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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1990 Oldsmobile Calais. Immediately after I took my car to a shop for an oil change a while back, it's suspension system started rumbling on rough roads. I took it back and asked them to look at it but they found nothing wrong. I talked to another customer at this time and she noticed the same problem with her car after being serviced there also. They use a lift system to access the car. I had another shop look at it when some routine maintenance was being done and they couldn't see anything wrong either. What's the problem here? Did they lift it wrong and cause something to misalign? Could you give me some direction here to on what to look for? T.P. Eugene, OR

A. Find the problem before you pinpoint the cause. Take your Olds to a brake-and-front end shop and have a mechanic go for a diagnostic ride over rough terrain. He may not have an immediate answer but he'll get an idea of exactly where it's coming from. It may be a rubber bushing that's pulled loose or even damage to a suspension part. Just looking for a problem won't often reveal the trouble but having a mechanic experience it will get him going in the right direction.

Q. I own a '94 Dodge Grand Caravan ES. It has a 3.8-liter V6, an automatic transmission, full power and 36,000 miles. To date, four batteries had to be purchased. The first three were Mopar and the last was a Sears Diehard. For over a year I have had problems with the battery being dead when I want to run errands. In desperation I got it jump-started and took it to an auto center. They said they put it on a diagnostic machine and checked everything. They couldn't find anything wrong, even though they had it for three days. I had to purchase a jump starter and every time I need to go somewhere, I have to jump-start it myself. The extended warranty on the van will expire on March 11, which is a little over a month away. The electrical, alternator, etc. are covered under that warranty. I live on a very fixed income and can't afford any extra expense, and I don't think they looked very hard and are waiting for the warranty to run out. They suggested maybe it's the alarm on my car so the switch was turned off, but not disconnected. That wouldn't be covered but he seemed reluctant to disconnect it. I drive around for one day, try to start it the next day and it's dead.
N.W. Yucaipa, CA

A. My experiences with aftermarket car alarm system has been bad. After a few years, something drastic goes wrong and parts aren't available. In addition, no one wants to work on them. Have it completely disconnected and see what happens. Your problem could also be something endemic to the electrical system, perhaps a faulty alternator. If your shop kept your car for three days and couldn't find the problem, you're going to the wrong shop. Find an auto electric shop in the Yellow Pages and take your Dodge to a specialist. Your extended warranty is worthless if the mechanics involved can't or won't fix your van.

Q. My problem involves my '95 Pontiac Bonneville SE. It now has 104,000 miles on it. The car came with the additional traction control feature which no longer operates and it's too expensive to fix. My concern is that when it rains hard and I accelerate, a rumbling and growling noise emanates from somewhere. Performance isn't affected and it goes away when the heavy water on the streets is gone. I never get is noise when the roads are dry.
W.L. Norfolk, VA

A. You may literally be spinning your wheels. Your traction control system isn't working but what's left of it may be trying to operate and creating the noise. Have your mechanic examine it, do the prescribed tests and see if it can be deactivated. I recommend fixing it.


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