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Auto Doc: Sierra transmission, engine out of sync

The 2010 GMC Sierra.

The 2010 GMC Sierra. Credit: GM

Dear Doctor: I own a 2010 GMC Sierra pickup with the 4.3-liter V-6 engine. The problem is that the transmission and the engine are never in sync. In heavy traffic conditions during rush hour, when I am continually slowing down and starting up again, the transmission seems to be in between gears. The engine's rpm seem to be too high to properly downshift gears. It has been brought back to the dealer several times. They tried different fixes, removing and replacing modules being one. I believe they made an honest attempt at fixing the condition. They say the blame is with the computer, which must be reprogrammed by General Motors. Is there any fix available? -- Jim

Dear Jim: Welcome to the world of 6-plus-speed and 10-speed automatic transmissions combined with cylinder deactivation. Many drivers are complaining about these transmission sensations, such as with your complaint. It is true that the computer makes the transmission-shifting decisions. The computer is programmed to take into consideration many factors including vehicle speed, engine temperature, engine load, gas pedal position, engine temperature, and engine vacuum. As for the reprogramming of the transmission, there are a few companies that sell a reprogrammer. This is a simple task and can done by you. All you do is plug the reprogrammer into the ALDL connector under the dash and then follow the prompts. You can make changes, road test the truck, and then go back and make additional changes. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have a 2001 Ford E-250 extended cab cargo van. At 55 mph I get a vibration through the truck and steering wheel. My mechanic has changed brake rotors, rebalanced the tires twice, replaced the tires, inspected the front end, changed the front shocks, and even put the spare tire on all four corners (he said it may have ad a bad rim). I still have this vibration. Any advice? -- Robert

Dear Robert: Vibration at speeds from 50-70 mph with your foot off the brake usually indicates something is out of balance, including the tire and wheel. On a van like yours, it could be a drive shaft out of balance. In some rare cases, it could be a brake that is too tight from a bad brake caliper, a partly collapsed brake flex hose, a rear drum brake that is over adjusted, or even a tight parking brake shoe dragging against the inside of the brake rotor. There could also be a transmission problem. This can be checked by putting the transmission in neutral and seeing if there is any vibration change. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: My 1999 Honda Accord EX will wear out someday and must be replaced. I like the dimensions of newer Civic EX models (late-model Accords are much larger), but the Civic EX is not equipped with Honda's 2.4-liter motor. The Civic Si has the 2.4-liter motor, but is not offered with an automatic transmission. Which option is my best choice: mating the larger motor into an Civic EX or swapping a transmission into a Civic Si? -- Dave

Dear Dave: I was always the guy who did not want six-cylinder in the old days because of it did not have the power of the V-8. That said, today's six-cylinders have the power of the old V-8 and some of the four-cylinders have as much power of the old six-cylinders and deliver great gas mileage. I drive new vehicles every week. I have no problem with the smaller four-cylinder mated to an automatic transmission. There are many brands and they all offer something a little different. The new Honda Civic is a great car. As for your 1999 Accord, this car under normal conditions should go 300,000 miles as long as it does not rust out. I am not a fan of the manual transmission unless you drive on long open roads and are not stuck in daily traffic. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I own a 2007 Ford Mustang GT and I am happy with it, but on highway driving the suspension is hard. Is there anything I can do to make it a smoother? -- Andy

Dear Andy: You can do a spring/strut replacement. I have replaced the GT struts and springs with sets from the regular V-6 Mustang and the owners have always been happy. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: My 2009 Toyota RAV4 has about 74,000 miles on it.  In the first month of ownership I noticed the brake rotors had rust on them. The dealer said it was normal. The paint on the rims is cracking and peeling and there is rust under them. Last year the paint on the roof was peeling off like paper. The dealer said the warranty has expired. Do I have any recourse? -- Laura

Dear Laura: Let's talk about the rust on the brake rotors. This is a common concern, but it is a normal condition. Rim paint and alloy rim exterior peeling is a common failure as well. This is due to poor quality finishes, which is also accelerated by harsh road chemicals. The age of your car is well past the warranty, but when it comes to looking for a replacement vehicle, you have many other choices if you are not satisfied with that particular dealership. -- Doctor

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