Motormouth: Car wash may have jarred traction control sensor wire loose

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

April 9, 2018

Q: I own a 2012 Chevy Suburban with 71,000 miles that I have owned since new. Recently I went through a local car wash and when I came out the other side, my dash starting displaying "Service Traction Control" and "Service Stabilitrak" messages. After displaying these messages, it will then display "Traction Off" and "Stabilitrak Off." The anti-lock braking system light also comes on when the engine is running. It doesnít appear to have affected the engine in any way, nor has it affected the four-wheel-drive system. Iím thinking itís some kind of sensor somewhere that somehow got wet in going through the car wash, but that is only speculation on my part. Any suggestions, ideas and/or solutions would be much appreciated.

ó S.J., Maple Grove, Minn.

A: Your hunch is close. If a wheel speed sensor fails, there is insufficient data for the control module. Then it canít do its job. Sensors do not fail from getting wet, as they are exposed to the elements. The sensor probably did not come off, but a wire or wiring connector could be broken Take your vehicle to your trusty technician for an inspection.

Q: I have been running E85 in my flex-fuel vehicle more often than not lately. I actually got it for $1.39 a gallon a couple of months ago. I was just told that I should change my oil more often since Iím using E85. Itís this true?

ó S. B, Warrenville, Ill.

A: We have never heard this. In our opinion, E85 burns cleaner and is less likely to contaminate the oil than E10 or pure gasoline. Besides, your engine was built to accept E85 fuel. You didnít provide the make or year of your car, but your vehicle probably has a maintenance reminder system. Change the oil when it tells you to do so. Consult your ownerís manual.

Q: With regard to your recent comments about people preferring automatic transmissions to manuals, I agree most people prefer automatics for their convenience, but I suggest you also consider another reason to choose a modern-day automatic. I grew up driving manual transmissions, including a number of high-performance cars. Iíve also been to high-performance driving school, where I learned, and mastered, the heel-and-toe shifting technique. Even so, my recent purchases have been high-performance cars with automatics. Why? They shift faster than anyone can manually ó professional or amateur ó including matching revs on the downshifts. Lazy? No. I just prefer having a vehicle where performance potential is maximized.

ó W.B., Chicago

A: We canít argue with you. Paddle shifters have been around for a long time (early 1990s) and Formula One cars prove it. Still, there are those of us who enjoy driving cars the old-fashioned way. But here is a little secret: I use the paddles all the time, especially on the twisties through the mountains of Virginia where we live. Here is another little secret: We will never own a motorcycle with an automatic transmission, for the same aesthetic.