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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I own a 1998 Chrysler Sebring two-door hardtop that has about 10,000 miles on it. Recently I noticed that after warm-up, the oil pressure gauge needle will fall below the bottom line of the normal range whenever it idles. Upon acceleration, or at cruising speeds, the needle returns to about the middle, or upper-middle, of the normal range. What do you think is going on here? Do you think this is a problem I should refer to the manufacturer?
N.R. Redmond, WA

A. I went on-line with Alldata and checked its list of Chrysler service bulletins about your model and year and couldn't come up with one that covered low oil pressure at idle. You don't mention if yours is a four cylinder of a V6 so I checked them both. There are several things that can cause low or no oil pressure at idle. It can sometimes happen if the oil level is low but I hope you've already checked that. The oil can get thinned out by gasoline coming from a faulty fuel pump or injection system but this is rare. A plugged oil filter can also cause it because it's bypassed then. A plugged oil pump screen or sloppy engine bearings can cause it but it's unlikely with a low-mileage engine. Have the oil and filter changed with the recommended types, then have the oil pressure at hot-idle checked with a mechanical test gauge. If the electric gauges are OK and the pressure is still low, take it to your dealer since the car should still be under warrenty.

Q. On four occasions this summer our '92 Toyota Previa has refused to start. The dash lights come on, the power windows work, but the engine does nothing except to give off a dead "click." After a pause of 20 minutes to a half an hour, it starts right up. Our mechanic fiddled with it but he couldn't get it to freeze up or seize up or whatever. The common thread so far is running around doing errands in the heat.
E.P. Virginia Beach, VA

A. My son Andy, the Toyota mechanic, tells me he has had several cases like yours and in a number of other Toyota models. If your Previa is an automatic, it could be a heat-sensitive neutral safety switch but that's a long shot. It's also possible that the solenoid in the starter is sticking and not engaging the starter electrically. The third possibility is that the armature in the starter motor (the part that spins and engages the starter ring gear) has a "flat" spot on it that the brushes sometimes land on and then won't make an electrical connection on the next go-around. The next time the problem occurs, "click" the key a dozen or so time. If it starts then, it's probably the armature. In either case, the starter has to come out.

Q. I bought a Mercedes C-280 new in 1998. At the first oil change at 3500 miles, I noticed excessive wear on the right rear tire, At 10,000 miles it was worn out. The dealer checked the alignment, said it was OK and replaced the tire. The second tire was worn out by 20,000 miles. The alignment was checked and OK'ed and another new tire was installed. This time the factory representative inspected it. The dealer said they have done all that they can do. This would be their last tire replacement. The factory representative was to call me but has not yet done so. The new tires have a tread depth of 10/32". At 20,000 miles, the two front tires have 6/32" and so does the left rear. How do I approach the factory rep? Where can I get a copy of the California lemon law?
W.C. Yucaipa, CA

A. I've seen tire wear on just one rear tire of on a car that had independent rear suspension and it was a problem with too much toe-in on that wheel. Take it to an independent alignment shop for analysis. I've sent your letter to the factory for comment. States that have a Lemon Law have a consumer affairs department that handles it.


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