Q: I have a 2001 Ford F-150 XLT that has map LED problems. It’s supposed to display outside temperature and compass heading. Nothing is displayed. There are two switches that turn on the map lights that do not work either, but the lights go on when I open the door. When I pull the unit down, there are a few components there. Do you know which one would cause this problem?
A: The most important step would be to check all the fuses. Also, check the right kick panel; all grounds for that system are located in that area. If you have power and ground at the unit with the switches turned on, and it still does not work, then the unit may need to be sent out for repairs. If the fuse and the ground are good and you still don’t have power at the unit, then you need to trace the wires for an open circuit. Most openings in that circuit are at the base of the pillar where the wires go up into the ceiling. Water and sand on the floor are the most common reasons for the wires to break.
Q: The steering wheel on my Toyota squeaks when you turn it either to the right or left. My mechanic does not want to touch it because the air bag is involved. The Toyota dealer wants $150 to lube the steering mechanism. I know it was taken care of last time it squeaked during a simple oil change at this same dealer. I feel that $150 is expensive. Any ideas? The car has 56,000 miles on it and my wife drives it 85 percent of the time.
A: If the dealer has to take the steering column apart, $150 is not too much to pay. Before you have that done, however, try spraying some WD-40 lubricant on the knuckles that are inline on the steering column. That has been a problem for some time with not only Toyotas but Hondas as well.
Q: My husband owns a 1998 Honda Odyssey, which we brought in to have one thing repaired. We left the car for the day, and got a call that they found other things wrong. We always maintained the van and changed the oil every 3,000 miles. When the manager told us it would be around $2,000, we were floored but said if it had to be done, we had no alternative but go ahead and do it. When we picked up the van, the bill came to over $3,100. Some of the work was a pipe, converter, muffler, all kinds of gaskets, bolts, and lots of labor costs. My husband feels he was taken over the coals with this kind of bill. We are in our 70s and this was a bill much larger than was quoted. Don’t you think they should have called us and let us know it was way over the $2,000 they had quoted? Please let us know what you think.
A: I have seen cars dropped off all the time, and I can see how this 11-year-old car would have needed that kind of work. The failure in this case was in improperly estimating the cost of the job. Let’s say, perhaps, that you did not want to spend three grand on this car. Now what are you to do? Here’s what you should know: In Massachusetts a contractor is allowed to be only 10 percent off in his estimate unless a second authorization is given by the customer. If you had taken this one to court, you would have won for sure. Let me just be clear on this: I can understand more work needed to be done — it happens all the time — but the failure to call for authorization is a real problem. When a vehicle needs a lot of work like that, I feel the appropriate procedure is to prioritize the repairs into safety and non-safety issues — what has to be done now, and what can wait. That is how any additional needed work should be presented.
Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears on Tuesdays. Write to Larry at Auto Scanner, care of Gloucester Daily Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.