Problem with turn signal could be just grounding

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: May 19, 2011 - 4:55 PM

Q I have a 1996 Geo Tracker that I stored outside last summer. When I started to drive it in the fall, the driver's side turn signal worked fine until I turned on the headlights. With the lights on, it's only half as bright and blinks twice as fast. I cleaned out a mouse nest and found a loose black wire. Any idea which one of the six ports in the harness connector this wire goes into?

A Look closely at the male and female halves of the connector. Is there a black wire in one-half of the connector but no matching black wire in the same port on the other half? If so, that's a good bet.

In most cases, the black wire in a lighting harness is a ground connection. The Alldata database confirms this on your Tracker. And since the rapidly flashing turn signal with the headlight on indicates the possibility of an inadequate ground, you could try simply grounding the black wire and see if the turn signal begins flashing normally.

Q My '95 Mercury Villager has just 12,000 miles on it. On a recent trip it suffered a loss of power and a burning smell. More recently, I drove 30 miles to a mall and on the way home the vehicle again suffered a loss of power, burning smell and smoke coming from between the right front wheel and headlight in the engine compartment. I had it towed to the dealer but they couldn't find anything wrong. Help!

A The most likely possibility is a restriction in the exhaust system or catalytic converter. This can lead to grossly overheated exhaust manifolds in the engine compartment, which may be the source of the smoke. Have a shop check manifold vacuum with the engine running at fast idle. If vacuum begins to fall, it's a good indicator of some type of exhaust restriction. The shop can also perform an exhaust back pressure test to confirm this type of problem.

Other possibilities include slippage in the automatic transmission or some type of significant mechanical drag in the right front brake, driveshaft, hub or bearing. A sticking brake caliper piston or slider could cause enough brake drag to feel like a loss of power and overheat the friction material to the point of generating smoke.

Q I have a 2002 Honda Accord. The "side air bag" light comes on sporadically in cold weather. If I hit the gas or brake, the light goes off. If I hit the passenger seat or my left side seat, the light goes off. I am nervous that the side air bag isn't working, will fail when the light is on or that there's a short that could result in a fire.

A Typically, when an air bag warning light is on, the air bag system is disabled. But I don't think there's a risk of fire from a short circuit in the air bag system.

A scan tool should be able to identify any diagnostic trouble codes associated with the air bag warning light being illuminated. Because of your success with hitting the seats, I'd be inclined to look for loose, pinched or frayed electrical connections under both front seats.

Q During the last service on our 2008 Mazda 3 with 24,000 miles, the technician said our transmission fluid was not "pink" and needed to be flushed, at a cost of $200. I couldn't find any service replacement date in our manual.

A Neither did I in the Alldata database. But I do see that the transmission oil pan has a drain plug, so you could have the fluid simply drained and refilled with the proper ATF at a much lower cost. A full transmission service, as has been suggested for your vehicle, would also include removing the pan and servicing the filter. But unless there is a problem, I don't think transmission service is warranted at such low mileage.

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