Dear Doctor: I own a 1991 Honda Civic. The key doesn’t want to come out of the ignition when it is cold outside. If I lock the car, leave the key in the ignition (use my spare key to re-enter) sometimes the gearshift sticks and won’t shift gears. After turning the key over and over I am able to get the key back out, then the gearshift also frees up. I had the ignition switch replaced last summer and as long as the temperature was warm, the key came out fine. What is the problem? Gary
Dear Gary: We need to check the shifter and steering lock adjustment. Check to see if the shifter cable is binding. Check the attaching linkage from the shift cable to the transmission. It does not sound like an ignition cylinder problem of key removal would be all the time, not just in cold weather. Before any parts are replaced the technician will need to check all mentioned, including disconnection the shift cable at the transmission.
Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 GMC Yukon with the 5.3L engine. When it sits for a really long period of time I get rapping sounds for the first 30 seconds when starting the engine. When the odometer reached 30,000 miles I switched to full synthetic 5W30. The rapping started again, which I thought was a weak lifter. Then I did some research, and found out about piston slap in many of these engines due to the manufacturing process. I switched to a synthetic blend and 10W30. So far there’s no morning rapping. Should I be doing anything else to help the situation? Jeff
Dear Jeff: Piston slap on cold engines has been around for many years on a lot of GM and some Chrysler engines. The use of different oils will affect piston slap noise differently. Some engines will have a slight noise even when at normal operating temperature. I like the full synthetic motor oil. You can try high-mileage full-synthetic 15 or 20W40 weight and see if the slap sounds change.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2004 Volvo XC90 with 30,500 miles. Recently I began to experience strange noises from under the vehicle when passing over an uneven surface. My technician checked and found the vehicle to be mechanically sound and felt that the noise would not affect drivability. He lubricated as many points as he could but the noise persists. Any ideas? Lou
Dear Lou: To locate a suspension noise the vehicle has to be either on the ground or a drive-on lift, not a lift that lifts the vehicle from the body or frame. The vehicle suspension has to be loaded under normal sitting conditions. Have your technician pay close attention to the sway bar links and bushings, lower control arms and the upper strut cross brace bushings. Another common wear item is the round upper engine support bushing. These items are often missed by technicians when not checking the car with the suspension loaded.
Dear Doctor: I have a 1991 Buick Rivera with approximately 40,000 miles on it. The instrument panel lights go out intermittently, making it impossible to even see the gas level. I’m told I need to replace the cluster. The dealer wants $400 to remove, repair and reinstall the cluster. My finances are very limited. I want to purchase a cluster and have a mechanic friend install it for me. Do you have any suggestions? Flor
Dear Flor: The cluster will need to be removed and repaired. There are a few repair centers that can do the repair. You will need to research on the Internet for companies. I use BBA in Taunton, Mass. There is also a company called Model Electronics in New York that may be able to handle the repair. However, some authorized repair centers will only take dealer-sent parts for repair.
Dear Doctor: I’m having problems with the driver side automatic shoulder seatbelt on my 1988 Toyota Camry. It moved forward one day and then wouldn’t retract when I closed the door. The belt now moves again, but I’m considering removing the motor and cleaning the armature and reinstalling to see if that helps. What do you think? Tom
Dear Tom: I have seen a lot of motor failures in older vehicles. You can either remove and clean the motor or replace the assembly with a used unit. This is common on a variety of older vehicles with motorized seatbelts, not just Toyota. — Junior Damato, Motor Matters
Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician.
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2010