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Motormouth: What's up with the brakes?

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Q: The anti-lock brakes on my 2003 Camry activate on an intermittent, but fairly frequent basis. They sometimes pulsate when slowing to a stop on dry pavement. It happens right before stopping, never when going the speed limit. The Toyota dealer mechanic test drove it, and of course, it did not malfunction for them. They said they could not diagnose the problem unless the ABS light is lit, but not to worry. The brakes are hydraulic, and the ABS is electronic, so the brakes will continue to stop the car. Is it OK not to be concerned? My wife says a new car is the solution, but it would be great to keep this one for a little while longer. What are your thoughts?

R.M., Oak Park, Illinois

A: All cars have hydraulic brakes that have been essentially the same for decades. The anti-lock brake system is an adjunct. If the ABS fails, the regular brakes, the brakes you use every day, continue to function normally. There is no need for concern. If the ABS kicks in just before coming to a stop, it is usually due to a weak signal from one or more sensors. This may, or may not, trigger a warning light. Replacing the sensor -- or sensors -- will not bankrupt you.

Q: With the prevalence of catalytic converter theft, it occurred to me that if you could not sell a catalytic converter without being a licensed automotive business, stealing the whole car is the only option.

P.D., Chicago

A: It is not only illegal to steal converters, but also to sell them and to accept stolen cats. It is usually a misdemeanor that comes with a stiff fine. “Cat burglars” are only after a quick buck, not a whole car.

Q: I have a 2004 Mercury Sable with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine. Odometer shows about 140,000 miles. In the past I have used Motorcraft SAE 5W-20 synthetic blend oil. Last summer I had problems with the engine shutting off when driven for 20 or 30 miles. The low oil pressure warning came on. After the engine had cooled for several minutes, it could be restarted. The Ford dealer found the oil pressure was only about 8 psi and said the engine may need to be replaced or rebuilt. One mechanic suggested using a motor oil with a higher viscosity. Do you have any suggestions how to correct it without replacing or rebuilding the engine?

 

K.B., Virginia Beach, Virginia

A: It is worth a try to use a heavier weight, traditional motor oil, but there may be significant wear inside the engine. Another possibility is a worn oil pump or restricted pickup tube screen. Get a pro to do an oil pressure test. A rebuilt short block may be in your future.

Q: The guy that wrote to you about drafting his Tesla behind vehicles on the road must be about two bricks short of a load. Not only is that very dangerous as you pointed out but following too closely is totally illegal. In Florida it is three points on your license if caught or four points if it results in an accident. I just hope that moron isn’t a resident of Orlando, because we have enough nuts driving around here as it is. Always enjoy your columns with spot-on accurate advice.

H.M., Orlando, Florida.

A: Nothing is quite as dangerous as a loose nut behind the wheel.

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