strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2009 Dodge Journey with the six-cylinder engine. For the past couple of weeks I have felt a very slight sensation in the steering wheel and a hum-like sound under the hood, but only when I accelerate. It seems to go away at 55 mph or faster and nothing when just idling. My mechanic said it is coming from within the engine. I do my oil changes every 3,000 to 5,000 miles using synthetic oil and still get the same gas mileage as when I first bought the car. Have you come across something like this or do you have any thoughts on the matter? Bill
strong>Dear Bill: The first step is to have a technician road test the car. If the hum is only when the car is moving, a wheel or axle support bearing could be the culprit. If the noise is present without the car in motion, I would disconnect the fan belt and start the engine and see if the sound is gone. Air conditioning compressors and alternator clutch style pulleys often can cause sounds like you describe. In some rare cases we use a chassis ear to help locate hard-to-find sounds and noises.
strong>Dear Doctor: My 2014 BMW featured free maintenance of four years; the service plan has now expired with the dealership, so I'm searching for a reliable independent ASE-certified auto shop to perform routine maintenance on my BMW. However, I'm having trouble finding a good one who specializes in German-made vehicles in my area. How do I find a reliable mechanic? Secondly, my run-flat tires currently have 25,000 on them, and I am planning to replace them next year. I'm not sure whether to stay with run-flat tires or change to regular ones. I like the run flats, but most shops don't repair them when they are flat, and often don't have the tires in stock if I need to replace them, especially in the rural area. What's your advice on the tires? Joyce
strong>Dear Joyce: For a reputable technician check with your local AAA office for a list of approved shops; you may have to take your car out of the area to find a shop and technician you like. Regarding run flat tires, the only good thing I find with them is no spare tire is needed in 98 percent of loss of air pressure (a flat tire). Conventional tires will soften the ride dramatically. We swap out the majority of run flats, especially on Corvettes, and yes, even BMW vehicles.
strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2011 Nissan Sentra with 35,000 miles and it seems to be burning oil. There is no oil dripping on the ground, there is no smoke coming out of the tail pipe, there is no odd smell like oil burning on the engine block, but checking the dipstick every so often does show that the oil is going down in an abnormally quick amount of time. Is there a product on the market to perhaps alleviate this problem? Theresa
strong>Dear Theresa: Oil consumption is a common complaint on the Sentra and has been for many years, as are clogged pre-catalytic converters at the exhaust manifold from the oil burning. Oil burning usually starts around 50,000 miles on these cars. Crankcase ventilation, intake butterfly valves, sludge, and carbon buildup around the piston rings all contribute to the oil usage without seeing a lot of smoke out the tail pipe. A top engine cleaning performed by a technician can sometimes clean the piston rings and cylinder head. Changing to high-mileage oil, even with the low mileage, is also an option.
strong>Dear Doctor: I recently replaced the complete front strut assembly on my 2011 Ford Edge that has 150,000 miles. A few days later I started hearing a lot of clunky noises. I had them checked and the mechanic said all is okay, but another mechanic said I might have to change lower control arms now. What should I do? JJ
strong>Dear JJ: When checking suspension noises it should be done on a drive-on ramp so that the suspension is weight-loaded. To check additional worn parts, such as ball joints and tire rod ends, a contact-lift is needed. Lower control arm bushings, lower ball joints, and sway bar links are very common; inner tie rod ends are more rare. In some cases worn engine mounts can sound like worn front-end parts.
strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2013 Dodge Avenger with 31,000 miles; I'm 86 years old and no longer work, so the car is used for running around town. It just developed a clicking noise: I think it has something to do with the heater or cooling controls but it looks like I have to take the whole dashboard off to get at the controls and that's too much for me right now. Any suggestions? Have there been any reports of this kind of problem on other Dodge vehicles? I had a 2009 Dodge Charger until Hurricane Sandy, when a tree fell on the roof and smashed it. That was going to be the last car I was going to own until it got smashed, but the insurance only gave me enough to buy the Avenger. Jerald
strong>Dear Jerald: Most vehicle climate control systems are controlled by small electric door mode actuators. These small plastic actuators have small plastic gears inside them that open and close plastic blend doors to regulate the hot/cold air and what vent the air blows out of. Some blend door motors are easy to access; others may require part of the dash to be pulled away. The job may not be as expensive as you may think. Get an estimate from whatever shop you use. The technician will look on both Alldata and Identifix for service and removal information. The good thing about these sites is technicians from the country all offer quick fixes and short cuts on all sorts of problems and repairs.
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