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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. Our car is a 1994 Saab 900 S model hatchback four-door sedan which we bought new. It has a 2.1 liter four cylinder engine and an automatic transmission. We have put a little over 90,000 miles on it since new. We bought it because of its good safety record and its reputation for quality because we had two small children at the time. We spend a lot of time on the roads during the winter and it works well under these conditions. We had to have the brakes replace at around 60,000 miles due to normal wear but now they are acting up again. When I step on the brake pedal at normal highway speeds, I get a vibration that I can feel not only through the brake pedal but through the steering wheel as well. Our mechanic says that the brakes aren't worn out and the brake rotors aren't scored or damaged.
M.M. Billings, MT

A. If you had the front discs machined when you had the brake job done on your Saab, they may be ready for replacement. A factory publication states in the event of a front brake vibration, the front brake rotors and the hubs that they're bolted to have too much "runout" (like a crooked wheel on a bicycle), they should both be replaced. Apparently it doesn't take misalignment to set up the vibration and the only long-lasting cure is to replace the front hubs, rotors and brake pads too. I've always been of the opinion that disc brakes used continually in areas with severe weather conditions warp more than the same brakes used in milder climates since they get very hot in use and than cool down very rapidly due to the cold outside temperature.

Q. Out 1997 Buick Skylark has a V6 3.1 liter engine that we have has some trouble with recently. Sometimes the engine will crank over slowly when I'm trying to get it started and occasionally the charging light will come on. We had the battery changed not too long ago so I'm sure that isn't the problem. Our service station mechanic checked the battery and said that it's OK. Once it even stalled but the auto club driver got it restarted again and we haven't had any more stalling since then. B.W. Yreka, CA

A. Since you had the battery changed since the car was new, you may have a very simple fault causing a fairly mysterious problem. it's possible that when you had the battery replace, they didn't get the cable connections quit clean or tight enough between the battery positive terminal and the starter terminal. Try having the positive battery cable connector taken off at the battery, cleaned and reattached. Have the alternator connector checked for tightness and cleanliness too. Loose, dirty connectors cause high resistance and make the battery work harder. It's especially true in cold, damp weather.

Q. My Nissan Quest is a 1993 XE minivan that has a V6 engine and an automatic transmission. It's been a fairly reliable car for us and we've put neatly 150,000 miles on it. It's only required routine servicing. Once it went off its warranty period, we stopped going to the dealer for service and have has an oil quick-change shop do the routine maintenance. For a very long time now, it's been making a squeaking sound when I make a low-speed turn. I've asked the attendants who change to oil to squirt something on the steering to make it quiet but it doesn't seem to work.
N.O. San Antonio, TX

A. You're on the right track but the quick-change guys aren't going far enough. They may be spraying the small rubber boots on the outside ends of the steering arms with a spray lubricant but the boots have to be pulled open a bit to get the stuff inside where it will do some good. If you have the same people do it, make sure they don't tear the rubber boots since that will let dirt get in.


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