Transcript: Monday, May 15, 2006, 11 a.m. ET

Goss's Garage

Pat Goss
Automotive repair expert
Monday, May 15, 2006; 11:00 AM

Pat Goss has worked on cars for more than 40 years. He owns a car repair company that bears his name, has authored numerous books on auto maintenance, and makes weekly appearances on Motorweek, a PBS television program.

He visits right here once a month to answer questions about fixing your car.

For more auto advice and industry news, visit our Cars section.

The transcript follows below.


Raleigh, N.C.: Hi Pat,

I have a 2000 Mazda Miata with 34,000 miles on the clock - it's my toy and I only drive it when I can have the top down. The car still has its original battery. The last time I had the tires rotated I inquired at the shop about replacing the battery, not because I was having any issues but just because it was getting old. I was surprised to find that my car has what was referred to as a "Gel" battery and that the only source for a replacement one for my Miata was at the dealer - at a cost of more than $200. Can you tell me a bit about what a Gel battery is and am I correct in thinking that I'm probably overdue for a replacement.


Pat Goss: A gel battery does not use liquid for electrolyte but rather a paste or gel. This makes the battery less prone to emitting harmful gasses which due to the position of most Miata batteries is important. An up side to the gel battery is very long life. I have been testing some of them and have a couple that are at the ten year mark and still going strong. I would test it carefully using a tester that is capable of testing gel batteries and if it passes wait until it gives problems.


Washington, D.C.: My 2001 Toyota Echo has developed vibration in the steering wheel and brake pedal that is really noticeable when I brake from highway speeds. It also alternatively pulls to the right or left in hard break situations. The repair shop said my rotors needed machining, but that did not fix the problem. Any suggestions?

Pat Goss: This is usually a brake rotor problem and normally the fix is to machine them. However it then comes down to doing the job properly. This requires an on-the-car brake lathe and someone who is skilled at running it. I suspect the machining was not done properly and now the rotors are probably destroyed and most likely need to be replaced. Have a GOOD shop check run-out on the rotors --- it should not exceed .002".


Laurel, Md.:

My wife has a 2000 Saab 95, V6 Turbo. We recently had to replace the ignition modules, at about $700. The dealer shop said that the modules went bad because I had replaced the spark plugs some time ago and did not use the OEM plugs. Which is true, they recommend NGK and I used Motorcraft plugs, which I purchased following the Motorcraft application book.

Now, the big coincidence here is that Saab has been dealing with many ignition module problems since 2000 and are planning a major recall. Very suspicious if you ask me.

How critical is to use the OEM plugs to prevent problems with the engine electronics of Saabs or any newer car? I am not a mechanic but I have been changing plugs all my life and have never heard this.

Thank you.

Pat Goss: It isn't critical at all to use a particular brand but it is absolutely critical to use plugs with all the proper characteristics. In other words an absolutely direct replacement.


Bethesda, Md.: These chats are great -- thanks for all the info. I am thinking about getting a small car with a turbo charged engine (maybe a Subaru). Does the maintenance of a turbo engine differ from a conventionally aspirated engine? Do you have any concerns about their reliability? Thank you.

Pat Goss: In the old days turbos were very troublesome but that hurdle is gone. Given proper maintenance (it may or may not be slightly different then non-turbo) and use synthetic oil and you should have the same reliability as with the non-turbo. Plus you'll have great performance from a small engine.


Arlington, Va.: Hi, Pat. What is the correct way to torque the lug nuts? Can they be retorqued while the vehicle is on the ground?

Pat Goss: It is almost impossible to re-torque the wheels unless the car is on the ground. To do otherwise would require two people. One to torque the wheels and one to hold the brake. There also might be issues using the brake due to the uneven force generated by the brake caliper.


Harrisburg, Penn.: Mr. Goss -- I have a 1994 Ford Taurus with 87,000 miles. In the last year, I have had the radiator, water pump, and heater hose replaced, and yet, there is still a smell of coolant whenever I exit the car. The reserve tank is fine, and there are no pools of coolant under the car. Where is this smell coming from? Might it be the heater core?

Pat Goss: Check the intake manifold gasket and if it is good check the heater core.


Alexandria, Va.: Pat,

I have a '99 Accord. On Friday I changed my clutch fluid and thought I bled it properly. Things seemed fine, drove it around that night ... I didn't drive the car all weekend, but last night when I got in, the clutch practically felt to the floor. Any thoughts? Thanks!

Pat Goss: Re-bleed the system and if this doesn't restore the pedal you will probably need a new master cylinder for the clutch.


Silver Spring, Md.: The horn on my '97 Cherokee recently stopped working. I have had electrical problems with the car in the past and am assuming something similar with this one. How much should I expect to pay for this, and what kind of shop can fix it effectively and cheaply?

Pat Goss: The cost could be very minor (a bad horn relay), moderately priced (bad horns), expensive (a bad clock spring). This should be a routine operation for most shops unless it needs a new clock spring. If it needs a clock spring it may be under recall and if not you will a shop that is experienced with air bags.


Germantown, Md.: Hi, Pat. Always enjoy your show. A quick question: my car's driving belt makes sharp noise almost every morning when I start it. It lasts for about 30 seconds before it quiets down. The same thing happens if I leave the car under the sun for a day. My friends tell me that I need to adjust the driving belts or replace them. I'd like to know your opinion about this. In case of adjusting driving belt, should I make it tighter or looser?

Thanks a lot.

Pat Goss: If it's adjustable it would need to be tightened. But not tighter than factory specifications. If the car has an automatic tensioner it may be weak and need replacement. If the car is 4 years old or has 60,000 or more miles it needs a new belt(s).


Memphis, Tenn.: My Toyota Camry '03 produces some strange sounds like water bubbling, and also like a vacuum pulling some air, its really scary some times and it happens regularly. The sound is coming from some where between the dash board and the engine.


Pat Goss: Sounds like you need a simple bleeding of the cooling system. Air trapped in the cooling system leaves to some very strange noises.


Palmyra, Va.: Good morning, Pat. I know you recommend Mobil 1 as an excellent synthetic oil to use when changing oil, but what about the filter? Is there anything specific to look for when selecting a new oil filter?

Pat Goss: Just good high quality. Most any name brand or a factory filter will do an excellent job. Be careful of the very inexpensive house brands.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Pat,

My Acura dealer recommended that I get a power steering fluid flush and fuel induction flush at my 30,000-mile service. Neither services are in the maintenance manual -- in your opinion, is this work necessary? The car is a 2003 RSX. Thanks.

Pat Goss: Only necessary if you want a long trouble free life from the vehicle.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Pat,

When I take my car in for service and request synthetic oil, is there any way to be sure that they actually used synthetic oil? Can you tell anything by looking at the oil on the dipstick? Just looking for peace of mind. Thanks.

Pat Goss: No I'm afraid not. Synthetic and conventional look the same and for the most part feel the same.


Ashburn, Va.: Thanks for doing these and the radio show! 2000 Nissan Maxima, 89,000 miles. Never had a transmission flush, is it safe to get one done at this mileage? No shifting probs yet, but I know the fluid must be awful by now. I'm concerned because there's a school of thought that says when the old gunk is removed it can cause leaks that aren't there now. If that's the case, would it be better to just do a partial replacement a few times to cycle in fresh fluids? Thanks again!

Pat Goss: Transmission flushes, to do a flush or to not do a flush is not relative to mileage. It relative to the condition of the fluid. If the fluid still looks mostly like new and smells like new fluid. A flush is in order. If the fluid has significantly changed color or smells like varnish or has a burned odor, leave it alone.


Alexandria, Va.: Pat -- Does installing a cold air intake system really increase horsepower and fuel economy?


Pat Goss: Yes, but not at the same time. You can't produce more horsepower without burning more fuel. Therefore, the cold air system can give you more horsepower. But if you use that horsepower, fuel economy will go down.


Severna Park, Md.: Besides regular oil changes, what are the three most important periodic maintenance actions for the "average" automatic transmission sedan?

Pat Goss: Every 2 years or 24,000 miles flush the automatic transmission. Flush the power steering. Brakes should be flushed every year, not to exceed 2 years. Coolant at manufacturers at recommended interval or if ph drops or coolant discolors. For a complete list go to


Oakton, Va.: Pat:

Thanks for al the advice on the radio and in these chats. I have a 1994 F150 with about 150,000 miles with auto and the five liter engine and four-wheel drive. I maintain the truck myself including cleaning the throttle body, EGR system, and components on a regular basis. The cruise control does not work. New plugs, cap and rotor every 25, 000. New O2 sensor. The problem is pinging. On a level road at steady state and about 65 - 70 mph, the engine will start to do a minor amount of pinging. lf I keep the accelerator steady, the pinging will gradually decrease. When the cruise control did work -- a few years ago -- when the truck downshifted for a grade, it would then accelerate to the set speed and start pinging while not shifting to the higher gear. A nudge of the accelerator would cause the upshift to happen. I am not sure if the instances are related but may be. Your advice is appreciated.

Pat Goss: Your symptoms sound like an EGR problem. EGR systems need to kept clean (sounds like you have done that but I don't know how without equipment)and it also has to receives and respond to proper commands to keep the engine from pinging. Because EGR is one of the most common causes of pinging I would check the entire EGR "SYSTEM" very thoroughly.

Second is lean fuel mixture which is usually caused by dirty fuel injectors or an over reacting coolant temperature or air charge temperature sensor.

Next is excessive carbon buildup in the combustion chambers. And finally is too high cylinder temperatures caused by improper coolant flow.

After these have been checked it becomes a bit difficult and would require more than basic equipment.


Dallas, Tex.: Pat -- I have a 99 Ford Explorer. Sometimes, not all the time, when I start the car and push on the gas pedal it sputters for a few seconds,(like it's not getting enough gas) I then push harder and it goes fine. It's been in the shop atleast four times but I have never been able to show them as it never acts up then. Any ideas?

Pat Goss: I presume you have a 4.0l SOHC 6 cylinder engine. If so, check the gaskets between the upper and lower intake manifolds. Huge problem may actually be under recall or a warranty program from Ford.


Washington, D.C.: I have a 2005 Acura TL and according to the manufacturer 91 plus octane is the recommended fuel. I have been told by the dealer that 89 octane will suffice for most fuel consumption and performance. Is there any merit to this statement?

Kind regards.

Pat Goss: Don't know. There is no way to say whether using substandard gasoline in any individual car will hurt it or not.


Detroit, Mich.: I bought a Honda Civic (2006) a few months ago. Love the car (though it got hit and run in a parking lot already! So sad). During negotiations of purchase, I was balking at buying the EX (I believe that's the more expensive model) because I didn't want to pay $2,000+ more when the only feature that model had that I wanted was the sun roof. The sales guy ( and yes, I KNOW I shouldn't have trusted him) said it would be really easy to get one put into the LX model I ended up buying. Well, now everyone is telling me no way--the Honda service guys said it too. It's spring and I'm dying to have a sunroof. Anything you suggest? I'm going to complain to the dealership, because this guy even went as far as telling me he'd recommend a place. Well, he hasn't. I realize it's my fault, but my question is, can I get a decent after market sunroof?

Pat Goss: Do a search on the Internet, you should find companies such as American Sunroof, Webasteo, etc. That probably make sunroofs for your car. Once you find the manufacturer, most will have a dealer locator service to find an installer in your area.


Trenton, N.J.: Can the auto trans in a 2002 BMW 330i be flushed?

While most of my other dealers have BG products and services, my BMW dealer does not. I am a little leery of taking my car to a Hyundai or Nissan dealer, but would rather not pay the BMW dealers higher labor rates.

Thanks again.

Pat Goss: Yes BMWs can be flushed. No they do not have to have the most expensive fluid. There are a couple of alternatives. One is made by BG. But be very careful, that the fluid that is used meets the BMW specifications.


Pittsburgh, Penn.: Pat,

I was listening to your show a week or so back and you mentioned something about extended service oil filters. Can you expand on that?

Pat Goss: Oil filters are normally designed to match the manufacturers recommended change interval. Therefore, if you elect to go to an extended change oil. Such as Mobil 1 Extended Performance than you will need an extended service oil filter. Or you'll have to change the conventional filter multiple times (depending on the original service interval) between changes. Several companies make extended service oil filters.


Washington, D.C.: If you had only $10,000 to spend, what kind of used car would you buy? Assume you are someone who doesn't know much about cars, and just wants a reliable vehicle to drive mainly on the weekends (not for commuting).

Pat Goss: That's a question that really can't be answered. It's not the emblem on the hood its what's under the hood and under the car that makes the difference. Although cars like Toyota and Honda have wonderful reputations, as a used car they are absolutely no better than their condition at the time of sale. The condition is going to be relative to how well the car has been maintained and how easy or how hard it has been used. So look for condition than make or model.


Bristow, Va.: I have a 2001 Mazda MPV the only fluids that has been changed is the oil the vehicle has just over 50,000 miles. What fluids should be changed now?

Pat Goss: You can get a complete list


Chantilly, Va.: Pat,

What's the difference between a soft turbo and a hard turbo?

Pat Goss: I don't know. Never heard the terms before.


Arlington, Va.: Honda S2000 or BMW Z4? Why?

Pat Goss: If you drive a lot in traffic the Z4, it's much more composed. If you don't spend a lot of traffic the S2000. It's faster and a lot more fun.


Takoma Park, Md.: Pat:

Can you give us your opinion on gas-electric hybrids generally? Also, recent news reports indicate that new battery types may replace the batteries in today's hybrids. Should buyers wait?

Pat Goss: At this juncture I'm not a huge fan of hybrids. That's primarily because of the extra cost. On yesterday's radio show I did the numbers between a Toyota Prius and a Toyota Corolla. The 2 cars can get similar "real world miles per gallon". Yet the Prius costs $7,000+ more money. If you amortize the extra $7,000+ over 100,000 miles and then add it to the cost per mile for fuel. You would find that the Prius will cost virtually twice as much per mile as the Corolla. Now certainly there'll be exceptions, if you do exclusively highway driving the numbers would be a little better for the Prius. If you do exclusively city driving the numbers will be more weighted toward the Corolla. So bottom line Hybrids are reliable, their durable, they do give good fuel economy, but the cost factor can easily negate any financial benefit. Consumer Reports has done the numbers and truthfully I was shocked.


Fall Church, Va.: Pat,

I hope you have time to take this question. I own a 2004 Dodge Dakota. Periodically, the steering wheel with make a slight clunk or tick when turning the wheel. I've heard of other Dodge/Chrysler products having bad clock springs in the steering column. Can you tell me what a clock spring is and how it can make noise when going bad?


Pat Goss: Clock springs normally do not make noise. A clock spring is a piece of coiled wire much like a lamp cord that winds and unwinds as you turn the steering wheel. Noises are usually relative to steering shaft or linkage problems.


Turnersville, N.J.: Hi, Pat. I have a 2001 Toyota Camry, and I want to change the spark plugs. It requires the use of an extension for the socket. I have searched the Internet to find out if my 10" extension is long enough or do I have to get a longer one? The only suggestion I found is to use epoxy to secure the socket to the extension so it won't fall off.

Thanks for any insight.

Pat Goss: 10" extension, more than enough.


Clinton, Md.: I am a little leery of taking my car to a Hyundai or Nissan dealer, but would rather not pay the BMW dealers higher labor rates.

Another car that's gonna go bang in a short while. If you buy a high end car, you should keep up with the service, and not at any Tom, Joe or Harry's shop.

Pat Goss: Sounds like you work for a dealer. It's the quality of the repair, not the name over the door.


Alexandria, Va.: I just bought a new Nissan 350Z, which I love -- no problems in the first 1700 miles, anyway. To my surprise, when I checked the maintenance schedule in the owner's manual, I discovered that Nissan now has three types of schedules, the usual A or B depending on either hard, stop and go, driving vs. easy highway miles, plus something they call "premium" where they inspect hoses, etc., every time you have an oil change.

I looked at the book for my Maxima and these inspections were done (supposedly, anyway), pretty frequently as part of the standard service at the various mileage markers. Now it looks like you get only an oil change unless you pay extra for them to look at everything else. Is this the wave of the future? Dealerships are charging extra for something that used to be included in the standard service?

Pat Goss: Some do, most do not.


Laurel, Md.: If an engine burns a bit of oil as compared to one that does not burn any measurable oil, the engine that burns more oil will last longer then the one that does not. There is something about the oil lubricating past the valve guides which in effect helps the engine last longer. You ever heard of anything like this?

Pat Goss: All engines burn oil. Whether it shows on the dipstick or not, depends on how the car is used. If an engine didn't burn oil, it's life would be reduced to a matter of seconds. General Motors has published one of the most comprehensive explanations for this I have ever read. It's in the form of a technical service bulletin. If you have a subscription to Alldata you should be able to get a copy of it. Very interesting reading.


Philadelphia, Penn.: My car squeaks sometimes when I turn from the rear passenger side. I had my dad listen but he couldn't figure out what was wrong. When I went for my inspection they said I failed because I needed new struts and that's why it was making the noise. I got them replaced but it's still making the noise. What else could it be?

Pat Goss: Check for dry sway bar frame bushings. No they don't have to be replaced, just lubricated but lubrication requires 4 bolts to be removed and the bushings moved to the side to apply the lubrication. The lube must be anti-seize compound not grease. Expect it to take 1/2 hour for the rear, 1/2 for the front if needed.


D.C.: I have a '98 Honda Civic and the driver's window doesn't operate anymore. I'm sure the motor still works, as I can hear it cranking when I hit the switch, but the window neither goes up or down fully. Also, how often does a starter need to be replaced. At times, the car starts wonderfully. Other times, there's a hesitation/gurgling before the engine kicks in, albeit weakly and then everything is good.

Pat Goss: It probably needs a window regulator. This is the mechanical portion that raises the window. Given proper battery maintenance, most starters will last the life of the vehicle. Sounds you like need some battery maintenance right now.


Washington, D.C.: Hi Pat -- I have a 1992 Coupe Deville Cadillac, and I am having trouble with the power window on the passenger side. Sometime it work and some it doesn't, it will not work from the driver side or the passenger side. What should I be looking for? and is this a do it yourself job or should I take it to the pros,and what am I looking to pay for a job like this. Thank you!

Pat Goss: Check for power to the window motor. And check for ground on the window motor. If you have power and ground, the window motor is bad. Yes, they can be intermittent. If you don't have power, check the reversing relay that controls the up and down.


Rockville, Md.: I've got a '99 Chevy 2500 4x4 pick-up with extended cab and long bed. When I tow a trailer, I get a vibration similar to a bad driveline u-joint but no vibration when not towing. The u-joints are good, what else can it be?

Pat Goss: Check differential nose angle with the trailer connected. Weak springs often allow the front of the differential to move too far up or down when towing. This causes the u-joints to bind resulting in a minor to severe vibration. If the nose angle is incorrect go to your local truck accessory store and buy appropriate shims.


Fairfax, Va.: Hi Pat -- Love your chats...I always get great info from them. My question is related to premium vs. regular gas...I have a 2006 Audi A4 convertible with the 1.8L turbo engine...the manual says I should be using premium gas in it, and I'm usually one to follow what the manual says, but ouch! I'm getting sticker shock every time I fill up my baby. What's the real scoop? What would I lose if I started alternating one tank of premium with a tank of regular or mid-grade?

Pat Goss: To premium or not to premium. Some premium fuel engines may do fine on 87 or 89. Unfortunately there is no way to know which ones will do fine and which ones might suffer damage. Further complicating things is that modern computer controls can mask the problems so you have no way of knowing until it's too late.


Shifting/transmission questions: Hi Pat,

You've said that if the transmission fluid is bad to leave it alone. My shop drained the "burned" fluid and replaced it. (They specifically said they wouldn't do a flush, but only a drain - but that the fluid needed to be changed.) Thoughts? I'm a third owner on the car, and someone wasn't taking good care of it at some point. Also, my gear shift (automatic) is sticky sometimes when moving out of park. Should I be worried?

Pat Goss: Bad fluid is bad fluid. Makes no difference whether you change it or flush it, you run the risk of transmission problems. When the fluid is burned up the transmission technically is done for.


Miami, Fla.: I own 1999 and 2003 Mustangs. How to stop the heat shield noise when you try to accelerate the car. The mechanic at the dealership is unable to fix it

Pat Goss: You really and truly need to tell the mechanic to read his technical service bulletins. Ford has explained the problem, Ford has explained the fix, which, is amazingly simple. It involves worm drive radiator hose clamps around the converters. 15 minutes , $6 worth of parts, problem gone --- forever.


Washington, D.C.: Dear Pat: Both my car (Jeep Grand Cherokee) and outboard motor are elderly, and "Ring Free" or similar products have been recommended. Is it OK to start using such a product on a well-used engine that has never had them before? Are the products helpful? Both motors runs as they did when new, and have had all recommended services.

Pat Goss: Don't know anything about "ring free" but if it says it will do wonderful things, it's best to avoid it. Too good to be true, usually is too good to be true.


Alexandria, Va.: I'm confused by your response to Ashburn about the transmission flush ... "If the transmission fluid looks like new, then flush it, but if it looks bad, then leave it alone." Forgive my ignorance, but wouldn't it be the opposite way around?

Pat Goss: Absolutely not. Allowing transmission fluid to change color is waiting until it does damage. The fluid that comes out, should look exactly like what goes back in.


Atlanta, Ga.: What is the best weight motor oil to use in a typical SUV driven in the typical city environment? How about for a sedan?


Pat Goss: There's only one. It's the one recommended in the owner's manual --- always --- unless the engine has mechanical problems.


New York, N.Y.: Hi, Pat.

My next project will be to put a hopped-up Volkswagen TDI motor into a car that is light, rear wheel drive, and has character. The goal being a car with personality that performs well and gets great mileage. Any suggestions for the recipient off the top of your head? I've been considering anything from a Miata to a first generation Camaro.

Pat Goss: Miata would be an excellent choice. As would be Toyota MR2. Camaro probably not so much. It's awfully heavy.


Washington, D.C.: I'm interested in starting or taking over a repair shop. I'm kind of worried that sooner or later, with the added complexity of parts, too many repairs will have to be done at a dealer. But I hear from some people that as cars get more complex, repairs really don't -- instead of troubleshooting or repairing an electromechanical part, you just remove and re-install with a new one.

But then I worry that manufacturers will make some parts available strictly for dealer-installs.

Are these reasonable concerns?

Pat Goss: The dealer only parts are not something to worry about. The throw parts at it until you get it right is a good way to go out of business very quickly. If you want to run a quality business, you have to have skilled, trained technicians. You also have to have a vast array of equipment and software.


Richmond, Va.: I'm sure this is a dead horse by now, but I only tuned into your chat for the first time last month ...

You seem determined that sitting at a stop with the clutch pedal to the floor is a better option than sitting in neutral. While I understand your point about wear on the transmission, aren't you simply trading clutch wear for tranny wear? Depressing the clutch causes wear on the T/O, the cable or hydraulics, and the pressure plate. Also, the majority of a car's operating time is spent in gear and in motion, not with the clutch disengaged. This being the case, how much wear are you saving by leaving the transmission idle at a stop? 5%? On the other hand, keeping pressure and tension on the various clutch components for even a couple of minutes is well beyond the general operating conditions of the system. In my experience, clutches are more fragile than transmissions. I will gladly let my transmission spin in neutral rather than leaving the clutch components under stress. Of course, my car is older than I am, so I'll err on the side of the robust parts.

Pat Goss: I'm not determined for anything. It's your money, it's your car. I'm pleased to replace expensive transmissions instead of inexpensive clutch release bearings. It doesn't have anything to do with the clutch or trading one equal amount for another. It has to do with 2 things, trading an inexpensive repair for an expensive repair and a huge safety issue.


Springfield, Va.: Another synthetic oil question for you ...

My 1995 Saturn SC1 burns oil -- roughly a quart a week. I understand that the rings have carbon on them and it's a fairly common problem with older Saturns. Would using synthetic oil reduce the amount of oil burn (maybe even clean off some of the built up gunk) or would I just be replacing more expensive oil every week? I currently use 5W 30 as recommended by Saturn.

She has less than 85,000 miles and has only recently become an every day commuter car (395 heavy traffic). Other than the oil burn, the car is fine and I'd like to keep her at least another year or two.

Pat Goss: First, would be to confirm the ring problem. Which certainly is possible. But also is certainly not the most likely cause. Do not try to reduce oil consumption by going to synthetic oil. If it is indeed stuck rings an engine oil flush, sometimes will help. And sometimes chemicals added to the cylinders, to free up the cylinders will help. Finally a lot of people will tell you to use a thicker oil which simply means you won't burn quite as much but you will add significantly to the wear of other parts of the engine.


Frederick, Md.: Which car would you absolutely not buy for any reason?

Pat Goss: An old Fiat Spyder, A Peugot or old Citroen.


Linthicum, Md.: Pat -- The emission control system warning light came on last week on my 2005 Acura TL. I took it to the dealer who said this is showing up more frequently because of the addition of ethanol to gas at area stations. They reset the system, told me to run out the tank and then refill with a different brand of gas. I did that and all was well for about a day and a half. The TL has the ULEV engine. Have you found this showing up?

Pat Goss: You need to have a chat with those folks. They need to sit down and read fuels 101. Ethanol does not cause check engine lights. They are either guessing or just feeding you a line. They are definitely feeding you a line about resetting the check engine light, because it can't be done. There are ways to make the light go out for a few days or a few weeks. But the only way to actually truly turn the light off, is to find the problem and the repair of that problem.


Columbia, S.C.: For the earlier submitter ...

There is a very comprehensive oil filter study done here:

He goes into length and composition of filtration material, more size measurements than I can keep track of, and all sorts of other helpful information to make an informed decision about what to screw on your engine.

Pat Goss: Thanks


Bandon, Oregon: The trap oxidizer has not been replaced on my California version 1985 Mercedes 300SD in perhaps 181,000 miles. Has this injured the engine?

Pat Goss: No damage. When any exhaust device clogs up it causes engine performance problems, long before it does damage.


Washington, D.C.: Pat -- I live on Capitol Hill and have to park my cars on the street. Is there any way to protect the body colored bumpers of my cars from careless neighbors who insist on parking by "feel," that is, backing up until they bump me. Those rubber aftermarket strips you see in the auto parts stores are pretty ugly. BTW, why does the auto industry insist on making vulnerable body colored bumpers in the first place - they used to have black inserts that absorbed such damage.

Pat Goss: You are in favor of the black inserts but not in favor of adding them to your car? I'm puzzled. The old fashion are still available and could be added to yours. The reason manufacturers make some bumpers is because people like them.


Princeton, N.J.: Hello. I have a tire question. Now that the warmer weather has arrived, I recently swapped my winter wheel/tire combo with the OEM summer performance tires for my car. I've been doing this switch myself for the last two years. The tire/wheels are all the same size but I never paid attention to which part of the car they are coming off from. So in essence, I'm kind of like rotating the tires randomly. So my question is should I be paying attention to what part of the car the tires are coming from? And would I need occasional realignment of the tires? If so, what does that involve and how does a mechanic realign tires?

Pat Goss: If you have directional tires or directional wheels, they must be on the proper side of the vehicle. If neither the tires nor the wheels are directional, they should be rotated every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If its front wheel drive the rear tires would move to the front of the car but the opposite sides, the front tires would move to the rear and stay on the same side. In other works right rear to left front, left rear to right front, right front to right rear, left front to left rear. If the car is rear wheel drive the pattern would be reversed.


Alexandria, Va.: I have a 2001 Saab 9-5V6. I was wondering will using the new ethanol 10 percent blended fuel have any performance or fuel economy penalties.

Pat Goss: Ethanol will not hurt performance. It will have much higher octane than gasoline. But it has less energy than gasoline so fuel economy will typically from 1/2 - 2 miles per gallon.


Alexandria, Va.: Hi Goss! My boyfriend and I are big fans!

About two months ago the temperature gauge in my car was soaring high to Hot so I went to a mechanic and they told me that I needed a radiator flush. I had the radiator flush done, but now I'm noticing that the temperature is slowly going up again (especially when I'm speeding up or when I'm sitting at a red light). Do you know what I should do? My father is telling me that I probably need a new radiator.

Pat Goss: A new radiator is a distinct possibility. But so are other possibilities including cooling fans. I don't know the age of your car or the mileage on it, but if it has higher mileage and 6 or 7 years old, the radiator should be your prime consideration.


Rockville, Md.: For the gentleman with the Miata, there is a great deal of battery info at

There are notes on OEM equivalents that are in the $70 to $90 ballpark -- way less than he was quoted.

Pat Goss: Thanks


Pat Goss: Thank you everyone. As always I've enjoyed it. Hope you all have an enjoyable safe holiday. 'Til next time, drive gently. Pat


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