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What should I do with a car that hasn’t run for a year?

Posted by John Paul  February 28, 2012 09:17 AM

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Q. I've owned a 1966 Corvette for over 30 years. Although I don't drive it a lot, I always started the engine and drove it for a couple of miles at least once every two months. This past year, however, I got involved in a project and the car has sat for nearly the entire year without any activity. I'm concerned about starting the engine as the gas is old and there has been no circulation of the oil though the engine. I don't want to damage the engine when I attempt to start it, is there something I should do before starting the engine?

A. The ideal situation would be to drain and refill the oil and gas. If that can’t be accomplished, I would remove the spark plugs and add a small quantity of oil to each cylinder. I would also add fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Check all the vital fluids and the operation of the brakes. Then, disable the ignition system and crank the engine over until the oil pressure gauge starts to move. Once the oil pressure is registering, fix the ignition system and let the car start. With year old untreated fuel, the car may not run well, but it should run well enough to get the car moving again.

Q. I own a 1996 Plymouth Voyager with a little over 130,000 miles. When the ambient temperature is approximately 50 degrees, it runs as if one, sometimes two cylinders are misfiring. When the temperature is below 50 degrees, it runs perfectly. There are no computer codes that have come up when the car is checked. Any idea what's going on?

A. Since there are no computer codes, I would have the repair shop check for a leaking intake manifold gasket. A “smoke machine” is a great tool to find just this type of leak. The repair shop should test the engine both while it is hot and cold to spot any leaks.

Q. I own a 2006 Cadillac STS; it has 51,000 miles on it. At 50,000 miles the transmission fluid was changed. After this service the car is whining on and off intermittently from the left of the car. The repair shop checked the oil level, which was fine and said they couldn’t hear anything. Help!

A. Since the transmission didn’t make the noise before the fluid was changed I would suspect that the fluid may be cavatating, causing the transmission pump to whine. This could be caused a defective or poorly installed transmission filter.

Q. I own a 2006 Hyundai Sonata and the air bag light stays on (code B1706). It appears to be something to do with the pretensioner and the passenger seat belt. I have found many other people complaining about it on the web. Hyundai won't recall the cars and the dealers want hundreds of dollars to fix it. It appears from my web research that even after the car is fixed the light comes back on. Any suggestions?

A. Although the code may indicate a problem with the buckle pretentioner, the problem could be just as well a wiring issue. A good repair shop should follow the proper diagnostic procedure to determine the actual cause of the code and repair it as necessary.

Q. My 2001 Toyota Highlander has a four-cylinder engine with 180,000 miles on it. For the most part the car has been great, is still all original with only the battery and alternator getting replaced. But the "check engine light" is preventing me from getting an inspection sticker. Twice in the car's history I returned it to the dealer for a check engine light problem. Both times they replaced the computer at no-charge. My local garage told me it would be a $2000 repair (new catalytic converter, possibly oxygen sensor, etc.) I said no thanks and went back to the dealer. Unfortunately this time the dealer said the same thing. The dealer started with a fuel injection "cleaning" then proceeded with full repair. When I picked up the car - the check engine light was back on! They reset the light and said it would be fine; in less than 500 miles the light is back on. A call to the dealer was met with a "Well, bring it back in and we'll see what else we can figure out." I just spent $2500 on a car worth $5000, any thoughts, suggestions, hope or, recourse? How should I deal with this?

A. To me, it is simple. You paid the garage to fix the car and they didn’t. I would return to the garage have them retest the vehicle and determine what is wrong. The way I look at it is the garage misdiagnosed the problem and that it their problem not yours.

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