, Gloucester, MA


June 4, 2013

Mountaineer sounds like a jet engine

Q: My daughter’s 1997 Mercury Mountaineer makes a strange sound while moving. It sounds like a jet engine as we pick up acceleration. The transmission shifts fine. I thought it was an exhaust problem, but I crawled under the car when I put it on ramps and could find nothing. The front bearings have been changed in the last two years. Any suggestions would be a blessing.

A: There are many components that make noise on a car as you move. Just because you had your bearings changed a few years ago does not guarantee they haven’t failed. Among the top items that might fail on your car would be hub bearings and the transmission planetary gears — and, of course, you should look at your tires. What I would do is take it to a professional shop and let them analyze it on the lift. You may have a safety issue and don’t realize just how bad it is.

Car Care Tip: With gas prices heading up to our summertime levels, the need to increase fuel mileage is more important than ever. One simple way to do this is to plan your shopping ahead of time so you make all of your stops in one trip.


Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears most Tuesdays. Write to Larry at the Gloucester Daily Times, c/o Auto Scanner, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930, or send an email to

Q: My wife has a 2005 Saturn Ion with 15,000 miles of local driving. Last May the ignition key was sticking. When I brought it to the dealer, they suggested WD-40, and when I asked them to do it I was told they did not have WD-40. In June the ignition lock seized. They replaced the cylinder and gave us new keys with instructions to throw the old keys away. We did. In July I returned because of the key sticking. They did an intermediate steering shaft replacement, new cylinder and new keys. This lasted a year. Now the ignition seized again (both times with the engine running and unable to shut off). I brought it to the new Saturn authorized service dealer. They replaced the cylinder and gave us new keys. A week later after shutting off, the key was stuck in the accessories position or in the off position and after a short wait I could remove the key. I do not feel comfortable using any type of spray on this. Is this common to this model or other GM cars? Is there a solution? My wife does not feel comfortable driving the car and, with only 15,000 miles and no other problems, I do not want to buy another car. A: There is a switch on the shifter assembly called the shifter interlock switch. This micro switch may not be getting activated because of bent shifter rods or any number of reasons. This is a very common failure for this car, and it may be exactly what is causing your problems. It would be a shame to get rid of this low mileage car for this small problem. We found the same exact problem on my mom's Honda, and a simple adjustment of the switch by my ace technician, Tony, made the problem disappear.

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