Auto Doc: Fix squeaky belts quickly to avoid bigger issues

A 2002 Honda Civic

A 2002 Honda Civic Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Honda Civic with more than 168,000 miles. For a while the drive belts would make a squeaking noise. I replaced all three belts (alternator belt, power steering belt and the timing belt) when the odometer reached 90,000 miles. My mechanic looked at the belts; all it needed was an adjustment which solved the problem. If I had ignored it, would any damage be done? -- Larry

Dear Larry: Squealing is a belt that is slipping on a belt pulley. When a belt squeals heat is generated, causing the rubber in the belt to overheat, lose flexibility and crack. If the loose belt is tightened in time then the belt can be saved. The most common belt to squeal is the alternator belt when the engine is started in the morning. Many of today's engines have a single flat serpentine belt design with an automatic belt tensioner that keeps the belt tight. When replacing any belt always use a quality belt, spin all pulleys and check for any bearing noise or play in the pulleys. -- Doctor

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Dear Doctor: I own a 2007 Dodge Charger with 82,000 miles. The car has been shaking when shifting gears between 1,500 and 2,000 rpm. (over 2,000 rpm the car runs smoothly). My mechanic diagnosed it to be transmission shudder. He changed the fluid and filter and added a friction modifier. It's a little better but the problem is still there. He suggests a torque converter replacement. Can I drive the car the way it is without damaging it? -- Jesse

Dear Jesse: Transmission shudder is not uncommon. Automatic transmissions work on valves, solenoids, and pressure created by an internal pump that runs via the engine speed. Transmission fluids are not all the same; every manufacturer has different additives and friction modifiers that help control shift smoothness. A shudder feeling can be caused by a loss of transmission fluid friction additive from aging fluid. There are many companies that offer transmission fluid additives to help eliminate transmission shudder that do make a difference. It can sometimes take a couple of transmission fluid changes to solve the problem. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have a 2001 Dodge Ram. When I am driving between 42-53 mph the torque converter will not stay locked. I have had the automatic transmission checked, but cannot find anything wrong. Can you advise me? -- Don

Dear Don: Torque converter lock up is when the torque converter acts like a standard transmission in high gear vs. in lower gears. The purpose of the lock up design torque converter is to go into lock up mode in transmission speed from 2nd gear and above to lower engine speed (RPM). Have the technician check with both Alldata and Identifix for any Technical Service Bulletins. There are also many aftermarket performance computer programmers to reprogram the computer and engine. The reprogrammer is a small hand-held unit that can change both engine power levels and transmission shift points (RPM) and firmness. -- Doctor

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Dear Doctor: I alert fellow drivers if they have a brake light out. Most really appreciate the gesture. Since I don't want to drive with a brake light out, I'm considering installing aftermarket LED bulbs in my 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Will they provide the same intensity as a standard bulb? -- David

Dear David: I'm all in favor of LED bulbs -- and coming soon new diode bulbs -- as these are the future of lighting. LED bulbs are very bright, have very little current draw and last a long time. You can buy any good aftermarket headlight set from Silver Star, Piaa. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have a 2013 Dodge Charger six-cylinder, eight-speed automatic transmission. Occasionally when I reverse, I hear a click from the rear. (sounds like someone dropped a coin in a tin cup). The dealer said it was the rear axle nut, which they tightened. But the clicking sound is back again. Do you have an opinion on whether this was the proper repair? -- DB

Dear DB: Without hearing the noise I cannot be of much help. What I can tell you is that the car should be checked on a drive-on style ramp car lift, so that all the weight is on the suspension. The technician will have an assistant with the engine running put the car from drive to reverse while looking at the rear suspension area and any possible exhaust interference.

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