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Replace Spark Plugs at 60k Mile Intervals, Not 100k

By Junior Damato, July 9th, 2011

strong>Dear Doctor: I own a 2006 Toyota Sienna with 43,000 miles on it. The owner's manual states to change the spark plugs at 90,000 miles. I called a couple of dealerships and they stand by the manufacturer's timetable. I have seen spark plugs that were almost welded to the cylinder heads after 90,000 miles. Should I change the spark plugs on my Sienna at 60,000 miles and disregard what Toyota recommends? Dennis

strong>Dear Dennis: I twist wrenches six days a week and when it comes to spark plug replacement I have seen more frozen, rotted and broken spark plugs than I should see. The most common broken and frozen spark plugs are found in the Snow Belt. Any spark plug that is subject to the weather elements will be affected. I have not had any problems with Toyota engines; however, I would still go with the 60,000-mile replacement, not 100,000 miles.

strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2003 Volkswagen Jetta wagon and was told the oil drain plug threads on the pan are stripped. Should I have an oversize plug inserted, or do I need to replace the pan? I think the pan is aluminum, but heard there are some "hybrid" pans made of steel with aluminum. William

strong>Dear William: I see a lot of worn and stripped threads on both aluminum and steel oil pans. The majority of stripped oil pan threads are from the drain plug being over-tightened. As for installing an oversized drain plug, it depends on the damage to the pan. You need to have the technician look at the pan for his opinion. Replacing the pan is simple and inexpensive.

strong>Dear Doctor: My sister-in-law has a Dodge Journey with every conceivable option. She's had it for a year now, and without warning the car will die on her, however, it starts right up again. This has occurred on several occasions. No light comes on. The dealer said it could be the weight of her key chain, as she has everything but the kitchen sink on it. Is this possible? What is your opinion otherwise? Don

strong>Dear Don: Without computer-generated information, the problem with a stalling condition is anyone's guess. As for the heavy key chain, yes, this is possible and found on older vehicles. The dealer can connect a scan tool then road-test the car and record the information from the computer. When the engine stalls they can look at all the information and review it to see what actually happened. They can also send the information to the engineering department for their opinion. The stalling is considered a safety issue and you have legal rights you may want to look into if the stalling is not resolved.

strong>Dear Doctor: I own a 1998 Mazda 626 with about 166,000 miles. The car runs great, however, it occasionally stalls and is not able to restart for anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. I've read that it could be a problem with the fuel delivery system. I'm not sure what that means. Can you give some insight? Jennifer

strong>Dear Jennifer: The most common problem here is with the distributor; it's usually not fuel-related. To verify the lack of spark, a simple spark tester is needed. The technician can also check the computer for any history codes in memory. Check with a good auto parts store for either a new or rebuilt distributor assembly.

strong>Dear Doctor: Since all the radiation happened in Japan, is it safe to order a new car built in Japan? Is it safe for my mechanic to put new Japanese replacement parts in my car?

strong>Dear Dara: Both the U.S. government and Japan have been running tests on radiation on everything leaving Japan and retesting upon arriving in the U.S. I have no problem with the cars and auto parts being shipped to the U.S.

strong>Dear Doctor: I'm interested in a hybrid car and have considered Toyota and Honda. Now, a friend suggests I also look at the Lincoln MKZ Hybrid. What are your thoughts? Sara

strong>Dear Sara: I did spend a week in a 2011 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid -- and is one of the best hybrids I've driven. My gas mileage averaged 40 miles per gallon. This hybrid has ample power and worth a test drive. Retail sticker price on our test car was $39,270.

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