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Wrong gas octane causes engine ping

A manufacturer's photo of the 2014 Volvo S80.

A manufacturer's photo of the 2014 Volvo S80. Credit: Volvo

Dear Doctor: I have a 2014 Volvo S80 with the 3.2-liter engine. When I drive at about 20 mph and then speed up, my car begins to ping. I use only 87 octane. How should I fix this? -- Gary

Dear Gary: First, you should know the octane rating that is recommended for this vehicle. Any octane used below the recommended octane rating (especially on an older vehicle will make engine ping). On such vehicles, a de-carbon treatment and fuel injector cleaning can make a big difference. Your 2014 Volvo is new and still under warranty, so the dealer should be able to correct any mechanical issue. Using premium unleaded gas, if recommended in your owner's manual, will make a difference in power, performance and gas mileage. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I'm leasing a 2102 Toyota RAV4 and have noticed some rusting of various parts underneath the vehicle. This winter the town put a lot of sand and salt on the roads. Is it normal for the car to rust underneath within two years? I planned on buying the SUV in 2015 when the lease expires. -- Darren

Dear Darren: Living the snow belt where salt is used vehicles will have some rust on untreated (painted or coated ) parts, unless they are stainless steel. Rusting is also accelerated with short drives and parking the car in the garage after driving in snow/slush covered roads. Having any vehicle washed after driving in inclement weather will help the removal of salt and slow down the rust process, but not stop it. Before you buy out the lease have an independent technician inspect the underside. I personally think this is a normal condition. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I own a 2003 Lexus SC 430 and recently both the VSC and check engine light came on, which happened right after I put air in my tires due to low tire pressure light. I have checked numerous sites and this seems to be a common problem. The code comes up to change the oxygen sensor. Is this the proper correction to make? -- David

Dear David: Check engine lights come on when the computer gets a signal that a sensor value is out of range. Just because there is a fault code in the computer memory does not mean the sensor is faulty. The technician must check when the event happened and a look at all the computer values. To check the system the technician needs to use a professional scan tool -- not just a code reader. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: I have a 2006 Mercury Milan with over 70,000 miles. Last year I started to experience hesitation upon acceleration. This only happened after extended travel time. The dealer did a diagnostic test and couldn't find any problem, but did say there was a service bulletin which may fix the problem. It did fix the problem until a recent 2-hour trip. The hesitation started again. Where do I turn now? -- Sue

Dear Sue: The transmission in your car has had some problems over the years. There have been intermittent transmission problems especially when the transmission is hot. Technical service bulletins can usually make a big difference in vehicle operation. Have the technician perform a transmission service. -- Doctor

Dear Doctor: After replacing all four tires on my 1999 Toyota 4Runner, I've been noticing a vibration when traveling between 65-70 mph. I replaced the tires with Goodyear Assurance (265-70R16). The Goodyear tire center re-balanced all 4 tires three times, checked alignment, checked for dragging brake and bent rim, etc;  but the vibration still persist. I researched and found that most Toyota truck wheels/tires should be balanced with the "Haweka" adapter or "Road Force Balanced." My Toyota dealer only does the high-speed balance. -- John

Dear John: There is no question that there is a tire balance issue. Road Force Balancing is a registered tire balancing machine by Hunter. The Road Force Balancer has a large round weight that puts pressure on the tire while being balanced. A common fault when tire balancing is a wheel balancer that has not been calibrated. If the dealer will guarantee the tire balance job, then have them do it for you. -- Doctor

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