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Automania/Repair & Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I have a 1996 Lexus ES 300, 3.0 liter 188 horsepower engine with 8200 miles on it. From day one, it has had a whining noise. The Lexus dealer and his service manager and a Lexus factory field engineer have said that this noise is normal for this car and is nothing to be concerned about but the noise never stops. I have been through arbitration with the Better Business Bureau's Auto Line and the person there claims that the noise doesn't exist. I might add that the Lexus people have made no effort to check where the noise is coming from. As of now, I'm at a loss as what to do to get this problem corrected.
J.P. West Covina, CA

A. We haven't done an evaluation on the Lexus ES 300 since 1994 but at that time, neither Tom nor I found any kind of a noise coming from anywhere. On the strength of my recommendation, one of my co-in-laws bought a '95 ES 300 and report that they've had no noise problem and they're very finicky about how their cars run. Your car is in reality a fancy Toyota Camry and my source of Toyota mechanical information tells me that the four-banger Camry has some noise that they feel is related to the engine's balance shafts but the V6 is noiseless. I'm passing your letter on to the Toyota/Lexus public relations guys in Southern California. Maybe they can do something to keep the Lexus image from being tarnished by a whiny engine.

Q. We have a 1991 Isuzu Trooper II with a standard transmission and about 60,000 miles. We have been very easy on the car and have never gone off the pavement with it. We simply bought it because we got a good deal on it second hand and these kinds of cars are very "in." Soon after we got it, we noticed that a hum began to come from underneath the car when we drive it at 45 to 50 MPH. We hear the noise in fourth and fifth gears only and only when we have let off on the gas slightly in order to maintain speed. The noise isn't very loud but it is becoming worse as time goes by. We took it to a shop that specializes in four-wheel-drive cars and was told that the problem was in the transfer case and that it would have to be overhauled. The price we were quoted was very high so we then took it to an Isuzu dealer and were told the same thing but were quoted a price that was even higher. We are shocked that such a new car would have something like this go bad when it is still relatively new.
W.W. South Burlington, VT

A. The first thing that you have to overcome is the idea that you're driving a car. Your Trooper is really an off-road truck that seats four people despite the fancy upholstery and sound system. I've come across a factory bulletin that says that there's an outside possibility that the driveshaft from the transmission to the rear axle is at too sharp an angle and this can be corrected by installing a shim-kit that the company offers. If this relatively inexpensive cure doesn't work, the transfer case has to be pulled down and overhauled.

Q. My grandmother recently passed away and left us her 1957 Plymouth Savoy V8 four-door sedan. She kept it up very well until the last few years of her life at which time she would scrape things an put dings and dents in the doors. We'd like to sell this car but dealers laugh at us and tell us to scrap it. Where can we sell it and for how much? Should we have the doors repaired and have a cheap paint job put on it?
C.H. Phoenix, AZ

A. Too bad your grandmother didn't buy a convertible back in '57. They're worth five times more than their four-door stablemates. Don't put any money into it other than a good detailing and that includes under the hood. The whole thing should cost less than $100. One of the national magazines like Hemmings Motor News would be a logical place to advertise and the Kelly Blue Book for older cars shows it at between $825 and $4550 depending on condition so pick a figure in between.

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