engine started to knock. We parked it and had it towed to the
dealership. The service representative there said that the motor needed
to be torn down and the insurance company would pay on the zero
deductible but if the cost of the repair was over $1000, the insurance
company would send out a mechanic to look at the car. This was done and
the representative said that the company denied the claim because the
engine ran out of oil. Four days before the incident the car was
serviced for the cruise control module at the dealership and no
mechanic there saw the engine oil light on. At that time, the engine
had oil. I have done everything maintenance-wise to the vehicle. I have
all the oil receipts that meet all requirements by GM. I had the engine
replaced by an independent engine replacement shop. The mechanic there
told me that he didn't know what caused the failure but it didn't
indicate engine failure due to lack of oil. An attorney said he was
confident I can win in court but it would cost $4000 in legal fees.
Service contract people know that they can get out of paying for these
claims because it's going to cost too much to sue them. What would you do?
R.B. Romeoville, IL
A. If an engine totally runs out of oil and starts to rattle, it has a
life expectancy of about 10 seconds before it comes apart. Small claims
courts vary from state to state and from county to county and it's
worth a try, but you'd best get a detailed written explanation of what
happened to the original engine if you want to prove your point.
Extended warranty insurance companies are in the business of making
money and if they can figure a way to not pay claims, they'll do it.
Q. I will be getting a new four-cylinder Toyota Highlander soon and I
would like to know what the correct warn-up procedure is. Do I need to
keep the engine RPM down or the vehicle speed down when warming it up?
How long should I go in distance before bringing it up to normal speed?
S.W. Wilton, CA
A. You don't have to worry much about how long to warm up your
Highlander once you get it broken in and in my experience, that takes
at least 500 to 1000 miles. During that period, I suggest that the
engine oil level be checked by the owner pretty often. The new Honda
S2000 seems to use a lot of oil for the first 1000 miles or more before
it settles down to a normal consumption level. Once the initial break
in is over, it's a good idea to get underway as soon as you start the
engine and then proceed at about half throttle until the temperature
gauge indicates that the engine is warming up. As you're rolling along,
it allows the rest of the running gear to warm up at the same time.
Q. I get the motor oil and filter changed regularly on my 1988 Mercury
Grand Marquis and have the fluids checked and changed periodically but
I wonder about how often I should have the wheels aligned. Is it
necessary to do it on a schedule or only when I hit a curb?
L.B. Westbury, NY
A. Experienced technicians will give your Mercury a cursory exam
whenever the car on the lift. Tire wear and the condition of the
suspension hardware and bushings indicates if the wheels are in need of
service as will tire wear. Also your own perception of a "pull" to the
right or left or highway wander will indicate a problem. There's no
schedule for wheel alignments. Try to avoid hitting curbs. it hard on
the nerves as well as the machinery.