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Auto Doc: Accord braking problems

A 2009 Honda Accord.

A 2009 Honda Accord. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dear Doctor: I'm having problems with my 2009 Honda Accord's front brakes. They were replaced by my friend who repairs cars with high quality ceramic brakes in May 2013, but started squeaking shortly after. My friend took off the wheels several times and cleaned the brake dust to no avail. He had the rotors (which were in good shape) cut and then replaced the front brakes with new OEM Honda ceramic brakes. Now the squeaking is back after just four days. What can I do? -- Claire

Dear Claire: Brake squeal is caused from brake pads/rotors that are glazed from heat and/or brake pad vibration. Check the rear brake caliper slides to make sure they are not frozen or binding and that they are moving freely -- the same for the front caliper slides as these are often overlooked and cause squealing, as well as a lower brake pedal than normal. The anti-rattle shims and brake pad hardware also need to be in good condition. Brake rotors need to be washed with soap and water after they are machined; if not the small metal fillings will embed into the brake pads and cause squealing. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I don't like the brakes in my 2005 Kia Sportage with 86,000 miles. The pedal feels soft. At highway speeds, I feel I need extra distance to stop. The dealer said the brakes are fine but suggested a brake fluid flush. I would like to upgrade the brakes to get more stopping power. Any suggestions? -- Mike

Dear Mike: A brake fluid change will not resolve this issue. You must make sure there is no air in the brake hydraulic system. If the vehicle has rear drum style brakes, then make sure the rear brake shoes are adjusted correctly. I see a lot of vehicles that have frozen brake caliper slides that cause a spongy or low brake pedal. You can upgrade the brakes in any vehicle with high quality metallic brake pads and high quality brake rotors. Metallic brake pads are more aggressive than semi-metallic or ceramic brake pads. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have a 2009 Subaru Outback with a five-speed manual transmission. I recently had the clutch replaced at 84,000 miles. What is the proper way to drive this vehicle in bumper-to-bumper traffic, in which I encountered difficulty twice now. I do not downshift. Should I modify my driving technique? -- Don

Dear Don: If there is more than one driver on this car then you did great with the clutch replacement life, considering that your vehicle is five years old with 84,000 miles. Here are a few tips: First, always make sure there is 1/2- to 1-inch of clutch pedal free play; second, whenever possible at a stop, put the transmission into neutral and take your foot off the clutch. If possible, when shifting on level roads you can skip a gear, such as shifting from 1st to 3rd. This will not have any adverse wear on mechanical parts. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have a 2002 Chrysler 300M with 41,000 miles. Recently in a stop-and-go traffic situation it overheated and steam came from the front. It was taken by a flat bed truck for repair and I was told that I had been driving in second gear, which caused the problem. Input/output transmission sensors were installed and everything checked out. A week later, I was in local traffic and the needle shot up to the danger point. I stopped for a couple of hours until it cooled off. Any suggestions? -- Cherri

Dear Cherri: Yes, driving in second gear would cause the engine rpm to be higher than it should be. Driving under 40 mph however would not cause any overheating problems. Overheating at a stop sounds more like low coolant, an electric cooling fan fault, poor coolant circulation water pump impeller, or internal cylinder head or head gasket failure. The car needs to checked for fault codes. The technician can operate the cooling fans from the scan tool to verify the cooling fan operation. You should also be able to feel if the transmission does not upshift to the higher gears by an engine roar sound. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have two cars that feature "Eco Mode." I have been unable to record any significant difference between Eco and regular drive mode. What difference should a driver typically see between the two? Is there any downside in operating in Eco Mode continuously, other than a small but noticeable decrease in acceleration? -- Alan

Dear Alan: Great question. Some new cars do have the ECO feature, such as my wife's Toyota Camry. She tried the car in both modes for a few weeks and she did not see any noticeable mileage difference. With this said, there are some major differences on Hybrid cars and some other vehicles when in the ECO mode. The computer changes all vehicle operating settings, including engine power, transmission shifting, steering effort and even the suspension and exhaust note. On basic four-cylinder gas vehicles my biggest observation is the reduced power -- not so much the fuel economy. -- Doctor

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