Auto Doctor: Headlight replacements can be sneaky expensive

The 2008 Buick Lucerne requires the removal of

The 2008 Buick Lucerne requires the removal of the front bumper to replace headlight bulbs, making it a more costly operation. (Credit: AP (2008))

Dear Doctor: I own a 2008 Buick Lucerne. A front headlight burned out and I'm told that the front bumper must be removed in order to get at the bulb. This will cost more than $200. Really? -- Rich

Dear Rich: Unfortunately, there are some vehicles that do require the removal of the front bumper to replace headlight bulbs. When this is the case at my shop, we replace both bulbs with an upgraded Silver Star ZXE brand. HID light bulbs can cost $125 to $180 and the amplifier to energize them can cost $400 to $600, plus the removal of the front bumper cover.

Dear Doctor: I'm having a problem with a 2000 Saturn 3.0-liter. Intermittently, the vehicle gets hot then stalls out. While checking the rpm signal I realized when the car doesn't start there are no rpm readings on the scan tool. I'm leaning towards the issue being the crankshaft position sensor, but I'm not sure of its location. Do you have any advice that would help diagnose the issue, and where the sensor located? -- Jim

Dear Jim: Crankshaft position sensors are a common problem and have been for many years on various vehicles. They will act up mostly when hot -- and can do so without setting a fault code. The crankshaft sensor is located low in the engine block at the bell housing or at the front of the engine at the crankshaft. Some engines have 2 crankshaft sensors; if so replace both at the time of failure.

Dear Doctor: I recently bought a 2003 Ford Focus with 60,000 miles. In stop-and-go traffic, all of its lights go out and the car doesn't move. I try to engage the emergency flashers, but they don't work either. Then the car resumes operation -- like nothing happened. What's going on? -- Kapil

Dear Kapil: I see a lot of electrical problems in the wiring on this vehicle. There is a common problem with the main battery cable and inline fuse that runs from the battery to the alternator. Ford sells a complete cable assembly with an updated inline fuse built in. You need to locate a shop with an ASE-certified technician who uses both Alldata and Identifix technical support service.

Dear Doctor: I have a 1997 Lincoln Continental with 60,000 miles. This car has the air suspension system instead of springs. The car rides pretty good for its age. The problem is that when I start it sometimes I lose the power steering and the dash display reads "check steering assist." Then I turn the car off and restart it and the steering is fine. What is the Lincoln Continental's problem? -- Vincent

Dear Vincent: There are many complaints regarding your exact failure. All points lead to either a poor electronic connector or a problem in the VAPS actuator or dynamic control module. Anytime there is any message on the dash cluster the first step is to do a full check of any trouble codes in the computer and Body Control Module.

Dear Doctor: I have restored the engine on my BMW 323i. The new spark plugs work fine (ignition ok). But now when I press full throttle, it's followed by a bang and yellow smoke in the intake. When I crank the engine without full throttle, I get no injector spray. Can you help me? -- Geert

Dear Geert: The first step is to do a compression test and then check the camshaft timing, as well as the fuel pressure and coolant sensor value.

Dear Doctor: I'm interested in buying a new Corvette and undecided if I should wait for the all-new 2014 model, or buy a leftover 2012 or 2013. What would you do? -- Mark

Dar Mark: The more challenging question is what body style and engine size you want. I recently spent a few days in a 2013 Corvette 427 convertible 60th anniversary addition. The 427 (7.0-liter engine) lives up to its magic number at 505 horsepower coupled to a 6-speed manual. The power comes in just off the idle and goes all the way to the redline at just under 7,000 rpm. The dual mode mufflers are very quiet until they open up at 3,000 rpm under acceleration -- and let you know it loud and clear. It seems hard to believe the upcoming new-generation Corvette can outdo the current version, but the Corvette team will do it. C6. There are also the ZO6 and ZR1 that have more to offer in power-to-weight ratio. The choice is yours and the current C6 production ends in February. You can save money on the outgoing C6. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. E-mail questions to info@motormatters.biz.  Mail questions to: Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347

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