Low-miles car still needs maintenance

  • Article by: PAUL BRAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 21, 2010 - 4:19 PM

Q I'm 86 years old and drive a '99 Camry with 44,000 miles on it. I change the oil and rotate the tires, which were new two years ago, every 3,000 miles. I've never had anything else done, and it runs fine. Are there other necessary maintenance things I should have done?

A Being a maintenance maniac, I could recommend a list of services based more on age than mileage -- air filter, timing belt, coolant flush and fill, and transmission and brake fluid. And you'd never be wrong to have these done. But you average only about 4,000 miles per year, so I'd suggest having the air filter and coolant changed and the serpentine belt inspected now, then continue to have the engine and oil filter changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles or once a year, whichever comes first.

Q I drive my '95 Taurus with 106,000 miles on it on a rural postal route. After two or three hours of going mailbox to mailbox, it sputters and dies while idling. No "check engine" lights go on and the temperature gauge is normal. If I let it sit for 10 minutes, it will start and run again for a while, then kill again. On the highway, it clears up. Any recommendations?

A This might be vapor lock caused by a tired fuel pump. My Alldata automotive database found Ford bulletin 96-7-5, which outlines this potential problem and suggests installing an updated, turbine-style fuel pump. To confirm this, you'll need to check the fuel pressure after the engine dies. Cycle the key on and off several times while listening for the sound of the fuel pump in the tank. Then leave the ignition off, open the hood and cover the fuel pressure test port on the injection manifold with a cloth. Carefully depress the pintle of the valve. A brief squirt of high-pressure fuel should escape.

Q I have a 2002 Chrysler minivan with almost 150,000 miles. I've had problems with the rear brakes since Day One. At first it was the automatic adjusting mechanism. I put the van in the driveway overnight by backing up about 80 feet. In the morning, when I put it in drive, the brakes would stick, then release with a crack. I corrected this by removing the self-adjusters. My main problem now is that the rear drums fill with dirt and debris. I had the shoes and brake hardware replaced. Six months later, same problem. Any suggestions?

A Chrysler issued a revised rear brake backing plate to help keep debris out. If you don't want to go to the expense of having this done, you'll need to pull the rear drums off periodically to flush, clean and manually adjust the rear brakes. Make sure you wear a dust mask and flush them with water, not air.

Q I own a 2008 Hyundai Sonata GLS. The dealer I bought the car from told me the car has a timing chain, but the owner's manual gives information only about timing belts. I'm confused. Does my car have a timing belt or a chain?

A A timing chain that requires no periodic maintenance.

Motoring note

Every wonder how an automobile is "recycled"? Check out the massive car crusher Saturday at Rods and Wrecks Car Show, noon to 4 p.m. at AAA Auto Salvage in Rosemount. The event is open to families at no charge. Proceeds benefit the Rosemount Area Athletic Association youth football program.

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