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Troubleshoot tranny before condemning it

2000 Mazda 626

2000 Mazda 626 Credit: Handout

Dear Doctor: My 2000 Mazda 626 bucks between 50 and 60 mph. The OD (overdrive) light also flickers. It jumps from 2,500 rpm to 3,000 rpm and above, revving up and down, but then returns to normal at speeds of 45 mph. I had the transmission fluid changed, including using a special fluid. My mechanic says it needs a new transmission at a cost of $1,900. Is there any other solution? John

Dear John: Your car, like most vehicles built since the mid-1990s, is electronically controlled. The transmission has many inputs to upshift and downshift as needed. When these transmissions were designed the engineers made sure that when a problem appeared it would store a fault code. Before rushing to condemn this transmission, I suggest checking with Alldata for the proper troubleshooting procedure and line pressure specifications. If the transmission does need an overhaul, then the $1,900 price quote for a complete overhaul is very reasonable.

Dear Doctor: My 2007 Subaru Forester went in for maintenance service to the dealer at 80,000 miles. They reported a "recommend head gaskets both sides leaking oil." The service clerk said there are a lot of head gasket failures among the Foresters. The clerk pointed out that if I have the timing belt changed at the time of head gasket repair, then I could save $400-plus on labor. The recommended belt timing belt change is 105,000 miles. I am considering a head basket sealer that I see sold online with glowing recommendations. Should I get another dealer's opinion? Rich

Dear Rich: Head gasket failure on Subaru vehicles is much too common. I have seen many failures due to oil and coolant leaking. There are many brands of head gasket sealant -- some for coolant and some for oil. However, I would not use any sealant for an oil leak. As long as the oil leak is not significant and not a fire hazard, I would leave it alone. I have used a coolant stop leak for leaking head gaskets called Blue Devil with good results. I would recommend getting a second opinion from an independent technician.

Dear Doctor: We have a 2010 Toyota Corolla that was delivered with factory synthetic motor oil. How frequently do we really need to change the engine oil and filter based on the mileage that we drive per year (approximately 2,000 miles)? We don't want to waste our money, nor do we want to risk severe damage to the engine, however, with prevalent motor oil advertisements proclaiming anywhere from 7,500-10,000 miles between oil changes, we believe that we are wasting our money by changing the engine oil and filter every six months to comply with Toyota's warranty specifications. Ray

Dear Ray: Some manufacturers have switched over to full-synthetic fluids. You can take the car to any shop, or even do the oil change yourself. You must use the factory recommended oil and a quality oil filter. You can use any brand oil and filter that meet or exceed the manufacturer's specifications. The time interval and mileage recommended in your manual must also be followed at the minimum. You can change it more frequently if you like. You must keep a record of the changes and keep all of your receipts.

Dear Doctor: We recently purchased a 1999 Oldsmobile 88. The left front tire (Goodyear Eagle) has a slow leak. The tire is new, purchased by the previous owner. She said she called Goodyear and was told to "buff and seal" the tire. It worked for a while. Now the leak has returned. The tire valve was replaced three times. Is the tire defective? Robert

Dear Robert: Vehicles with alloy rims can develop slow air leaks around the tire to rim contact area from corrosion build-up. We use a handheld electric grinder with a flexible wheel. Once the rim is cleaned you can apply a rim sealer. The tire valves are another problem -- some of the cheap imported valve stems do not seal and will crack prematurely.

Dear Doctor: I'm having a problem on my new 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport. The radio system has iPod connectivity and Bluetooth 2.0 Interface. When I listen to my iPod through the radio it quits working after I skip a song. I also have songs on my phone, and the Bluetooth audio will not work sometimes. The dealer said I was doing it wrong and did not have it on the iPod function, since it's a cycle from CD, Bluetooth, USB (which was the iPod). The sound still becomes distorted (some static and garbling) on random songs. Do you think I may have confused the system somehow? Colby

Dear Colby: The Bluetooth operates on a wireless signal from the device to the audio input. If there is a lot of electronic noise in the air, then you'll experience connection problems. If you are using a plug-in iPod device and having a problem, then I would try another iPod in order to try to isolate the problem. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters

(Manufacturer photo: 2000 Mazda 626)

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. E-mail questions to info@motormatters.biz

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