Q: I have a 2008 Toyota Camry LE with just under 10,000 miles on it. It seems that when I travel at 35 mph and let up on the gas, the car seems as if I applied the brakes, as it slows down, and it seems to only happen at that speed. Also going down a hill, I have the same experience. Have had it in the shop a couple of times, and all they do is fiddle with the computer and send me on my way. Have you any thoughts on this problem?
A: First thing that we must do is diagnose whether this is a transmission problem or a brake problem. The way to do this is as follows: When there are no cars behind you in either an empty parking lot or on a road without traffic, bring it up to 35 mph, take your foot off the throttle. If the car slows down like you are braking, then you know the condition is present. That being the case, go back to the same place, but this time when you take your foot off the gas, slip the shifter into neutral. If the car now rolls freely, we have isolated it to a transmission problem.
Q: Larry, I own a 2003 s10 Chevy 4-wheel drive pickup truck. The check-engine light came on with a code po128, which reads "coolant temp below thermostat regulating temp." This is one of two codes, and both say the same thing. I was told to change temp sensor. I did this, and it was fine for a while. I reset codes only to have check-engine light come back three to five weeks later. Again, reset check-engine light only to have same problem code reappear. The coolant level is fine, temp gage seems OK — not running hot — and the heater works fine. Any ideas of what to do next?
A: This particular problem on this particular type of vehicle is usually a bad connector at the electronic coolant temp sensor. Take a close look at the connector for corrosion. If indeed it is corroded, Napa Auto Parts sells just the connector with six inches of wire to be soldered on to your original harness. If by chance the connector is in good shape, you should ohm out the wires from the coolant temp sensor harness to the computer.
Q: I just read your article on spark plugs and heard of other horror stories on a job that at one time was mundane. I work for a large jet engine manufacturer. One of the things we would do when assembling combustors was use graphite on the nuts. I have seen these parts come back to the shop with large holes and burnt pretty badly; they always came apart. The temperature of this part far exceeds anything seen in a combustion engine.
The first time I changed out an O2 sensor, I was dreading it. Wasn't I surprised that someone at Toyota had the wherewithal to use graphite on assembly. Wouldn't you think that someone would treat long-life plugs? My truck right now is at 60,000. Guess what's getting done next weekend?
A: I only wish Ford would read our articles. It would take only a smidgen more of the process to put graphite or never-seize on the plugs, or even change the maintenance schedule to a spark plug change at 50,000 miles. This would save on big labor charges and also make the coil over the plugs last much longer. I don't know; maybe it's planned obsolescence.
Q: You hit the nail on the head on a previous problem I had so I thought I'd see how you feel about synthetic oil. I bought a new 2011 Toyota in January. I got a great price on it, plus a lot of dealer cash thrown in. It also came with Toyota Care (all maintenance and servicing free for 25,000 miles). I discovered that it came with synthetic oil. I'm old school. I like to change my oil every 3,000 miles. But the dealer says (and the Toyota Care covers) synthetic oil changes are done only every 10,000 miles. Every 10,000 miles! That scares me, or am I just being a nervous Nellie? Should I go elsewhere and have the oil drained and changed over to old-fashioned conventional oil? Is that possible or even advisable?
A. I am on the same page as you. I do oil changes every 3,000 miles also. But, I would never tell you to go outside of the manufacturers' recommendations and requirements. Check your owner's manual for the proper type of oil required to keep you within warranty. There is no harm in doing it earlier than later.
Car Care Tip I: Turn off your air-conditioning system before you turn off your car. This will help to avoid that blast of hot and noxious air on you when you start your car next time.
Car Care Tip II: Did you know Sylvania makes ultra-bright backup light bulbs for most cars? Check out availability for your year, make and model.
Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. Write him care of the Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930, or send email to scan firstname.lastname@example.org.