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March 6, 2008

Email|Print| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
March 6, 2008

Q. I have a 1987 Mercury Cougar with an automatic transmission. It won't start until I push the shift lever (which is in park) up and to the left as far as it will go, release it and turn the key. Why do I have to do that each time before I attempt to start the car?

A. All cars equipped with an automatic transmission have a park neutral safety switch. This switch prevents the car from starting if it is in drive or reverse. The switch could be out of adjustment, or the shift linkage or switch itself could be worn enough to cause the starting problem. The switch is located on the transmission and will take a little less than an hour to replace.

Q. I have a 1997 Cadillac Deville which has an oil light that comes on when you slow down. My brother thinks it is because it idles too low. He put it on a machine, and it showed an oxygen leak. I took it into a repair shop, and they said the bearings were bad and I need a new engine. How do they check for bearings? How long can I drive it before the engine finally stops running?

A. Generally, when the oil light is illuminated, a good technician will use an oil pressure gauge and measure the pressure. Low oil pressure could be a result of a faulty oil pump or worn engine bearings. The technician also may have noted a knocking sound which is a characteristic of worn bearing. These two conditions indicate a serious and expensive problem with your car. As to how long you can drive the car? Without any doubt, eventfully the engine will fail - although when is anyone's guess. When the noise starts getting louder, this will be the first clue to the engine's demise.

Q. I just bought a used 2004 Honda Accord EX with navigation. The car has 27,000 miles. We really love the car, but have noticed a weird sound coming from the back of the cabin. While the car is in motion (this doesn't happen when the car is stopped), what almost sounds like static seems to be coming through the passenger-side rear speaker (the one in the trunk, behind the rear seat). Note the DVD for the navigation system is between the speakers in the trunk. I suspect the electronics from the navigation system are getting crossed with the audio system and providing feedback through the speaker. Have you come across this problem before, and do you have any recommendations?

A. I don't know of any problems of this type with this vehicle. As a test, remove the DVD disc and see if the noise stops. If it does, you have found the source of the noise. The second test is, using a portable radio, have someone sit in the back seat and see if they pick up the static on the portable radio. If the portable radio is static free, the issue is related to the Honda sound system.

Q. In 2006, my 2004 Buick Century was hit in an accident and had the front and rear body panels and door panels damaged. They were replaced by a body shop that was on our insurance company's preferred list. The panels were ordered at a GM dealer and came in with GM stickers on them. My concern is the panels came into the body shop primed in black. Recently, I noticed a chip in the paint, and the metal is starting to rust. I live in Massachusetts and am worried about the car rotting. I know the factory galvanized coating works because my wife's 1988 Regal was the first one with it and it had no rust 15 years later? How concerned should I be?

A. The factory replacement panels should be as good as the original 2004 Century panels. The galvanized coating, although great at resisting rust, is quite easily damaged. This is why when panels are welded or otherwise manipulated, care needs to be taken to add an additional rust preventative. At this point, I would have the body shop take a look at the chip and properly repair it.

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