, Gloucester, MA

October 23, 2012

Auto Scanner: Can’t figure out what’s wrong with 2003 Impala

Auto Scanner Larry Rubenstein
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — Q: I have a 2003 Chevy Impala. It’s been in and out of the shop due to some lights on my dash. The lights are traction control and ABS brakes, and at times the service engine light pops on. I’ve had it in the shop several times, and nobody was able to fix it or tell me the problem.

A: A check-engine light may illuminate for a variety of reasons. A resistance or reading that is outside of the computer’s program parameters will turn on a check-engine light. Simply put, it’s like trying to put an eight-digit number into a seven-digit calculator; you will get an error message. That’s really all a check-engine light is, it’s an error message. The worst is a flashing check-engine light. A flashing check-engine light tells the driver that catalytic converter failure is imminent with continued driving.

In the case of the 2003 Chevy Impala, a simple wheel speed sensor will not only turn on a check-engine light, but it will also turn on a traction-control light and an ABS brakes light. An up-to-date ASE-certified repair shop will be able to read the check-engine light code and start on a diagnostic service, which is clearly outlined in some of the better repair software. A common failure on the Chevy occurs after a brake job, when the technician fails to check and secure the wire routing for the ABS sensor. The wire then rubs against the tire, and the wires break.

Q: My son is going to Franklin Technical Institute in Boston. He is going to need quite a few tools to get into the automotive repair business. He reads and discusses your column with us every week and wanted us to write to you about the brand of tools he should buy. Some are very expensive, and some are less expensive. We are unsure of the quality of the different brands and respect your opinion. Could you shed some light on the tools you use and recommend?

A: Congratulations to your son concerning his career choice. This industry is running out of talented young people. If you went through my toolbox, you’d find tools from Snap-on, Cornwell, Mac, Matco and Craftsman. I have tried them all over my many years in the auto repair industry. A well-stocked toolbox can be valued at more than $25,000, so be prepared, and don’t try to buy them all at once.

The next answer I give you concerning tool brands may be argued in five different ways by any five different technicians. All the major brands I have listed come with great warranties. However, when a tool breaks during its use, you stand a chance of personal injury and down time due to a lack of the proper tool. I have to say the most reliable tool, but the most expensive tools, are Snap-on. If you’re in the business for the long haul, that’s the better choice.

Depending on the type of work your son will be doing, buy the best tools he can afford. Most of the tool trucks will work with him on a weekly payment basis.

Car Care Tip: Check your car’s coolant hoses. Replace hoses more than 6 years old. Replace radiator hoses that are squishy and heater hoses that are brittle. And by all means, never reuse a hose clamp. New hoses get new clamps.

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