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Use Quality Parts and Get a Qualified Technician

By Junior Damato, April 22nd, 2017

strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2005 Nissan Altima with 56,000 miles. I needed to have a state inspection, but the "service engine" light was on. My local service center replaced a sensor and told me the car needed to be driven for up to 60 miles to reset the computer. While driving the "service engine" light came on again. The repair center admitted they may have used the wrong sensor and that they would install a Japanese sensor. Again, they said to drive for 60 miles and then it should pass state inspection. They also told me if it failed again then I should go to Nissan for a complete computer re-program. What is your recommendation on this? Bob

Manufacturer photo: 2005 Nissan Altima
Manufacturer photo: 2005 Nissan Altima

strong>Dear Bob: Your letter did not mention the fault code. A scan test will identify the system with the fault. An ASE-certified technician will look in freeze-frame memory and read when the fault happened. After making the repair the technician will go back and look at live data to determine if the repair resolved the problem. You may be better off asking for a refund and going to the dealer or a qualified technician. You always want a quality part installed when one is needed. Regarding computer reprogramming, the technician can check Identifix and Alldata for any updates that need to be performed.

strong>Dear Doctor: I own a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For the past month it has been locking up in Park. It just happens randomly without warning. I have taken it to the dealer and they have run scans to try to duplicate the issue, but each time they find nothing. What should I do next? Gene

strong>Dear Gene: For safety reasons automatic transmission shift levers have an interlock system to prevent the shift lever from slipping out of the park position. For the shifter to come out of park, the key needs to be in the "on" position while the brake pedal is depressed. Have the dealer check the brake pedal position switch. Also make note when the shifter gets stuck in park whether the brake lights also come on as the pedal is depressed. If the brake lights illuminate, then the shift interlock switch will need to be checked. There's also a manual override button on most vehicles covered by a locked, small removable access cover. You can go to the dealer for access to the override button.

strong>Dear Doctor: My 2003 Dodge Durango has an overheating problem. I changed the cap three times and installed a no-fault thermostat. Is there anything else you can advise me to do for this problem? Adam

strong>Dear Adam: Make sure the radiator is full. Then cold-start the engine with the radiator cap off (removed). If when started the coolant blows out of the radiator then there is a cylinder head or head gasket problem. If the coolant does not blow out then let the engine run for up to 10 minutes and then look at the coolant in the radiator for air bubbles, which could also indicate an engine head/gasket problem. Next, check if both radiator hoses are hot. If one hose is cold then there is a circulation problem. A partly clogged radiator or worn fins on the water pump is possible. Also, make sure the cooling fan working properly. And lastly, take the vehicle to a repair shop for a gas analyzer or liquid test that will check for hydrocarbons in the cooling system.

strong>Dear Doctor: Sometimes the gas gauge on my 2001 Pontiac Montana reads correctly for a few minutes when the vehicle starts from cold, but then the gauge jumps to full. It's even started falling to the empty marker, even when there's more than half a tank of fuel. How do I fix it? Bart

strong>Dear Bart: This is a common problem and in most cases the fault is in the dash cluster. To verify the fault the technician will use a professional scan tool to read the actual fuel level. There are many companies that repair dash clusters, averaging about $100 to $200.

strong>Dear Doctor: My 2004 Lexus RX 330 has a low brake pedal, though it has good braking capability. I replaced the pads with ceramic parts. I did not machine the rotors; I simply compressed the calipers, and placed the existing shims on the new pads. I didn't open the bleeder valves. How can I fix it? Chad

strong>Dear Chad: You need to make sure the caliper slides and pins move freely and are not binding. Determine that the brake pads move freely. It's a good idea to bleed the system starting right-rear to left-rear to right-front and the left-front wheel. When bleeding the brake system just do a slight bleed from each wheel. You mentioned using the old shims. These are great for original factory pads but not aftermarket pads that have a metal shim already on them. There could be some compression between the shims and this will cause a brake pedal drop.

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