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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. Our 1995 Toyota Celica has a brownish antifreeze in it. Toyota says that at 45,000 miles it must be replaced with the same brown-colored antifreeze. Other knowledgeable mechanics say that Toyota only says this in order to sell its own brand of antifreeze and that any brand of antifreeze is OK. No matter the color, it is all ethylene-glycol antifreeze, they say. Toyota also states that mixing the two will result in a coagulation and gum-up. My Celica manual calls for ethylene-glycol and that it should be changed at 45,000 and then again every 30,000 miles. Toyota also says the brown antifreeze will last 100,000 miles.
J.H. Kill Devil Hills, NC

A. Unless you see new information regarding what's required by your Celica in a Toyota factory bulletin, it's not "official." Don't confuse Toyota, the manufacturer, with a Toyota dealership. I've called a couple of Toyota dealer shops and they have no information on a 100,000 service life from Toyota-labeled antifreeze which is reddish when new and then discolors to brown with age. Toyota has had problems with blown head gaskets on some models but it has been traced to faulty original gaskets and not to incorrect antifreeze. The local Toyota mechanics that I've talked to say that they've never experienced a gum-up problem when aftermarket green antifreeze is mixed with the Toyota brand. Toyota (the manufacturer) is very heads-up and I can't imagine it selling a car that would risk the image-damage done by a car that would have problems if an aftermarket antifreeze was used.

Q. I have a '95 Plymouth Neon that has 32,000 miles on it. The Check Engine light comes on after the engine has been turned off AND It doesn't seem to like high speeds (over 60 MPH) or long distance travel. It started when the dealer's mechanic did a 30,000 mile maintenance. I drove 30 miles round trip at 60MPH and the Check Engine light came on. The dealer's shop checked it out and found that the throttle body was bad and for $400 I had it replaced since the warrenty had expired. After a week I drove another 30 mile round trip at 60 MPH and the Check Engine light came on again. This time the dealer's shop found that the exhaust gas recirculation valve was bad and I had to pay over $200 to have it replaced. After another week the Check Engine light came on again but this time when I called the dealer's shop, I was told to keep driving it around and that it would eventually turn itself off. The light is still lit and the car is running normally. I think either the dealer sold me a lemon or that his service department doesn't know what it's doing.
R.M. Seattle, WA

A. I wonder if the light would have eventually turned itself off the other two times as well. It can be dangerous to ignore a warning light, especially when its problem is diagnosed in such a casual, off-handed manner. Take your car to another Chrysler/Plymouth or Dodge dealer or an independent shop for a check-up and an estimate. You can try contacting the Chrysler customer complaint department (the number is in your owner's manual) but I've found these places hard to get satisfaction from. If a shop tells you not to worry about such an obvious problem as a warning lamp that's lit, get that response on a shop repair order and have the manager sign it. You may need that documentation later.

Q. I recently bought an oil filer system that uses a roll of toilet paper in a canister. Its claim is that the toilet paper roll has to be changed periodically but never the oil. Does the system work?
P.P. Walnut Creek CA

A. It works, but maybe too well. Petroleum engineers tell me that toilet paper filters great at very low oil pressures but they can take out the additives as well as the impurities. Toilet paper filters were popular many years ago before built-in filters were as reliable as they are now. Toilet paper is cheap but so is oil and conventional filters.

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