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Good Car Care Advice from Tom T - #4

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Tom Torbjornsen, host of "America's Car Show" radio program answers questions from his listeners. (Listen to Tom's radio shows every Saturday and Sunday right here on The Auto Channel)

Dear Tom, I love your radio show and listen to it every week on XM Radio. I own a ‘98 Pontiac Grand Prix GTP with 56k miles. I recently purchased four new tires, BF Goodrich Traction T/A. Ever since the new tires were installed, the car pulls to the right. The car was perfectly aligned when I drove it with my old tires. I had the front wheels aligned about a year ago. Does a car need to have the wheel aligned when new tires are installed? Could it be that the tires have not broken in properly? Danny from Miami, FL

Danny, A car does not necessarily need a wheel alignment when replacing the tires. However, an alignment check should be done, which includes inspection of the steering and suspension components, as well as a reading of the toe, camber, and caster angles. If your vehicle had an alignment check and everything is okay, then make sure the tire pressures are at 32psi on all four tires. If you have low air pressure on the side that pulls, it will cause the car to go in that direction. If the pressure is okay, then try swapping the front tires left to right and see if that corrects the problem or causes a pull in the opposite direction. If swapping the tires corrects the problem, then leave the tires in these positions. If the vehicle pulls the opposite direction as a result of the swap, then have that tire replaced. Good luck and thanks for listening to AMERICA’S CAR SHOW on Sirius - XM. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a 2000 Chevy Venture Van with 54,000 miles. The transmission fluid has been changed twice and the coolant was changed about one year ago. Should I get the spark plugs changed before they get stuck in the head? The dealer wants to just clean them and not replace them. Thank you. Cole from Buffalo, NY

Cole, The spark plugs are probably platinum and therefore do not need replacing at this mileage. It's a good idea to have them removed, inspected, cleaned, and re-gapped. Check to see if the dealer recommends using anti-seize on the plug’s threads before reinstalling and re-torqueing them. Keep up the maintenance on that van and you should see 150,000 miles. Best to you. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a ‘97 Dodge Intrepid with 135K miles. This past winter I had no heat. If I put the car on re-circulate, it gets lukewarm (nothing to brag about). I do not have fogging windows or water in the floorboard indicating the heater core is bad. I checked the fresh air vent on the passenger’s side and it is closing properly. I ran the diagnostic on the heater control and it passed. I have noticed a small leak on the intake manifold gasket at the front. Could that cause the problem or should I look for something else? I have also installed a new thermostat. Please help! Chris from West Helena, MO

Chris, Check the heater hoses for equal warmth; both should be hot to the touch. If one is cold and the other warm/cool, then the heater core is plugged with sediment. Try a reverse flush of the heater core. If the core is circulating water, then I would check for a faulty air blend door in the duct system, which would prevent hot air from entering the vehicle’s cabin. Success to you. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a restored ‘73 Ford Bronco that I use for both off-road mild rock climbing as well as on-road part time. It has a 302-engine w/ an Edelbrock manifold and 4bbl carburetor. I cannot get the carburetor to work right when the vehicle is climbing a hill or going down a hill (either too lean or too rich). I've given up and think I should install fuel injection. Any suggestions? PS: Love listening to you on Sirius radio! Thanks. Rick from Las Vegas, Nevada

Rick, Sounds like you're running out of fuel when climbing/descending. Try checking the carb’s float/needle seat adjustments. They might not be allowing the fuel bowls to stay filled during incline/decline. In addition, it might do you well to install an electric fuel pump with a fuel pressure regulator to maintain even steady fuel pressure while climbing/descending. Good luck. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a ‘98 Dodge Neon with 97K miles. A few days ago while driving, I noticed that the battery light was on and all the gauges were going crazy (up and down). This happens only when the vehicle is in motion. I tested the battery, and it’s good. What’s causing the problem? Louis from Baltimore, MD

Louis, If the battery light and all the gauges act up at the same time, then you have a wiring problem. There is either a bad ground or bad power wire going to the instrument cluster. Unless you have access to wiring diagrams and the proper test equipment, you need to get the car to a shop capable of performing electrical repairs. Don’t go too long with this condition because it could cause a voltage spike and take out some expensive electrical components. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a 2001 Chevy Silverado pickup and it failed the vehicle inspection because the parking brake does not hold. How do I adjust the parking brake on this truck? Thanks. Ed from Springville, NY

Ed, You need to remove the rear brake assemblies and adjust the parking brake shoes, because this truck uses a completely separate set of brake shoes for the emergency brake. The clearance spec between the park brake shoe and the rotor is 0.6604 mm (0.026 in). After you’ve set the proper clearance between the brake shoes and rotors, step the parking brake pedal three times to complete the adjustment. Make sure that the shoes are not contaminated with gear lube or brake fluid and that the e-brake cables are free of rust and operating, because these conditions can affect the operation of the e-brake. Tom

‘Til next time…Keep Rollin’

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For more articles by Tom Torbjornsen, visit AMERICA’S CAR SHOW web site:

Tom Torbjornsen is an automotive expert of 37 years. An automotive journalist in good standing with the IMPA (International Motor Press Association), Tom is the Repair and Maintenance Editor for several websites.