Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Ford F-150 and always maintained the truck myself. But since I'm getting up in age I decided to have my mechanic do the spark plugs. The manual calls for changing the plugs at 100,000 miles. My truck has 90,000 miles. When he went to remove the plugs he discovered that they were very rusted; in fact one plug was rusted through below the hex and above the threads so much that it was only holding together by the insulator. Needless to say it broke and my mechanic had to pull the head to remove it. I don't live near the water and I don't drive on the beach. Is Ford responsible for any of this? -- Steve
Dear Steve: As the automakers and my readers know I tell it like it is: Ford should have issued a major recall on all affected engines with both spark plug threads pulling out of the cylinder heads and the breaking of spark plugs in the cylinder heads. At my shop we have special tools to replace the threads in the cylinder head without the cylinder head removal and to remove the broken spark plug base stuck in the head. Any customer of mine who owns a Ford with the problem cylinder head engines I tell them to replace the spark plugs at 30,000 miles, as well as get heavy application of anti-seize compound. And then have a spark plug replacement again in two years.
Dear Doctor: I have a 1996 Chrysler Concorde. The heat is constantly blowing from the defroster. None of the controls seem to work. It will not change the temperature, fan speed, selected area, or change to air conditioning from heat. I removed the control unit in the dash panel and checked for loose connectors or broken solder joints to no avail. Can you help? -- Doug
Dear Doug: The problem could be anything related to the system sensor. The first step is to scan the climate control system and see what, if any, fault codes are present. I see a variety of climate control system problems and they can range from the sun-load sensor to the in-car temperature sensor faults. The control blend doors are controlled electronically and they have failures, too. Take the car to an ASE-certified technician qualified to check the vehicle.
Dear Doctor: I recently had two brake hoses replaced on my 2000 Plymouth Voyager minivan. The total cost was approximately $285. The technician stated they charge $93.50 for labor. The hoses cost approximately $59 a piece. Were these costs out of the norm? I think they were. I'm concerned. -- Orange
Dear Orange: The cost of the repair is fair. You must take into consideration the cost of the parts and labor time to replace the hoses and bleed the system. At a labor rate of $90 to $125 per hour, two hours adds up quickly. The shop that fixed your minivan did right by you.
Dear Doctor: My 18-year-old grandson wants to buy a 2004 or 2005 Dodge Neon SRT4 with a turbo engine. I would rather he buy a different sports car. We would like your opinion on what you think about the SRT4. -- Vincent
Dear Vincent: The Neon SRT4 is built by the Street Racing division of Dodge. There are not many of these cars on the market. They were fun-to-drive cars back then and you need to find out the history on the vehicle before buying -- a lot of these cars were driven very hard by younger drivers and some raced both off- and on-track. Have a full evaluation performed by your mechanic. A factory extended warranty is also a good idea.
Dear Doctor: What new cars ride like a Lincoln Town Car? And, if any, which ones don't have bucket seats? -- Charles
Dear Charles: The old soft living room couch ride vehicles for the most part have gone away. I recommend you go out and drive a variety of different cars to find the car of your choice. The old-fashioned front row bench seat is a thing of the past. I would hope you will test drive cars with bucket seats. It will surprise you to learn how comfortable bucket seats are.
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