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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1996 Toyota 4-Runner with two-wheel drive. It handles very well but the ride is extremely firm. The tires are Firestone Wilderness AT and are original equipment. The size is 225/75R15-102S M+S. I like a firm and controlled ride but its ride over a highway with cement connection strips is really more than I can tolerate. Dick Cepek, the off-road aftermarket parts supplier, suggests shocks with adjustable settings. I'm also considering a set of Michelins with softer sidewalls and without an aggressive tread but I wonder how they would perform off-road? I seldom go off-road, however. The car has 15,000 miles on it and is equipped with an automatic transmission.
L.H. Redlands, CA

A. The Hagin family has had many Toyota pickup trucks and sport/ utility vehicles in its collective motor pool and has had lots of experience with ride control and load carrying on them. Our concurrence is that Dick Cepeck's advice on the installation of adjustable shock absorbers is the best advice. That way you'll get the remaining life out of your original-equipment Goodyears while running the shocks on a soft setting and then stiffen them up if and when you go to a softer street tire. "Off-road" is a subjective term that can range from an occasional excursion down a dirt road to boulder-scrambling through mountain gorges so the performance of those Michelin street tires will depend on where you go and how hard you drive.

Q. We have an eight year old Infiniti M30 two-door sedan with a V6 engine and an automatic transmission. We bought it second-hand a year ago because it had very low mileage. It now has 52,000 miles and has developed a grinding noise in the front end when I lightly apply the brakes. It also has a slight vibration in the body when this happens. I've taken it to the shop where we have our cars serviced and our mechanic has checked the front brakes. He says that the front brake pads have a lot of wear left on them and that he doesn't think that the problem is in the brakes themselves. He doesn't want to sell us something we don't need. The problem only shows up when we're driving slowly between 15 and 25 MPH.
H.S. Chesapeake, VA

A. In this case, let him sell you a new set of front pads that are a bit softer than the originals and have him resurface the faces of the brake rotors that they operate on. There's a noise and vibration problem in the brakes of the M30 in '90 and the best cure is a pad replacement.

Q. Our 1990 Mitsubishi Precis has a four-cylinder engine and a five-speed manual shift transmission. We bought it new and it now has a little over 80,000 miles on it. We have kept it up by having it serviced on the factory recommended schedule although we have it done at an independent shop rather that at the dealership. Just before the last regular service we noticed that it was getting hard to shift down from fifth gear into fourth. It was also getting hard to shift into reverse when the engine was running especially when the engine was cold. We had the oil in the transmission changed but it didn't help. We don't want to have the transmission overhauled if we don't have to but we don't want to let it go until something really bad happens.
K.K San Antonio, TX

A. I'd never come across this problem myself but I found a possible answer in a Mitsubishi service bulletin. It may be that the restriction ball for that shifting fork is binding. A restriction ball and its guide is the device that gives your transmission the "notch" feeling when you shift up, down or into reverse. There's a hollow bolt on top of your transmission that contains the restriction ball and its spring for those gears and it can removed and replaced without removing the transmission. Its exact location can be found in the car's repair manual.

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