Q: I found a 2003 Ford Focus with 30,000 miles for my daughter’s transportation needs for a few years. After driving to a destination, the engine refuses to turn over unless you wait 20-30 minutes. This only happens in summertime and it simply “clicks” like a battery problem. I’ve had it analyzed on the computer and got no hits. My mechanic, to his credit, doesn’t want to just guess at the problem until he’s more sure of the source. Can you help?
A: Anytime there’s an intermittent no-crank issue, the question is whether or not battery voltage is reaching the starter motor. A volt meter across the battery terminals as you attempt to crank the engine will tell you the answer. If voltage immediately drops into the 10- to 12-volt range as you turn the key, current is reaching the starter motor and it is trying to crank the engine. If you can, tap the starter or solenoid with a baseball bat while attempting to crank the engine — with all due caution and safety, of course. If the engine suddenly cranks, it is likely a faulty starter motor or starter solenoid.
If, on the other hand, the volt meter shows no significant change in battery voltage as you attempt to crank the engine, no current is reaching the starter motor. There is likely a poor-quality connection or ground somewhere in the starting circuit.
In either case I’d suggest disconnecting the battery and disassembling/cleaning/resecuring every electrical and ground connection in the starting circuit.
Q: The clutch pedal in my 1988 Dodge Ram 50 was hard to depress after 30,000 km on a replaced clutch kit. I installed a new disc, pressure plate and throw-out bearing. I examined the cable for binding and kinks but found nothing — the cable was smooth in the casing. It is still really hard to depress. I’ve correctly adjusted the cable free play. I even took off the cable from the transmission and manually swung the clutch fork that moves the throw-out bearing. It is smooth and easy until it contacts the pressure plate, then super resistance. When I had the transmission out I saw no binding of the throw-out bearing sliding on the spindle. Help!
A: I’ll assume you installed a stock replacement clutch assembly — not a heavy-duty clutch that might inherently require more pedal effort to disengage. Dodge recommends lightly lubricating the input shaft splines with wheel bearing grease and the pilot bushing in the rear of the crankshaft with a multi-purpose grease to prevent the clutch disc splines from binding on the shaft. Significant binding can prevent the clutch from fully releasing.
Years ago I stumbled across an unusual cause for a very stiff clutch pedal. The bushing in the clutch pedal was binding on the shaft the clutch pedal pivots on under the dash. I discovered this only when I accidentally pushed the clutch pedal with the cable disconnected from the pedal assembly. I ended up disassembling, lightly honing, lubricating and reassembling the pedal assembly – problem solved.
As a final thought, even though the cable isn’t binding as you move it by hand, it could have worn a groove in its casing/housing, which may cause binding under the stress of disengaging the clutch.
Q: If I do a fast takeoff from a stop, the transmission on my ’05 Buick LeSabre clunks hard shifting through all gears. If I stop and shut the car off it is fine and won’t do it again until I have to do a quick takeoff. What do you think?
A: When this occurs, does the SES (Service Engine Soon) lamp illuminate? Your first step is to have a scan tool check for DTC fault codes. The transmission may be dropping into “limp mode” and operating with higher hydraulic pressure to protect itself.
A simple DIY approach is to add half a can of SeaFoam Trans-Tune to the transmission fluid to clean the valve body and hydraulic components.