Transcript: Thursday, March 12, 11 a.m. ET

Goss's Garage

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Pat Goss
Automotive repair expert
Thursday, March 12, 2009; 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.

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Tyson's Corner, Va.: Pat, I have a 2002 GMC truck with 2.2 E85 engine. At 13,000 miles and just before the warranty was to expire I detected a noise in the engine at about 1500 RPMs, under load. The service manager said they could not discern what was causing the noise and I should just keep driving it. Now at 34,000 miles the noise is louder and is heard at all speeds. Recently the dealer said the noise was coming from a bearing and they would not fix it but would be out of business in two weeks. They are still in business. An independent shop thought the noise was the valve train, which is where the dealer started looking at 13,000 miles when they replaced a push rod. I am at a loss as to my recourse. Any suggestions?

Pat Goss: Yes a different dealer. Look for a dealer that cares and wants to stay in business.

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Richmond, Va.: Thanks for your advice. I have a 96 Saturn SL 1 with almost 220k miles. It runs fine and I plan to drive it until it drops! It has been leaking break fluid which I have to fill the cylinder about every 2 weeks. Is it okay to keep filling it, which only costs a couple of bucks, or should I have it repaired. (Meaning will it get worse?) And, price-wise what should be the range of the repair cost?

Pat Goss: ABSOLUTELY NO!! Any kind of brake fluid leak means the car should not be driven until the leak is fixed. Way too dangerous as the leak could cause brake failure without warning.

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Arlington, Va.: What should you spray on car door hinges that are making a creaking or squeaking sound? I heard that WD-40 is not good to use because it can deteriorate rubber parts. Thanks.

Pat Goss: Use any type of rust penetrant such as WD-40, CRC, Liquid Wrench, etc. as a first step. Of course you do not spray it all over things it shouldn't touch and you wipe up excess with a shop cloth. Follow that with a liberal coating of white lithium or other general purpose grease. Again be neat and don't get it on things it could damage.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Good morning, I was rear-ended last Thursday. Fortunately nobody was injured. I need to not only replace my bumper cover but also have to get work done on the body underneath. The guilty party would prefer to avoid going through insurance and just cut me a check. I'm fine with that, and have been gathering a few estimates from local body shops. What should I look for in a shop beyond a thoroughly-written indication of work to be done?

Pat Goss: Be careful, be very careful. You could be left with a huge out of pocket expense. Any body estimate only applies to visible damage. There may be significantly more damage once the car is disassembled. Look for an ICAR shop and a good reputation. Also look at some of their completed work.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Pat, I'm wondering about rattles in the dash area. My Mazda is under warranty, but is this sort of thing usually covered? It's not awful, but mildly annoying. Seems like it could be hard to find and fix potentially.

Pat Goss: It's usually covered for the first three months but after that it is considered normal. But check with the dealer you may get a pleasant surprise --- or be disappointed!

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Ashburn, Va.: Does using synthetic motor oil keep engines running longer than the regular conventional motor oil?

Pat Goss: Yes, many times longer in most cases.

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Fresno, Calif.: What steps should I take when installing a new battery in my 03 Buick LeSabre?

Pat Goss: Use a memory saver so none of the car's computers loose volatile memory, disconnect the battery hold down, disconnect the negative cable, disconnect the positive cable and remove the battery. Replace in the opposite order after cleaning the cable ends and finally coat the connections with anti-corrosion compound.

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Newfoundland, Canada: Hi Pat, I'm facing a decision on whether or not to keep my 91 Toyota Camry. The car runs well and only has 160,000 miles, but I am planning on moving to northern Canada in a couple of months and I'm wondering how this car will handle severe cold next winter. Several months of sustained double digit negative temperatures. My mechanic has said the car is structurally sound and suggested that other than installing a block heater and replacing the timing belt and other belts (which are due anyway) there isn't much else that would have to be done, but he pointed out that the cost of these things would likely exceed the value of the car. Battery is two years old. My employer would pay to have the car shipped, and I really don't want to spend the money on a new car right now, but can I expect this car to handle this rough service?

Pat Goss: If the car is still mechanically sound and electrically up to par it should work fine. But if it is mechanically tired move on to something else.

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Arlington: I just bought a new RAV4 that currently has about 100 miles on it. I am planning on driving to Massachusetts next weekend. Would there be any problem in driving such a new vehicle on a long trip at 70-75 mph?

Pat Goss: No --- but you should vary the speed every fifteen or twenty minutes. That's engine speed not vehicle speed. The easiest way to do that is to switch overdrive off every fifteen minutes then back on fifteen minutes later. This will vary engine speed by a couple hundred rpm and meet break-in requirements. Also avoid hard acceleration.

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Herndon, Va.: Pat: Last night I noticed a small bulge on the side of the front driver's side tire on my 2000 BMW 323i. I'll have it looked at later this morning, and am only driving there, no place else. I am curious-the tires all have about 15,000 miles on them-nothing horrendous - so what can cause something like this?

Pat Goss: Usually this happens from hitting pot holes. The shock of the impact breaks or weakens the fabric inside the tire and eventually leads to a bulge on the tire.

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Orlando, Fla.: I have a 1998 Honda Accord sedan with a V-6 engine. With only 65,000 miles (and easy driving) the Honda Dealer says the front engine mount is now broken and the side mount cracked. Big repairs cost! Is this reasonable? What test would they have done because I have no indications of problems (noise, vibration, etc). I know they probably need business - cars sales are bad - but I don't want to pay for unnecessary repairs! Pat, help me decide please.

Pat Goss: This is a very common problem on Hondas. The dealer would have looked for too much vertical engine movement and for fluid leakage from the mounts to make the determination. I would be surprised if they were wrong.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Pat, I've been a fan of yours for many years starting when you were on Motorweek. I'm sure you can answer my question.

I drive a 2000 Lexus SC 300. There is no mention of replacing the timing belt/chain in the maintenance schedule. First, does my I6 have a timing belt or chain? Second, at what mileage interval should it be replaced? I very much appreciate your help with this.

Pat Goss: My book says it has a belt and the replacement is at 72 months or 90,000 miles whichever comes first.

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Washington, D.C.: Pat, I have recently purchased a used 2006 Toyota Sienna. We've been having trouble with the automatic sliding door--it will open but won't stay open. In other words it's like an elevator--opens and then closes, without a close command. Naturally when we take it into the shop we can't get the problem to replicate, but then the next day it will give us trouble again. Any idea what gives?

Pat Goss: Have the shop check the limit and pressure switches. Often the pressure switches will be bad or out of adjustment and cause this reaction.

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Tacoma, Wash.: My 97 Bonneville radiator overflow bottle is always empty, I changed the hose, new hose clamps, new radiator cap, thermostat, it needs new coolant in the radiator on occasion to top off. I am stumped.

Pat Goss: Check for leakage at the ends of the intake manifold and at the junction between the throttle body and the plastic manifold.

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Beach Lake, Pa.: I turn to you because car companies do not seem to want to answer. I travel back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico. Since the two countries seem to have different diesel fuels(low vs. high sulphur) should I forget about buying a diesel powered car?

Pat Goss: Late model diesels require Ultra Low Sulfur diesel not to be confused with Low Sulfur diesel. Unless you will operate the car in areas where the Ultra Low Sulfur product is available I would stick to gas.

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Herndon, Va.: My girlfriend has a 1997 Chevy Malibu LS. I recently did some brake work on it and noticed that the bottom of the car around the front axle is covered with grease. But, the grease is not located near the wheels, which would be indicative of CV boot problems. Is it possible that the axle is leaking the grease from somewhere in the middle of the axle?

Pat Goss: Yes from the inner CV joint boot.

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Greenbelt, Md.: Hi Pat--I have a '99 Accord (VTEC 4 cyl, 122,000 miles) that goes through a half quart of oil every 1000 miles and has a tapping noise coming from the engine. My mechanic says it can't be fixed. I got a second opinion from a Honda-only shop and was told pretty much the same. They suggested to just keep driving it, adding oil when needed, and change the oil every 3000 miles. They recommend oil changes at 3000 miles for all the Honda VTECs, even though Honda recommends every 5000 miles. Your thoughts? Thank you.

Pat Goss: First, a half quart of oil in 1,000 miles is absolutely normal so there is nothing to fix. As far as the noise goes have a real shop check the valve adjustment. Oil change intervals are based on driving style more than anything else so unless you're doing nothing but slow short trips stick with the 5,000 mile interval.

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Alexandria, Va.: Pat, Love the chat and appreciate your depth of Knowledge. I have a 94 Accord 4 cylinder lx with about 175,000 miles on it, the body of the car is in great condition, I was thinking of replacing the engine, is there anyway of putting a Prelude V6 engine in it or a newer model accord engine in it. Thanks for your help.

Pat Goss: Sure, anything can be done but financially it would be ridiculous to even consider. Also keep in mind that everything on the car has 175,000 miles of use so think long and hard about investing big money into a car that probably owes you nothing. Right now you're ahead of the curve and it's probably time for another car not a new engine.

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Washington, D.C.: The power locks on my 2005 Subaru Outback stopped working recently. I took it to a local garage, but they were unable to determine the source of the problem. I then went to the dealer, and after several days they were able to trace it to a short in the BIU Control. The dealer estimated $800 for the repair. I went back to the garage, and they are able to replace the part for about $500. My question is, will my remote entry system still work with the new part, or will I need to take it to the dealer to be programmed (and if so how much might that cost?)

Pat Goss: I don't know! Most modules of this type need to be dealer programmed. But your independent shop can get the programming done wholesale if they have a working relationship with the dealer.

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Re: Silver Spring: Any estimate that you get should be backed with a guarantee and do not allow the driver to give you only the estimate that you first receive. Make sure that the driver that hit you is aware that there could be more potential damage. I was recently rear ended and after it was all said and done, the cost of the repair was 1,000 more than the original quote. I did not have to pay because I made sure that it was reported to the other drivers insurance.

Pat Goss: Okay.

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Herndon, Va.: I recently moved to Virginia, and have to replace my license plates. One of the screws holding the old plate on is rusted in. It's a flathead screw and appears that the slot has been stripped so even a flathead won't get it out. It's also a round head, so a ratchet or wrench will not work. I've also tried WD-40, which did not help.

Any suggestions of how to get this stubborn thing off?

Pat Goss: We normally remove them one of two ways: an impact screwdriver or by drilling a hole in the center of the bolt and using a tool called an Easy Out.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: One of my new year's resolutions was to learn how to fix some of the more mundane stuff on my car. Now I've been told that my radiator fluid needs to be flushed. Is this something I can do on my own? I've looked up some videos online and it seems slightly complicated but something that as long as I did my research, I could pull off. My car is a 2007 Yaris. Is there somewhere I should start or should I just take it in?

Pat Goss: You can buy a do-it-yourself kit at you local auto parts store but keep in mind it is only about 25% as effective as a professional job using a flush machine.

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Arlington: Can you switch from regular oil to synthetic oil in a car with 50k miles on it. Oil is changed regularly every 5k miles. Driven mostly on the highway.

Pat Goss: Absolutely. You can change from regular to synthetic at any mileage. It's not miles to be concerned about, it is engine condition. It doesn't make sense to change to synthetic on an engine with oil leaks or that is burning oil.

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Cameron, N.C.: Pat, I have a 2002 Sable which has been parked in my driveway for the past year. The vehicle had a dead battery and has not run in a year. The gas in the tank does not have any additives in it. What should I do to protect the injectors before I start the engine. Thanks for your answer.

Pat Goss: Smell the gas. If it still smells like normal gas you SHOULD be okay. If it smells like varnish or anything other than gasoline drain the tank and refill before trying to start it.

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St. Louis, Mo.: I have a 1982 Toyota Tercel. Great car that will run forever if it doesn't rust out first. I bought my second one 1-1/2 years ago in San Diego (no rust in southern CA). Unfortunately, some parts are hard to come by, such as the spark advance diaphragm. I know I can set the timing to a fixed advance which gives good overall mileage, but I was wondering if you have advice for finding another diaphragm, say from GM that I could adapt to work? Thanks.

Pat Goss: Your best source is to go to a major book seller and pick up a copy of Hemmings Motor News. It the best source for places to buy older car parts I have ever encountered.

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Annapolis, Md.: I have a 2003 Land Rover with 29,000 miles on it. I've been receiving conflicting advice about the timing of regular maintenance. Some mechanics say I should go by the vehicle's age and do the 60,000 mile service and some say that I should do the 15,000 mile service because of how low the miles are compared to the age of the vehicle? What do you think age or miles? Thanks!

Pat Goss: I think this is as simple as opening the owner's manual. The manual should give you maintenance recommendations based on time and mileage. In the case of low miles use the time chart. In the case of higher miles use the mileage chart. I would be very surprised if the manual isn't set up this way. It would be the first one for me if it isn't.

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Herndon, Va.: I have a 2005 Honda Civic EX. The other day, I changed the oil and had a little trouble removing the oil drain bolt. Do you think that if I applied a little oil to the rubber washer on the bolt (similar to adding oil to the rubber ring on the oil filter) that this would make it a little easier to get the bolt off next time? Any problems with this idea?

Pat Goss: No I think you should prepare yourself for either a new drain plug or a new oil pan. This is typical of Hondas where someone has over tightened the plug. Over tightening damages the threads and the plug is difficult to remove. Next time the threads in the pan usually go away.

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Long Road Trip Planned: I am planning a long driving trip in my 2000 Forester, 75k miles. Anything I should particularly have inspected before I leave?

Pat Goss: Everything. Any trip preparation should include a bumper to bumper examination including steering, suspension, brakes, exhaust, cooling, hoses, belts, fluids, lights, EVERYTHING. Checking is very inexpensive and even a minor problem on the road can be outrageous both in dollars and inconvenience.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi Pat, I have a 2003 Jetta GLI with the 2.8 VR6. Every once in a while when I start my engine, it will run real rough and rev up to around 1,500 rpm before dropping down to 500 rpm. The tach kind of "jumps" up and down a couple times the engine stalls. When I start it after it stalls, the car seems fine. It is also fine if I give it some gas while it's running rough before it stalls. Can you tell me what might be causing this? Thanks.

Pat Goss: Check for gum and varnish buildup in the throttle body and Idle Air Control. Usually a rporer cleaning corrects such problems.

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Centreville, Va.: I saw your segment on Motorweek regarding the Car Key Fob repair kit. Do you know the manufacturer and where I can get hold of one? Thanks.

Pat Goss: Check with Dorman Products. They have the HELP line that is displayed in many auto parts and department stores. You will often find it on one of their displays.

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Chesapeake Beach, Md.: I'll be getting a new car soon and want to run synthetic. I've been told by some to have the oil changed before delivery by the dealer if possible and others say to switch at the first scheduled change. What is your recommendation? Also, is there a real day-to-day difference between Mobil 1 and the other full synthetics like Valvoline?

Pat Goss: I don't think you would see a difference between the major brands in normal driving conditions. Wait until the first scheduled change. You gain noting by changing oil early in a new car.

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Silver Spring for Herndon, Va.: On the topic of stripped oil drain threads--I've used a valve product from http://www.fumotousa.com/ for the last five years on my first new car. It's well-engineered and takes a series of moves to open, so I'm not worried about it working loose. I'm not sure how well product recommendations from folks not Mr. Goss are accepted in this forum, but my threads will be pristine for the life of the car. And thanks for the advice on the rear-ending. I may just end up going through insurance after all.

Pat Goss: Use it at your own risk. I prefer what is called a one time drain plug that has oversize outer threads and a smaller plug in the middle. Once installed there are no complex failure points and you never remove anything except the small center plug. Thanks for the hint.

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Surrey, British Columbia, Canada: What are your thoughts on the use of engine oil supplements and fuel system additives?

Pat Goss: I use BG Products in everything I own BG-44K in the fuel every 7,500 miles and BG-MOA in the oil at every change.

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Leonardtown, Md.: I am trying to determine if one of the several open 'plugs' I have found under the dash of my `95 Dakota is for a trailer brake controller. I haven't had any success searching online and asking the parts guy at the dealership if he showed any detail on the ol' parts `putter was a waste of my time. Below the steering column I have: a plug with six flat blades; a plug with two flat blades; two individual plugs that will each receive a flat blade (they each have two wires going out); and a rectangular plug with three receptacles. I'm wondering if these three wires are for three of the four that come off the brake controller. I know the fourth (blue) is to go to the factory seven pin wire harness I recently installed. Any help would be appreciated.

Pat Goss: I doubt that any would suit your needs unless the truck was originally ordered with trailer pre-wire. But you can tell by looking at the wiring diagram for the vehicle. I get my diagrams from All data.

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Honolulu, Hawaii: We bought my wife a Mini Cooper S which she loves. In five months has only put on about 2,000 miles. The car comes with three year free maintenance, but I wonder if we shouldn't be changing oil, etc, more frequently? In a year, she will have put on less than 5,000 miles.

Pat Goss: I'm a firm believer in never going longer than six months without changing the oil and filter. Pay for every other oil change and still get the alternate free ones from the dealer.

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Emerald Isle, N.C.: Dear Pat, I own a 1996 Toyota rav4. I used to get 300 miles to a tank of gas--the tank has 12.6 capacity. I have lost over 100 miles per tank fill up for the last year now. I have not changed my driving habits a bit. Whether it is around town or driving from the beach to Northern Va. I have 130,000 miles on this Toyota. I have owned 4 Toyotas and they all were the same engine, 4 cylinder engines with the oldest one was a Corola that ended up getting over 300,000 miles on it with no problems whatsoever. I also owned a Toyota 4X4 pick up, same engine, same gas tank size, same mileage per tank, 300 miles per tank. With my 1996 Rav4, I had my timing belt and water pump replaced on it 2 years ago and it ran like a new car, not that it didn't before. I just cannot figure out why, I have lost the gas mileage out of a tank of gas. I get regular oil changes, air filter changes etc... I have always used High test/Premium gas in all my vehicles, boat, lawn mower and more items. I have never had a problem until now. I sometimes wonder about the weights and measurements agency, are they doing there job? The reason I say that is because my fuel gauge never goes to full anymore. I really think it is a gas problem. I think they have either messed with the gas we buy by putting something in it to cut the gas or the actual amount of gas I am putting in it, isn't true. Can you help me put a fingertip on this problem? My mechanic says he doesn't know what it could be and would have to put it on the computer to check the system out. Of course at this time in our lives, I can't afford a $200--$300 bill for a diagnostic testing. Nor can I afford to keep filling up, supposedly, my tank every other day. Help! Thank you in advance for your help.

Pat Goss: Check engine operating temperature, engine operating temperature signal sent to the computer, MAF sensor and wiring, MAP sensor (if equipped), coolant temperature sensor, fuel pressure, inlet air temperature sensor, fuel mixture A/F ratio at tailpipe and oxygen sensor/s. Normally the problem will be found in one of these areas.

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RE: Philadelphia, Pa.: If Pat's suggestion doesn't fix the problem, check the valve cover gaskets for leaks (oil on the outside of intake manifold). My Mazda MX-6 had similar symptoms and it was a valve cover gasket leak.

Pat Goss: Good point.

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Leesburg, Va.: Pat, I just wanted to share a quick word of caution with your readers. I just replaced the Oil Pan on my 01 Honda Civic this weekend, to the tune of about $400. It needed to be replaced because I took it to one of those "Quick Lube" type places for an oil change a few months back. Afterward, I started leaking oil and my mechanic told me that the Quick Lube Place has tightened the drain plug too tight, and in the process crimped the gasket and stripped the threading off of the oil pan.

He told me that it happens at those kinds of places more often than you think, and that one's recourse is often limited in those situations. So, just a word of advice - even routine things like oil changes ought to be performed by someone you trust. It may be a little extra money, but it pays off in the long run. Thanks for these chats.

Pat Goss: I would disagree with that conclusion. It happens everywhere so be sure to ask that the technician in any shop changing oil in your car use a torque wrench and that they install a new gasket.

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Reston, Va.: Hi Pat, I took my IS 250 in for it's state inspection, and the mechanic told me that he could have failed me for my front brakes. The wear was borderline pass/fail, he said the front rotors needed to be replaced (they were warped) and that my rear calipers appeared to be shifting. Not too long after that, I took my car to the dealer for recall work and asked them to check the brakes. They said everything was fine, and well above state requirements. Do I need a third opinion?

Pat Goss: For peace of mind --- probably!

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Virginia: Who should be the diagnostician to whom I should first look to begin dealing with F.I. problems? I own a '88 Toyota P.U. & a '90 Ford Fiesta and I live far from a city, in the Tobacco belt with only shade-tree mechanics. Both vehicles show a "Check Engine" light when driven above 2,000 rpms. The Festiva isn't a reliable starter and when travelling the engine stumbles intermittently. Should I look at the engine module or the F.I.?

Pat Goss: Check ignition condition then read codes and perform the tests with the same number as each code.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: Hi Pat, I own a 2003 Jetta GLI with the 6 speed manual transmission. I asked my mechanic to flush the transmission fluid but he told me that my transmission is a sealed unit that cannot be flushed. Is this true?

Pat Goss: Drain and refill a manual (all manual transmissions) not flush and find a new tech.

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Short Hills, N.J.: Hi Pat, I have a 2003 Acura MDX. I get a squeak when I depress/release the gas pedal. I have visited my dealer twice and all they have done is added some lube. But the problem remains. Any insight on what might be the problem and how to get the dealer to actually solve the problem?

Pat Goss: Often it requires removing the accelerator pedal and disassembling it to get lube into pivot points where topical applications can't reach.

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Charlottesville, Va.: I have a 1999 Malibu which has a thumping noise on the driver's side front. It gets louder the faster you go.

Pat Goss: Check the axle bearing and do it quickly.

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Bowie, Md.: I have recently seen a pump to remove engine oil or transmission fluid via the dipstick tube. How do these compare to draining these fluids the conventional way?

Pat Goss: For the transmission they are a joke and for the engine slightly better than not changing oil.

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Washington, D.C. : I'm no relation just a Goss customer but the guy who wants to do tasks himself ought to check out Pat's DVD on his Web site...

Pat Goss: Thanks for the plug, I appreciate it!

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Springfield, Va.: Hi Pat, Saturn SL2, 2002- Idle has been rough lately when cold starting the car. Then check engine light came on. Idle seems low when engine is warm. Could it be a throttle body issue? Thanks.

Pat Goss: Could be a dirty throttle body or Idle Air Control. Check both and if no problem is found use a container of commercial fuel system cleaner like 44-K from BG which will clean the intake valves.

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Bridgewater, N.J.: Pat: My 1996 MB E300 (diesel) just received major work including a rebuilt injector pump, injector nozzles, glow plugs and glow plug control circuit. Three days later after starting, it drove 50 ft and quit. The previous day I had noticed fuel leaked from the cap area into the area under the fuel flap. The car was towed to a mechanic who runs his own shop and was recommended as having diesel car experience. His first report was that there was severe air in the fuel system and he would start tearing into it the next day. Unfortunately he developed serious health problems and is unable to work or communicate. I'm sure his wife will be helpful at some time in the future, but for now I am stymied. Any suggestions on what I need to repair and how to move forward on repairs. The car/shop is 100 plus miles from my home. Thanks.

Pat Goss: Air in the fuel system of a diesel is guaranteed after opening the system for filter replacement and most other service and repair operations. A simple bleeding of the fuel system is in order.

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Herndon Va.: Synthetic motor oil: If synthetic motor oil keeps cars running longer, how do I go about switching? I once heard you cannot switch from regular to synthetic back to regular. Is that true? And, if so, why?

Pat Goss: Ahh the myths never go away. To change to synthetic simply drain the old oil, install a new filter and fill with synthetic. You can do the switch at any time, at any miles on a good engine.

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Pat Goss: Well folks looks like I'm out of time. I'm sorry I can't get to all your questions and I'm sad to say this is my last chat in this forum. However, it you visit my site www.goss-garage.com I will set up a chat and answer your questions on a regular basis. That is if you're interested. It's been great fun chatting with you all. I wish you the best and please everyone honor and support those who protect us and protect our freedoms. Drive gently and I'll see you somewhere down the road.

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