Q The brakes on my 2003 Ford Expedition make a rubbing or grabbing noise when I use them. The dealer found nothing wrong. Does this sound like a problem?

A Noise from the contact between brake pads and brake rotors/discs is not abnormal. If the components aren't worn to the point of needing replacement, have the dealer or a shop deglaze the pads and scuff the rotors with a non-directional finish pattern, then break in or "bed" the brakes to mate the pads to the rotors. This should reduce if not eliminate the noise.

If the symptom is more of a shudder than just a noise, have the dealer check service bulletin 06-3-16, dated February 2006, that suggests an updated brake rotor matched to low-dust brake pads.

Q I have a 2006 Buick LaCrosse. Ever since it was new I have had problems with the dash lights. Early in the morning if I am driving west away from the sun, and in the evening when I am driving east, the dashboard lights including the clock and radio dial do not work. Once the sun comes up high enough, they work.

Two different dealerships could not fix it. I called the Buick hotline, and they said there was no fix.

A There is now. My Alldata automotive database pulled up service bulletin 08-08-42-001B dated May 2008 that describes this situation perfectly. The body control module (BCM) is commanding the headlights to turn on in low-light conditions, which reduces the brightness of the instruments, radio and clock. Fortunately, there's an easy fix. Have your dealer reprogram the BCM with updated calibration files.

Motoring note

I've had several interesting responses to last week's request for technical reasons to back into a parking space so that, on a cold start, the transmission is first shifted into drive rather than reverse:

The best (from D. Helling): "After spending 35 years repairing 7,000 automatic transmissions, I've always told my family members not to stuff it in reverse right after it starts -- you'll break a lip seal. It's eight times mechanically more difficult for an auto trans to back up than it is to go forward, so the transmission raises hydraulic pressure by about three times to make the clutches hold in reverse."

The funniest (from Bill Nelson): "At Scout camp in the mountains near Los Angeles we were instructed to back into the parking spots. The reason given was that in case of a forest fire, there would not be delays leaving while waiting for someone to back out of their space and then having to turn around."

The most logical (from S. Johnson): "I always back into my garage, so that I can start tomorrow the right way by going forward. It helps to start the day going in the right direction. Also, too many close calls backing out of the driveway ... before my brain is engaged."

The most detailed (from R. Kane): "In the cold, one might assert that it is easier on the transmission to be put in drive and off you go, rather than having to switch from reverse to drive while the transmission is quite cold. With modern transmissions, this is probably a very minor point, but it does exist. A second point: most reading I have seen regarding fuel-efficient driving suggest you do your backing up when you get home rather than in the dead cold of morning. So fuel savings, though small, may be a motivator."