Dear Doctor: I have to change the spark plugs in my 2008 Dodge Ram 1500 with the 5.7-liter engine. I want to use E3 spark plugs. Dodge tells me to use the same type of spark plugs that came out of the truck. What is your opinion? -- Anthony
Dear Anthony: As long as the E3 spark plug is the correct application for your truck there is no problem. Make sure you use die electric grease on the spark plug wire and coil end and a small drop of anti-seize compound on the spark plug treads. Do not over tighten the spark plug. A few years ago I went to the Champion spark plug factory and watched spark plugs come down the line. Some said Champion and others said another name. Car manufacturers do not make all the car parts; they put them all together.
Dear Doctor: I own a 2009 Jeep Wrangler with a pinging noise coming from the motor. At idle there is no noise, but once I put the truck in first gear and let off the clutch from 800 to 2000 rpms I hear the pinging noise while under load. When I disengage the clutch there is no noise. This happens for 3 minutes then it's gone. In the cold the noise gets worse. What should I look for? -- John
Dear John: You'll need a mechanic's stethoscope to locate the source of the sound. Electronic fuel injectors do make some ticking sounds, as well as a possible rocker arm sound. You can even try disconnecting the serpentine belt to determine if the sound disappears.
Dear Doctor: I own a 2012 Hyundai Elantra with the new six-speed automatic transmission. I had no problems until the weather turned colder this winter. Whenever the temperature is below 40 degrees the engine revs an additional 1,000 to 2,000 rpm between the shifts from 2nd into 3rd gear. It acts as though it's in neutral. This only happens the first time it shifts from 2nd to 3rd. When I keep it in my garage, or if I start it outside and let it idle for at least 5 minutes before driving it shifts perfectly. The dealer checked all the codes and reset them. Everything was normal. What's wrong? -- Joe
Dear Joe: I just drove the 2013 Elantra four-cylinder with the six-speed automatic and did not notice any unusual transmission shifting -- and the temperatures were below freezing for the duration of the test-drive. The automatic transmissions of today are programmed to help reduce emissions both under acceleration, delaying the upshifting when the engine is cold, and deceleration by downshifting when coming to a stop or slowing down. If the first cold shift is annoying to you, then lift your foot off the accelerator slightly just as the transmission makes that first upshift and see if that makes any difference. I do not see any long term problem.
Dear Doctor: I own a 2003 Dodge Dakota. The left side lighting is burned out on the instrument panel for the tachometer and temperature gauges. I'm planning on fixing it this spring myself. In your opinion, is this a job I should attempt? -- Vincent
Dear Vincent: Dash cluster removal is not complicated. Unlike years past with a mechanical speedometer cable and brittle wire harness to deal with, today's vehicles have 1 or 2 push-in plug connectors to unplug once you have the dash cluster pulled out enough to release the plug connector. The easiest way for you to remove the dash cluster is to start at Alldata.com for instructions. Some dash clusters have replacement bulbs; others have diode lights that need to be soldered in place by an electrical shop. Make sure you disconnect the battery before removing the dash cluster. Check with the Dodge dealer for replacement bulbs before you remove the dash cluster. This will give you a heads-up if the dash cluster has bulbs or diodes.
Dear Doctor: I'd like to consider buying a new 2013 Honda. Have you driven the Accord with the V-6? -- Jack
Dear Jack: The 2013 Accord is a big improvement over its predecessor -- and the 2012 was also a good car. The new 2013 Accord has a redesigned engine and fuel injection system. The four-cylinder has a CVT transmission while our test car was V-6-powered through a six-speed automatic with quick, firm and great gear ratios. The 2013 is lighter and shorter than the 2012 Accord, yet has more interior room.
Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail questions to: Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347