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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have purchased a 2000 Ford Focus where everything is computerized. Is there by chance a computer that can be plugged into the system for troubleshooting a red light that comes on and reads "Engine?" There's a lot of things on an engine. Where would one start if he doesn't have a device to help locate the trouble? While it's still on warranty and it happens close to a dealership, there's no problem except getting it to the dealer's shop. It sure would be nice if a device like that is available.
F.K. Sacramento, CA

A. There is such a device, but it takes a skilled technician (and that includes the independent shop guys) to operate and understand it and to then remedy the problem. Being able to fix those kinds of auto problems on your own car ended about 20 years ago.

Q. I have a '95 Ford Escort sedan that is making a noise that is driving me crazy. It is a clicking noise that I hear when I step on the brakes. It seems to come from the front wheels and I don't always hear it. I had the front brakes checked but the mechanic said that he couldn't find anything wrong with them. The noise is particularly loud when I step on the brakes after I make a sharp turn to the right or to the left.
F.O. Virginia Beach, VA

A. According to the bulletin I think covers your brake noise, there's no easy fix. It's simply that the front brake system on your Escort was built wrong. It may only require that new front brake pads be installed along with new pad guide plates. If that doesn't cure it, it may require a technician (possibly one at a Ford dealer's shop) who has access to the somewhat complex steps and measurements needed to "center" the new pads. Fortunately, the bulletin states that the noise doesn't present any safety problems (there would have been a NHTSA recall if it had) and it probably won't get any louder.

Q. Our 1995 Volkswagen Golf has 61,000 miles. The engine is a four cylinder and it has a five-speed stick-shift transmission. We have maintained it according to the factory service schedule although we have them done by a private garage and don't take it to a Volkswagen dealer's shop. I occasionally do some freeway traveling and since the highway that I use most of the time in my work is straight and not crowded, I use the cruise control whenever I can. About two months ago, I discovered that the cruise control was somewhat sporadic. Sometimes it works and other times it does not. Twice I took it to the shop that does our maintenance work to have the system checked out and the mechanic could find nothing wrong. I even went with him on a test ride but the cruise control worked fine. Three weeks later, it didn't work when I went on the freeway. Since it is electrically operated, I'm afraid that something else is going to go wrong with the electric circuits.
P.M. Las Vegas, NV

A. Sometimes problems that seem to be complicated have simple solutions. I found a factory service bulletin on your malfunction and it states that it may be caused by the clutch pedal not completely returning to its upright position when you take your foot off of it. There's a small center spring on the pedal that sometimes either gets dislocated or falls off entirely. Crawl down under the dash on the driver's side to locate where the spring should be hooked up. Then look on the floor mats or under the seat to see of the spring is still there. If it isn't there, it no doubt got kicked out the door or vacuumed up so you'll have to buy a new one. There are a few other underdash parts that may be needed to keep it from reoccurring but start with the spring.


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