Which advised repairs are worth doing?

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 24, 2010 - 6:11 PM

QI recently brought my 2000 Nissan Maxima to the dealer for the 120k service. The list of suggested repairs included: broken engine mounts, broken lower control arm bushings, high pressure hose leak and engine timing cover leak. Should I have any of these fixed?

ANo question, broken engine mounts and broken/worn/damaged lower control arm bushings should be repaired to ensure the integrity and safety of the vehicle. Fluid leaks aren't catastrophic unless you allow the fluid level to fall below a safe level, although replacement shouldn't be terribly expensive.

If you're planning to keep the vehicle -- it's approaching "beater" status in terms of resale value -- fix the critical issues, or trade for something newer, fresher and with lower miles.

QI have a 1978 Mercury Cougar that sat in the garage for six years. I had all the fluids changed and it runs great, but when I stop at a red light the oil light will flicker. If I put it in neutral or am driving, the light will stay off. Will this cause damage to the engine?

AMost oil pressure warning lights will illuminate if engine oil pressure falls below about 4 to 6psi. If there's no load on the engine -- it's just idling in gear -- oil pressure that low probably won't do any damage. However, the low oil pressure at idle may well indicate damage or wear that has already occurred. This is an old vehicle, likely with high mileage. Having sat for many years and then started without pre-oiling the lubrication system, additional wear to the engine main and rod bearings may have occurred.

There are two simple, inexpensive "fixes" that should eliminate the oil light coming on at idle. First, make sure you're using motor oil that's appropriate for that generation engine. I would suggest 10W-40 or even 20W-50 in warm weather. The thicker oil film -- compared to a 5W oil -- should generate slightly higher oil pressure. Even adding something like STP -- a very high viscosity additive -- could help.

And secondly, adjust the idle speed up about 50 to 100 rpm -- the slightly higher engine speed will drive the oil pump slightly faster and produce higher oil pressure.

Although it's highly unlikely, there's one more potential cause for the low oil pressure at idle -- debris preventing the oil pressure relief valve in the engine from fully seating.

As long as the engine runs well and isn't starting to clatter or rattle when the oil light comes on, you should be OK. The only permanent "fix" would be to rebuild or replace the engine.

QI have a 2008 Ford Explorer that I purchased new. Ever since, the brake pedal has been very resistant to going down when applying the brakes in a panic situation. There's high resistance to pushing the pedal down quickly. The brakes work fine in normal braking. The problem becomes much worse when it is cold and there is no way to stop fast when it is 20 degrees below zero or colder.

AIf the brake pedal is very stiff when temperatures are well below freezing, moisture in the vacuum check valve in the power brake booster vacuum line may be freezing. This would feel just like pushing the brake pedal with the engine shut off and no power assist.

My Alldata automotive database also pulled up bulletin No. 09-1-6 dated January 2009 that addresses concerns over the feel of the brake pedal on 2006-08 Explorers. The bulletin suggests bleeding the brakes using the ABS control unit procedure. A new brake pedal assembly has also been issued.

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