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THE CAR DOCTOR

Peeling paint, popping shifter, overheating

By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
September 25, 2008

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Q. My husband and I own a 2001 Black Mitsubishi Galant. Over the past year, the paint has begun to delaminate on the roof and it's now spreading to the trunk of the car. After researching online, I've found thousands of posts and stories of other customers who are having the same issues with their black Mitsubishi vehicles, yet there seems to be no accountability from the company. We've contacted a local dealer and we were told that the car is out of warranty and they will not cover the paint. I've had cars that were 10 years old and the paint has held up just fine. Any thoughts on where to turn? This is clearly a defect in the paint which is the fault of the manufacturer - now we could be on the hook for $4,000 if we choose to fix it. Help!

A. The problem is not with just Mitsubishi cars. Many Ford and General Motors vehicles have had the same problem. Your car has three primary layers of paint: the primer, color-coat and clear-coat. The problem as I understand it is that the color-coat allows too much ultraviolet light to the primer coat. As the primer is attacked by the sunlight it starts to "chalk." Once the primer breaks down the color coat flakes off. At this point I would contact Mitsubishi of North America directly (1-800-222-0037). A reasonable settlement may be to split the cost of the repair and repainting. 

Q. My 2002 Chrysler Concorde overheats. I have had it to the repair shop where they have flushed the radiator and replaced the thermostat and it still overheats. Now I have it at a second shop that has replaced the water pump and sent the cylinder heads out to be checked for cracks. I kept asking the garage if the cooling fan could be an issue and never got an answer. Should the fan have been ruled out completely before the engine was taken apart?

A. As a standard procedure the cooling fan operation should have been checked prior to any engine disassembly. I'm also a little concerned why the garage didn't perform a simple and inexpensive (hydrocarbon) test to look for an internal coolant leak. One possible and fairly common problem is the coolant passage at the thermostat can plug up and limit coolant flow causing the engine to overheat. If the engine overheats badly enough it certainly will be damaged.

Q. My 1999 Toyota Tacoma two-wheel drive truck has over 140,000 miles on it. When I shift into third gear, at low speeds the shifter pops out unless I hold it with my hand. About 30,000 miles ago I had the clutch and transmission replaced. All the other gears seem fine, do I need another transmission or could it be an adjustment?

A. The problem is most likely internal to the transmission. Common problems are a worn shift-fork or slider. As a warning to our readers, this kind of problem can be caused by driving with your hand resting on the shifter. This extra pressure over time is all it can take to cause additional wear and tear to the transmission.

Q. I have a 1995 Saturn SL2 and I'm trying to replace the rear brake pads. I replaced the front pads without any issue. The problem is, I can't compress the rear brake calipers to replace brake pads. Can you offer a suggestion?

A. Unlike the front calipers, the rear caliper pistons "screw" into place. There is a special tool required to turn the caliper piston. Some auto parts stores will lend or rent this specialty tool.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com.

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