Q. Our 2005 Corolla odometer has stuck at the 299,999Km mark (186,000Mi). After months of trying to find an answer, Toyota Canada finally told me "it's not a fault, it's a design feature so there will be no monetary recourse to fix it". Depending on the dealership they "may" offer some relief from the $600 charges. Researching this "design feature" on the internet brings up numerous hits so the "design feature" is relatively common. I can't even find out if it's illegal to drive with a broken odometer here in BC Canada. Can I fix this myself or with the help of a regular mechanic without paying the exorbitant amount for the new part?
A. It seems many 2003-2008 Matrix, Corolla, Prius vehicles are afflicted with a software snag that prevents the digital odometer from displaying beyond 299,999 miles or kilometers. I'm unable to determine if this was intentional or not. The best solution I could find for folks wishing to fix this is to remove and send the speedometer to ProSpeedo to have the EPROM (erasable programable read-only memory) chip re-flashed to eliminate the quirk. The actual mileage accrued is stored in the chip and will be restored to the display. The service cost is $200 and speedometer removal isn't difficult.
Q. My 1993 Exploder -- a great vehicle, with the most comfortable seats ever produced -- has a defective gasoline tank sender. The process for replacement involves dropping the tank, etc, a huge and expensive pain. When it happened on my old VW hippie van I cut a hole (very carefully) in the metal above the tank, simply replaced the sending unit, and replaced the metal with a good seal. Where, exactly, might I cut the Ford metal to do the same thing? I cannot find any good diagram that shows me where the sending unit is situated underneath the sheet metal.
A. I wouldn't do this! The floor area beneath the back seat above the fuel tank is complicated in shape and very near rear seat/seat belt structural parts. In the amount of time it would take to do this and attempt to properly reseal/reinforce the floor, one could easily drop and replace the tank to access the sending unit/fuel pump (run the fuel level down low first, labor is about 1 3/4 hours -- change both!). I'd also be concerned about accidentally damaging the fuel lines or wiring harness leading to the tank unit when cutting with the saw.
Q. Can you tell me if my 1999 Ford Contour LX has an interference engine or a non-interference engine? My timing belt broke, and I am trying to make an informed decision about getting it repaired.
A. Wow! There is a huge quantity of conflicting information on your VIN 3 (eighth character of the vehicle ID #) 2.0L DOHC engine. The best info I found indicates North American 2.0L DOHC engines are non-interference (valves do not hit piston tops if cam and crank shafts are mistimed). To be more sure, I'd check the valve clearance. If any valves show very wide clearance, they are likely bent/not closing fully, which greatly complicates the repair.
Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org; he cannot make personal replies.
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