Q. I am considering buying a car on EBay; the car is 10 years old and has extremely low miles. The car isn’t an exotic, just a nice four-door family sedan. What do you think of buying a car on-line?
A. Cars are extremely complicated machines and buying a used car based on just a description and pictures should only be done with the utmost caution. That said people buy cars on-line every day. Although if it were me, I would find a repair shop that can perform a complete diagnostic inspection of the car prior to purchase. The inspection should include a complete test of the engine, computer system, electrical system, steering, suspension and a very thorough road test. Review all of this information with both the repair shop and the seller. Remember if the deal looks too good to be true it probably is!
Q. I am an owner of a new to me 2005 Hyundai Sonata. When I first picked up the car the “shift lock” release cover was broken. I have been driving the car for seven months and I’m about to bring it in for service. I looked in the owner’s manual and it states, "If you need to use the Shift Lock Release, it means your vehicle is developing a problem. Have the vehicle checked by your dealer." It seems as if the car had a problem before I purchased it the dealer be responsible? Should I even be concerned or I just being paranoid that something more serious is wrong?
A. The shift interlock requires that the brake pedal is depressed before the car can be put into gear. The bypass feature allows the gear-shift lever to be moved if the battery has become discharged. At this point after seven months of trouble-free driving, I would just have the trim piece replaced and enjoy your car.
Q. I have a Ford F150 with a big V-8 engine and dual fuel tanks. This truck is used on my tree-farm property in New Hampshire and not for everyday use. The truck starts OK but will stall if I “floor” the gas pedal. I have looked for problems but to me everything looks fine. What should I do?
A. There are many items that need to be checked. The problem could be related to the ignition, a lack of fuel or a problem with one of the vehicle’s sensors, such as the throttle-position switch or the mass air-flow sensor. In addition this model truck has had a history of problems with the fuel pump and tank switch. Considering the trucks lack of use, I would also check the quality of the fuel, water and other contamination that could be at least part of the problem. Based on your level of mechanical expertise, it may be time to take the truck to an ASE certified technician for diagnosis and repair.
Q. I have a 1998 Jeep that I leave up at my cabin in northern Maine. This is a basic Jeep that has a four-cylinder and a stick shift. From time to time I have had problems starting my car in the mornings. After some hesitation it will start, but it seems like it throws my fuel injectors all out of whack. Once I get going, my car will stutter and shake as I let off the clutch and accelerate. After a period of driving it will go smoothly, but only after a session of working the gas and clutch in tandem. Is the starting problem the battery? Is the stuttering problem because of the starting issues, or something more?
A. It is possible these problems are related to an ignition or fuel-injector problem. What can happen is; one of the fuel injectors will leak and foul a sparkplug. This causes the engine to run on three cylinders instead of four cylinders. Once the car is running for awhile, the misfiring sparkplug will clear up and the engine will run OK. Since you don’t need to rely on the vehicle, leave it for a few days with a qualified repair shop so they can hook up their equipment and start the engine, experience the problem and offer a repair scenario.