Frustrated with the check engine light

Q. My 2008 Ford Ranger has been in the shop many times for the same reason. Now that the truck is off warranty Ford wants to do diagnostics which happen to not be covered by the extended warranty. If I go for this and the engine light still comes on, they told me "we will see what we can do". It’s obvious they do not know how to fix this and I'm up the creek when it comes to inspection sticker time. I'm not alone and sure that a lot of readers would like your views on this subject. You should look into one of the biggest problems going on right now, this notorious engine light. I know many frustrated drivers who have engine lights (myself included) that go on and off for no apparent reason.

A. If the check engine light is on there is a problem. Now certainly some issues are easier to diagnose and fix than others. A good repair shop should read the codes, come up with a repair strategy and recommend the proper repair. In addition to diagnostic tools, repair manuals some repair shops will use technical websites such as www.identifix.com to help them with the repair. Using additional technical resources can have an additional initial cost to the consumer but can help eliminate wasted time and end up saving time and money.

Q. I’m considering a luxury car and set a $60,000 budget. I’m looking at a used Mercedes Benz S550 and a Lexus LS460. I know they are both good cars, but my question is should I even consider the Hyundai Equus? On paper the Equus looks equal to either of these cars, but is it?

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A. I recently drove the Equus and found it to be a very nice vehicle. The newest engine develops 429 horsepower while still returning 25 miles per gallon on the highway. The ride is smooth and quiet and the cabin very spacious. The handling feels at time a little busy and not quite as refined as models from Lexus or Mercedes. My other very minor complaint is some of the switchgear just doesn’t have a luxury car feel. Overall the Equus delivers everything most luxury car buyers would want at a price that is thousands of dollars less. In addition to a great warranty the Equus includes pick-up and delivery from home if the car does need service.

Q. My 2004 Acura TSX A/C blows cold on the passenger side but the air is noticeably warmer on the driver’s side.  Is there a sensor on the driver’s side which dictates the temperature, or is there something else wrong?

A. Your Acura like many cars today have the ability to mix the driver and passenger air independently. In addition you don’t need a scan tool to check for fault codes as they relate to the climate control system. Any competent technician should be able to enter the diagnostic mode to determine where the problem exists. The problem could be a worn or sticking duct-door control motor. 

Q. I own a 1998 Toyota Avalon that has only 90,000 miles on it.  During the past 2 years I have spent at least $3000 on my car.  It has a new timing belt, water pump, brakes and all the fluids have been flushed and replaced. The car runs well but I will need a new muffler system to renew my sticker this month and I have been told that the undercarriage is rusting! Do you think this is the time to replace this vehicle? I really like the Honda CRV with the leather package. I also have been thinking about the Ford Fusion.  I am alone and don’t do too much driving, with the exception of an occasionally trip to Maine and the Cape. What is your advice on this vehicle? I cannot afford to replace this car with an Avalon.

A. A 14 year old car could certainly start becoming less reliable, although it may not be time to get rid of it. My biggest concern would be rust; if the undercarriage is rusting to the point where safety is compromised, it is time for a replacement car. Regarding your choices, you might like the driving position of the CRV, but it will ride much firmer than the Avalon. The Fusion is a great mid-sized car and certainly worth a look. You might even want to look at the newest Toyota Camry which is an overall very nice car.