Speedometers can reach stratosphere for a reason

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND
  • Updated: August 17, 2012 - 3:53 PM
Q What is the story with today's speedometer readings? Most new cars and a lot of used cars have speedometer gauges that go as high as 120 to 160 miles per hour. Why so high? Do they really go that fast or does that, for some reason, make the vehicle more attractive? I can't fathom going that fast with today's speed limits nor would I want to. Our speed limit in the metro area rarely exceeds 65 mph, so why the extended readings?

A Why do you care? The oil pressure gauge, water temperature gauge, tachometer and volt meter all are capable of readings well above average/normal/routine -- are they a concern? And, yes, many of these vehicles certainly can "go that fast."

A more specific answer is this: Many performance vehicles are driven well above legal speed limits at drag strips and racetracks around the country. A "track day" at a formal racetrack permits drivers, with the proper safety gear, to exercise their vehicles in a controlled fashion at speeds well above 100 mph.

Here's another way to look at it. Modern automotive technology allows automakers to deliver automobiles that can be driven daily to work/store/park at routine speeds in complete comfort with great safety and incredible efficiency. That same vehicle can also be driven in a competitive environment at a proper facility, providing enormous fun and great competition with complete reliability.

In the simplest of terms, automobiles are machines and machines are rated/compared/tested/chosen by their performance characteristics. The "performance characteristics" of today's automobiles are simply amazing!

Enjoy the ride!

Q I have a 2000 Saturn LS1. The lights come on in the middle of the night and drain the battery. I took it to a shop but they could not find anything wrong. It worked fine for two weeks. I noticed when I use my blinkers my high beam light comes on the dashboard. Last night the lights were on again. I got it jump-started the next morning and drove it several times that day and everything seemed fine. The next day it was dead again. Help!

A Electrical gremlins -- the automobile's worst nightmare -- are hard to find and often harder to fix. The high beam indicator illuminating when you use the turn signals points toward the multi-function turn signal/headlamp switch on the steering column as the prime suspect. On vehicles with tilt steering, the harness for this switch is flexed each time the steering wheel is raised or lowered, which can lead to an internal short causing this problem.

If you can, determine exactly which lights come on when the vehicle is parked. Headlights only? Or headlights and running lights? Headlights only might point to the DRL (daytime running lights) relay or even a problem with the ignition switch.

An automotive electrical specialist might be your best bet.

Q My granddaughter's 1996 Grand Am GT with standard transmission needs a "fuel return pump" and we can't even find that part listed after doing many searches. There is a fuel pump, of course, but a gentleman at the dealership looking at it said it was the "fuel return pump" and that none were available. The car is back at my son's now and it is a problem that needs solving.

A This issue is a classic "failure to communicate." There is no "fuel return pump" on this vehicle. The fuel pump is part of the modular fuel sender assembly located inside the fuel tank. The only "return" component in the fuel system I can think of is the fuel pressure regulator, which controls fuel pressure by bleeding a percentage of the ready fuel supply back to the fuel tank.

If the car doesn't start due to no fuel pressure, check the fuel pump relay located at the firewall on the passenger side of the engine compartment. You should be able to feel/hear the relay engage and the fuel pump run for 2 seconds when the key is first turned on.

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