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Ask the Auto Doctor: Timing Change: Belt vs. Chain

Dear Doctor: My 1996 Toyota Corolla operates just fine. My mechanic recommends a new timing belt because of the mileage is 107,260. But the manual says a timing belt is only required under special operating conditions: extensive idling or low-speed driving for long distances as in heavy commercial use, such as delivery, taxi, or patrol car. My Toyota does not meet the criteria for such usage. What is your professional opinion about this?

Dear Nina: Timing belt replacement varies on every vehicle. The average replacement is five to seven years. A lot of late model vehicles have gone to timing chains, which in most cases do not need replacement. If your Corolla does have a timing belt it should be replaced before it does break. If it has a timing chain, then no need to worry about replacement.

Dear Doctor: My place of work has three Ford E250 vans for delivery: 2008, 2009 and 2010 models. They all have the same recurring problems. The blower fan will lose the low and medium settings leaving only the high, which will eventually quit or the fan switch will get hot and eventually melt the switch and wiring harness. The melting only occurs when the heat is on. It does not do it on A/C or vent. The resistors, switches, fans and wiring harnesses have been replaced multiple times, but the problems still recur. Any suggestions on how to remedy this would be appreciated.

Dear Mike: We service many Ford vans, and yes, I have replaced switches, resistors, wire harnesses. I have found that if the heater blower motor draws too much current, then all of the connectors will overheat. The next time there is a problem with the heating system replace the heater motor, along with the wiring harness and switch and resistor. I recommend using original Ford parts.

Dear Doctor: My 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe has always been dealer maintained. It did sit for three months unused this winter, so the check oil light comes on for a few days then goes off for a few days. I always use Mobil one oil and the level is fine. The gas gauge is also not working correctly. Could theses be related?

Dear Robert: Neither of these is related. The engine has a low oil level sensor located in the oil pan and a pressure sensor that monitors oil pressure when the engine is started. The gas gauge is another separate circuit that works off a ground signal from the gas tank sender to the dash cluster. In some rare cases a faulty dash cluster can cause inaccurate gauge readings.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2015 Subaru Forester Limited with only 3,000 miles and I'm turning it in for an Outback Limited. The inside of the Forester to me feels like cardboard and some of the things to operate are dangerous when I have to take my eyes off the road. What do you think of the Outback compared to the Forester?

Dear Mark: I have driven both the Forester and Outback and they are both very different vehicles. In the New England region I have many clients who own both and are very happy with them. The Forester does have a small radio display face plate and is not as easy to read as the larger display in the Outback. You have to make sure that the vehicle you purchase fills your needs.

Dear Doctor: I lease a 2013 Honda Civic, which is my third lease with this Civic model. When I leased the most current Civic, I moved and was not able to use my long time mechanic. I decided to give the dealer service center a try. I bought my car in for an oil change and state inspection. The service department advised me that my car needed wiper inserts, cabin filter, tire rotation, transmission fluid change and alignment. The bill would have come to $477, not including the oil change and inspection. Was this considered routine maintenance?

Dear Richard: Maintenance is part of the business for auto dealers. Some dealers will try to up sell services that are not listed in the manufactures scheduled maintenance. There is nothing wrong with this. But if you are uncomfortable check with your local independent repair shops, as well as check for a list of AAA-approved repair shops.


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