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The Car Doctor

Third row seating, idle air control valve, stalling Sentra

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
May 8, 2008

Q. I am in the process of shopping for and researching a new car. I currently have a Ford Explorer with third row seating. This is basically useless since you have to crawl over or put one of the side seats down in the middle row to get back there. I have three small children and the middle seat of the middle row does not have a shoulder belt which will be a problem once the youngest is in a booster. I do not want a minivan! I am looking for a practical SUV or crossover that will give me the third row I need for extra seating and storage but with easy access for young kids to get back there. I was thinking about bucket seats for a middle row option. Do you have any ideas of a vehicle that will give me what I need and is still in the mid-price range?

A. I hate to say it, but minivans do offer the easiest access to third row seating. But if the minivan is definitely not an option, check out a couple of SUVs. The GMC Acadia has a sliding/tilting second row seat that allows access to the third row. Buick and Saturn have similar vehicles. The Chrysler Aspen also offers fairly easy third row seating and may be worth a look as well.

Q. I have a 2000 Grand Am and it won't start. Could it be the fuel filter, fuel pump or something else? I don't have a lot of money, so is there something I can look at myself before I bring it to the mechanic?

A. Any internal combustion needs three things to start. It needs to have fuel, an ignition source, and the engine needs to have compression. Lack of compression due to a worn engine, lack of fuel or a weak spark will cause the engine not to start. If you are going to diagnose this problem yourself, I would start with a basic repair manual. Using that manual and some hand tools, you may be able to get to the root of the problem and find out why your car doesn't start.

Q. I own a 2001 Ford Explorer Sport. I had the transmission fluid flushed in December. Now, when accelerating, the car will sometimes hesitate, and sometimes it slams or pops into gear. The other problem is that the overdrive light will start flashing until I shut the car off and restart it. These problems didn't happen before I had the fluid flushed out. Could they be related?

A. The first thing a technician will do is check the truck for computer trouble codes. Once the technician finds a code, a course of repair can be started. One of the common problems with this particular transmission is the valve body inside the transmission. If the valve body is leaking, then it could be causing the hard shift and transmission light to come on. It is possible that flushing out the transmission fluid may have aggravated an existing condition.

Q. I have a 1992 Nissan Sentra that is my baby; I take her in for oil changes every 2,500 miles and wash her every week. The other day I was driving and the radio kept turning off then the clock would reset itself. The next morning, it took a jump start to get her going. I drove about 65 miles and everything was fine. Now, if I pull up to a light, she will stall unless I put her in neutral. Now if I jump her she starts fine, but I can only drive about a block before she dies again. What do you think is wrong?

A. Your car, like most modern gasoline cars, needs electricity to run. The most likely problem is that the alternator is not replenishing the battery. This is why the car starts with a jump, but once the electricity is used up, the engine dies. Have the charging system and the battery tested. Although batteries today are better than they have ever been, repeated discharging can significantly shorten the life of even a new battery.

Q. My father has a 1998 Camry with 141,000 miles on it. The car has trouble starting in warm weather. When he turns the key, the engine cranks over, but it won't start unless he steps on the gas pedal. The problem only occurs when the engine is cold and the outside air is warm. It won't happen in the early morning or when the car engine is still warm. Can you offer a suggestion?

A. One of the more common problems is with carbon build-up at the idle air control valve. A technician will remove the valve, and thoroughly clean the valve and passageways. If this doesn't cure the problem, the valve itself may need replacing.

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