Dear Doctor: I just bought a 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5SL. I'm pleased with the car with the exception of a noise issue. On this model Nissan has equipped it with an electric power steering pump and it produces a very loud noise, which I can mask by turning up the radio volume. The dealer informs me this is normal noise and is not a safety issue. Are you aware of this issue? -- Doug
Dear Doug: The 2013 Altima I test drove had no unusual noises. Every car I've driven with electric power steering does emit some noise -- some louder than others. As the dealer said this is not a safety or defect. This noise would not stop me from suggesting or buying this car or any other that had a similar sound. The manufacturers have done such a great job on quieting the vehicles we are now able to hear the slightest sound from any part of the vehicle.
Dear Doctor: I own a 2004 Chevy TrailBlazer. In 2009 I had a radiator leak and I had my trusted mechanic make the repair. One year later the radiator leaked again and was replaced. The same thing happened in 2012, and now again in January of 2013. I understand these are aftermarket parts, but what are the chances of four radiators failing? -- Rich
Dear Rich: Many of the replacement radiators are inexpensive imports of poor quality, though this may not be the problem. One possibility is the radiator installation. Make sure the radiator is not touching any body parts and that the coolant fan in operating correctly. You also must make sure the engine and chassis are properly grounded. Also, check with the shop about buying a different brand or check with a Chevy dealer for a factory GM brand. There are no consistent problems with radiator failure on these vehicles.
Dear Doctor: I own a 1997 Toyota Camry with the V-6. When the temperature drops below 30 degrees the brake pedal is hard to push down, until the engine runs for 30 to 45 minutes. What is causing this cold brake issue? -- Shannon
Dear Shannon: There is no question that water is collecting and freezing up. The most common problem is a leaking power brake booster. A leaking vacuum brake booster will suck run-off water in a rainstorm and then freeze in freezing temperatures. A leaking brake booster can also be a cause of lean engine fault codes. An easy way to verify the booster leak is to pour water around the booster and listen for any sound change. Another way is to start the engine, and then shut the engine off, press the brake pedal and see if the brake pedal is hard to push the first and second time. A normal brake booster will vacuum and enable the brake pedal to be easy to push. If the pedal is hard on the first push, then you need to check both the brake booster and rubber vacuum seal. Check for a remanufactured brake booster, as there is a big price difference between rebuilt and new.
Dear Doctor: I am the original owner of a 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS with just 45,000 miles. Recently, I discovered that the shift will not go into gears 3, 2 or 1. There is no problem with Park, Reverse, Neutral or Drive and the automatic transmission runs through the gears just fine while driving. The dealer informs me the "shifter boot assembly kit" required to fix this issue is no longer available from General Motors -- and that it is okay to drive the vehicle in its present state. Can you confirm that this information is correct -- and can you direct me to sites that may sell the part? -- Bobbie
Dear Bobbie: The first step is to verify where the problem is located. I would start by disconnecting the shift linkage on the transmission and see if the transmission can be shifted manually from under the car at the transmission bell crank. If the transmission can be shifted from the bell crank, then the problem is in the shift linkage or shifter assembly. It is true that some replacement parts have been discontinued. There could be something that fell into the shifter that is causing the problem. As for replacement parts, there are many salvage yards, and most GM parts will interchange.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2012 Chevy Equinox with 10,000 miles. It's a four-cylinder and I drive it with the Eco button on. I feel a sluggish shifting when it slows down or when going down hill. You've mentioned in past articles about reprogramming the transmission on your 2010 Chevy pickup and it worked out well for you. Where do I find out more about who sells the product? -- Mike
Dear Mike: Before you buy a reprogrammer, you need to know that GM designed the six-speed automatic transmission to downshift when slowing down. This is to keep the emissions as low as possible and engine speed at the best rpm. You can go online to Summit Racing and find power programmers, or contact the company directly to inquire about your particular transmission shifting concerns. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters
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