My Ford Freestar’s power steering is ‘whining’

Q. The last time my 2007 Ford Freestar went for normal maintenance, it was suggested I replace the power steering pump. I did have the pump replaced, but when I drove home the power steering was “whining”. I returned to the garage and they told me it was air in the system and it should go away in about 500 miles. What is wrong; was I scammed?

A. Ford vehicles have some of the most difficult power steering systems to “bleed” air from. In most cases bleeding a power steering system doesn’t require much more than allowing the engine to run with the power steering cap off and turning the steering wheel back and forth. On difficult vehicles, I have seen technicians use a vacuum pump to draw air out of the system. 

Q. I have a 2007 Chrysler PT Cruiser that has alloy wheels.  These wheels cause the tires to leak a little air every week. In addition to the leaks over time, they have started to look shabby. Short of replacing the alloy wheels with steel wheels and hubcaps, is there someplace I can bring the car to get the wheels refurbished?

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A. A quick check on the internet lists several locations that can repair and refinish the wheels on your car. The cost of refinishing, however, may have you looking at the steel wheel alternative. The average price that I saw listed was $165.00 per wheel. I have seen some success with a product called “Slime” it is intended as a flat tire repair but works well to seal porous wheels.

Q. My Jeep is giving me fits. It barely kicks over; I have replaced the battery, starter and had a complete tune-up. What could be wrong?

A. The best method to diagnose this problem is to leave it overnight with a repair garage so they can experience the hard starting problem. A very common problem is a faulty crankshaft sensor. If this sensor is failing, the engine will crank over but not “catch.” Part of the problem with diagnosis may be the description of the problem. “Barely kicking-over” to me describes a battery or starter problem, but to someone else it could describe a failure to “fire up”.

Q. Should I replace the timing belt on a 2000 Honda Accord with 55,000 miles?

A. Honda recommends that the timing belt gets replaced at 105,000 miles. At the same time, the timing belt tensioner should be replaced and the water pump inspected for wear. Considering the car is nearing 13 years old, I would want to replace it. The timing belt is a critical issue; if it breaks while driving the engine can be severely damaged.

Q. Why doesn’t Jeep sell a model with a diesel engine?  New diesels run better, pollute the air less, and get better mileage than gas engines. I am looking for a four- wheel-drive SUV and diesel looked like a perfect fit.

A. I agree that a diesel engine would be a great fit for someone who drives on and off road. Currently there are only a few SUV’s with diesel engines. Several years ago Jeep had a diesel engine in the Liberty, but it didn’t have much to offer. It was slow, noisy and the mileage was no better than the gas model. With all the changes at Chrysler/Fiat and Fiat’s use of diesel engines in Europe, it wouldn’t surprise me to see a Jeep with a diesel in the future.  If you want to buy something today, luxury manufacturer Mercedes has a diesel engine in several models, as well as Audi.

 Reader Comment: Harvey Gordon writes from Weymouth Honda: I read your column in the Sunday Globe and wanted to offer my services. In a recent column someone asked about the air conditioner in a Honda that was cool on the right side but warm on the left. The reason unlike some other vehicles is actually caused by a low refrigerant charge. When the charge is low it cools on the right side but does not flow across to the driver’s side. This is particular to the Civic. Thanks for the tip Harvey!