Q: Several times when I’ve been driving my 2004 Ford Taurus I’ve been zapped at a highway patrol scanner point. There was a loud beep or blaring sound in the car and I received a “Check transmission” error. The next time I started the car the message did not come back on. Does the scanner cause this error code? What should I do when this happens?
A: Slow down. Seriously, I can’t imagine that police radar, laser or any other type of speed measuring system could interfere with the electronics on a modern vehicle. I suppose it’s possible, and I did have one interesting experience with GM’s first-generation electronic fuel injection. Every time I keyed the microphone on the two-way radio we used at Skip Barber racing schools, my ’77 Cadillac Seville would stall. Took a few times to realize what was happening, but then I used it to win a bet that I could shut off my car using only mental telepathy — my co-workers didn’t realize I was keying the radio behind my back!
That was 35-plus years ago and the electronic technology incorporated into today’s vehicles is exponentially more sophisticated so I really don’t think radar or laser is the issue. Could it be your instinctive reaction to the speed check? Perhaps you suddenly jump off the throttle and stab the brakes, causing a sudden, unexpected torque converter clutch release and downshift. Who knows what caused it but the only way to find out is to scan the PCM and TCM for fault codes. This might identify what happened, but of course, not why it happened.
I’m sure I’ll hear from conspiracy theorists who will swear Big Brother’s out there controlling our vehicles. In fact, that capability does exist but it isn’t used to check speed in routine speed enforcement.
Q: My 2012 Honda CR-V will act the same way as the Lexus RX350 [from a previous column] that stumbled when turning and accelerating if I have my left foot resting on the brake pedal. The normal reaction is to press harder on the gas when you “stall out.” Keeping my foot off the brake solves this problem.
A: I’ve had several responses identifying the potential “gas/brake” scenario for causing the sudden loss of power when beginning to accelerate. And it is very possibly a viable explanation. For those of us who have used our left foot for braking, an overlap between brake release and throttle application may well be creating this characteristic.
For motorists who have experienced this, analyze the behavior of your feet. Are you by any chance touching the brake pedal as you accelerate? The answer may be a simple adjustment to your foot position on the throttle.
Thanks to Bob Brown and Stan Deden for bringing this possibility to my attention.
Q: I drive a 2011 Toyota Sienna minivan with 60, 000 miles. This problem is driving my family crazy. About a month ago the warning light indicated that my rear hatch door (not power) was unlocked. I made sure nothing was caught in the door and closed it again. Same warning light came on once I started driving so I checked the door again — nothing. Now the warning light will come on intermittently when I turn a corner, go over a bump or simply accelerate. The local dealer saw the problem when driving around the lot but indicated that just to look at it would be a hefty diagnostic fee. Is there a way to stop this wonky warning without causing a safety issue? I am more than willing to cut a wire or switch out a fuse.
A: If it were only that simple. Unfortunately, the “Hatch ajar” warning light is integrated into the Body Control Module. Cutting a wire would likely cause it to sound full-time, ensuring your family’s complete mental collapse.
The switch is located in the latch assembly in the floor. Disassembling this to clean and lube it shouldn’t be a huge expense. It could be a DIY project or a simple fix for an independent shop.