have a 2004 four-cylinder Saturn Vue with 65,000 miles. It feels
like the car will tear apart when I hit a large bump. Is this normal
or do I have other problems?
most obvious suspects are the shock absorber/struts. Whether a
separate shock absorber or built into a MacPherson strut assembly,
these hydraulic devices are designed to dampen, absorb and control
up/down movements of the suspension. They control load/weight
transfer through the chassis and soften the impact of sudden bumps
on passengers. If you are beginning to anticipate and brace for the
impact of bumps, the shocks are significantly worn or there are
loose suspension components.
How can you
test for worn shocks? Well, in the "good ol’ days," you
could jump on the bumper at each corner of the vehicle and count how
many times it moved up and down. Unfortunately, that’s not a
particularly valid test with modern vehicles.
Today, a close
visual inspection for leaking hydraulic fluid from a shock absorber
or strut is the first test. A light "haze" of dampness on
the shock itself is not confirmation of failure, but fluid soaking
the lower half of the shock/strut and surrounding parts or fluid
dripping from the unit is. Checking for worn or loose mounting
bushings in the suspension and strut mounts. Worn upper bearing
plates can also identify causes for poor ride and handling.
reality. If you plan to keep a typical mainstream, average-priced
vehicle for 150,000 miles, anticipate replacing the shocks/struts at
roughly "half-life" — around 75,000 miles.
thought — has the vehicle been involved in a significant crash? If
so, residual damage, poor quality repairs or bent
suspension/steering components could be a factor.
Q: Our 2008
Hyundai Santa Fe has the 2.7-liter V-6. Every time we fill the fuel
tank, the engine floods, making it a hard to start and keep running
properly. It takes a few minutes to overcome this problem. We have
tried partially filling the tank but that didn’t have any effect.
A: Focus on
the EVAP system — evaporative emissions control system. As you
fill the tank, fuel vapor is collected in the charcoal canister.
When you start the engine, the engine control module opens the purge
control solenoid valve, which applies manifold vacuum to the
canister to mix the trapped vapor with air and draw it into the
combustion chambers to burn.
If this valve
is leaking or stuck open, or if the canister is filled with liquid
fuel from overfilling the fuel tank, the engine may flood during
refueling. A scan tool can identify specific faults with the EVAP
system and valves.
Q: I have a
2008 Honda Pilot with 68,000 miles. Recently the "check
engine" light illuminated and a local shop read a P0420 code.
This is "rear bank catalyst efficiency below threshold."
This is my third Honda, each having been driven 10 years and over
100,000 miles without a catalytic converter problem. In fact, Honda’s
warranty on the converter is eight years/80,000 miles. In doing
research, it appears this code is not unusual on many cars. I have
learned that it may not be the catalytic converter, but rather
something about the fuel-air mixture or exhaust being abnormal. I
want to take this to the Honda dealer and would appreciate any
advice on what to say to them in case the service writer just wants
to replace the converter.
troubleshooting guide for the P0420 DTC fault code includes a
specific note indicating that poor fuel quality can generate this
code, and to troubleshoot and clear any stored oxygen sensor codes
before proceeding. Their diagnostic tests involve driving the car
under specific conditions while monitoring the OBD status. The
results can be "passed/intermittent failure, or failed."
If the final result is "failed," have the specific
converter in question replaced under the federal (not Honda)
eight-year/80,000-mile emissions warranty.