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Good Car Care Advice from Tom T - #7

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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 own a ‘97 Buick LeSabre with a 3.8 engine. When I remove the gas cap to put in gas, there is a release of fumes from the spout from the buildup of pressure. What would cause this pressure? George from Blyth, NY

George, There is a problem with the way the gas tank is purging pressure. Pressure inside the gas tank is released through a vent on the top of the tank. There could be a problem with the vent, a blocked purge hose, or a plugged vapor canister in the EVAP system. The system needs to be checked out. Best to you. Tom

Dear Tom, I own an ‘87 Chevy Camaro. Water is dripping from the passenger side floor area as well as from the plastic heater box. Where is it coming from? Any help would be appreciated. Curtis from Charlotte, NC

Curtis, The A/C system condensation drains out of the bottom of the evaporator case in your car. Organic matter in the form of leaves, pine needles and plant matter get into the HVAC box through the air inlet at the base of the windshield. When this matter gets into the evaporator case, it breaks down and rots into a paste. This paste filters down to the condensation drain and mixes with water, forming an organic plug in the water drain at the bottom of the case. When this happens, the water backs up into the vehicle, usually on the passenger’s side floorboard. In order to clear the drain, you must remove the small rubber hose from the bottom of the box and gently clear the clog with a wire hanger or grab-all tool, and the leak will go away. Success to you. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a ‘99 Dodge Ram Conversion van. I have heard that if the transmission fluid is never changed, and then you change it at a high mileage, that the transmission could be destroyed. Is this true? Barb from Algonquin

Barb, If the fluid in your transmission was burnt (very brown or black), then I leave it alone because the transmission has probably been overheated during its life. If you replace the burnt fluid with new high detergency fluid on a "cooked" unit, the clutches come unglued from their backing and the unit fails. Tom

Dear Tom, I am car shopping and interested in a 2007 Nissan 350Z, which uses premium gas. Can you explain why, and can I use regular gas? I've owned cars in the past and was told premium fuel was suggested, but not required. I'm a retired lady with high medical bills, but I would like to have a little fun with the last car I'll ever buy. However, I want to do the right thing and avoid mechanical problems. Thank you. Ann from Perkins, WI

Ann, This car has a high performance engine. Therefore, you have to use premium gas. If you use regular gas it will cause engine knock (pre-ignition), which causes damage to the tops of the pistons, cylinder heads, and valves (due to the constant hammering from pre-ignition of the fuel when it enters the combustion chamber). Just recently I received a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) from GM about this very issue. It appears that people were using regular gas in their 2010 Cadillac SRX vehicles with a high performance V6 engine. The result over time was major engine damage from prolonged pre-ignition. If you wanna play, you gotta pay! Use premium gas in your "Z" car! By the way, if you calculate up the additional cost of using premium fuel over the course of a year, you’re only looking at about $150. Good health to you. Tom

Dear Tom, Love your radio show! I listen on XM radio every Sunday night. I own a ‘99 Mitsubishi Sport SUV. I just had the timing belt replaced, and sometimes when I crank the engine it makes a squealing sound, especially when I run the A/C. What’s up with that? Frances from Spartanburg, NC

Frances, Thanks for listening on XM. I love my XM listeners! Have someone check the serpentine belt tensioner. This is a spring-loaded pulley that pushes against the back of the serpentine belt to maintain sufficient belt tension. When it wears out or the spring breaks, the serpentine belt slips which causes a squeal. Sounds like your serpentine belt tensioner has gone south! Success to you. Tom

Tom, My son owns a ‘97 Ford Probe. The blower motor only works on high. Based on some testing, I think the problem is the blower resistor. Where can I find a replacement? Even Ford says it is discontinued. What are my options? Mark from West Seneca, NY

Mark, You could try a junkyard for a blower resistor; try the Internet too. Also, call a parts house and ask them if that blower cross-references with another model vehicle in the same year or years of manufacture. If all of the above fails, get a different resistor and modify it to fit your vehicle. To do this, you will need to find a similar resistor to the one in your car, then modify the wiring harness and possibly the heater case to mount the new resistor. Good luck. Tom

Dear Tom, I own a ‘01 Dodge Caravan. At low MPH it shows a high engine RPM and the vehicle sounds like it’s racing. What could be the problem? Marilyn from Northampton, IL

Marilyn, Sounds like the engine is racing ahead of the transmission. Have the computer scanned. Usually the cause of such a phenomenon is the loss of hydraulic pressure within the unit, which results in the slipping of bands and chattering of clutches while driving. A computer scan of the system will reveal a direction to go with the diagnostics. Also, check the transmission fluid. You’ll probably find that it’s burnt (black or brown in color). If this is the case, it will be necessary to disassemble the unit to determine the extent of the damage. Good luck. 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.