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Discussion Starter #121


Pump the brakes — this Subaru Outback needs work
Click & Clack Ray Magliozzi
Dear Car Talk:
I have a 2004 Subaru Outback, V-6. It makes a high-pitched humming noise, like millions of crickets, after I drive at freeway speed, but only after about 10 minutes on the road. It stops when I brake, then resumes. Oh, the Outback does have 272,000 miles on it. — Joy
It sounds as if you have a brake pad that’s sticking, causing it to rub against the disc rotor. Normally, the brake pads sit right against the disc rotors, and even touch a little bit, but not enough to slow the car or make any noise. Then, when you press the brake pedal, the brake caliper causes the pads to squeeze the spinning disc rotor, which is what stops the car.
Based on your description, it sounds like one of the calipers is sticky. So when you first start driving the car, everything is OK. But after about 10 minutes (and, more importantly, several applications of the brakes), the caliper fails to retract all the way, and leaves a pad pushed up against the rotor.
That’s what’s making the sound of a million crickets — the pad continually rubbing against the disc rotor as the wheel turns. When you actually use the brakes, and the pads are pushed tightly against the rotors, the noise temporarily goes away.
You should get this fixed, because it will eventually get worse. The danger is that if your brakes are always lightly applied, you can overheat the brake fluid. And if your brake fluid overheats and boils, it can’t transmit hydraulic pressure, and the brakes won’t work.
Have your mechanic check the brakes for a sticking caliper. But on a car this age, especially if the brakes have been neglected, the repair could easily cost $1,000, if the system needs pads, rotors and a caliper rebuild.
But if that’s what it takes to make the car safe, do it, Joy.
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Discussion Starter #122


Warranty firm needs to step it up for sticking step

Click & Clack Ray Magliozzi
Dear Car Talk:
We have a 2013 Avalanche with automatic steps going in and out. The step on the passenger side sometimes stays in when we open the door, whether getting in or out. Getting out, if I’m not watching, I could fall out, being a small person. The warranty outfit will not fix it because when the guy looked at it, the step did come out, so he claims it worked. Do you know what could be the cause, and how to fix it? — JoAnn
You’re talking about the motorized running boards, JoAnn.
As you say, it pops out between the door sill and the ground when you open a door, making it possible for non-NBA players to get in and out of vehicles like the Avalanche. And when they fail, it’s either the switch or the step’s motor.
When you open the door, there’s a switch on the door jamb that signals a computer to turn on the dome lights, among other things. In your case, it’s also supposed to switch on the running board’s electric motor.
It could be the switch. More likely, though, it is the motor that is failing. Electric motors often fail intermittently. And that’s going to be pricey to replace.
You definitely want to push harder to get this fixed under what I assume is your extended warranty. The guy you saw is hoping you get discouraged and go away. Don’t. Reporting it to him was a good start. Make sure you save that repair order.
Next, start using your smartphone to take a little video every time you get in and out of the truck. Point the camera at the bottom of the door and start recording. Then open the door and film the running board.
If the running board operates normally, delete the video. If it fails to deploy, and you capture it on video failing, take that evidence to the repair shop and insist that they fix it. If you have several videos from several different days, all the better.
If they still give you the runaround, send that same video evidence, along with the repair orders, to the warranty company, and ask them to either fix the running board or refund the money you spent for a useless warranty. Good luck, JoAnn. And watch your step.
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Discussion Starter #123


Chevy Bel Air is all original — even the smelly exhaust
Click & Clack Ray Magliozzi
Dear Car Talk:
I am the second owner of a pristine 1960 Chevrolet Bel Air, with 95,000 miles on its 348-cubic-inch V-8 motor with a Powerglide transmission. It’s all original with no hot-rod modifications.
The car runs smooth as silk. I drive it two or three times a month to keep it exercised. But my daughter complains that if she follows me in her car when we go to car shows, the exhaust smells really bad. I have always used premium fuel in this car and I drive it often enough that the gas is not particularly “old.” I know this car was built well before pollution controls were introduced, but I don’t remember car exhaust smelling remarkably bad as a kid. I have also noticed some of my car-show buddies have this issue with their 1950s-1960s cars. Why do the vintage cars have pungent exhaust? — Joe
I didn’t remember old car exhaust smelling bad when I was a kid, either, Joe. But a few years ago, we were lucky enough to take a trip to Cuba to check out the old American cars there.
And most of them stunk, too. I think, as the air has slowly gotten cleaner, we’ve all forgotten how bad it used to be.
Since 1960, we’ve added fuel injection, computerized engine controls, oxygen sensors, catalytic converters and more, to the point where you could put your nose next to the tail pipe of a new car and not smell anything— but please don’t.
The carburetor on your car, in contrast, is the technological equivalent of pouring gasoline into the cylinders from a paint can. It’s sloppy, imprecise and dirty.
The problem most likely to make your exhaust stinkier than usual is a fuel mixture that’s too rich. So, if the carburetor jets, for example, are worn out after only 60 years, they could be pouring way too much gasoline into the cylinders. The engine wouldn’t be able to burn that extra fuel and — without any emissions equipment — it would all come right out the tailpipe. And it would stink.
There are other things that can cause incomplete combustion and a rich mixture: low compression, incorrect timing, low engine operating temperature or a weak spark. It’s probably worth checking all of them.
But my first guess would be the carburetor — and it’s probably not too early in this car’s life to replace it. If that still doesn’t improve the smell to your daughter’s satisfaction, you should start following her to the car shows.
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