I can’t afford to repair van after it failed inspection

Q. I have a 1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette van that has a rejection sticker on it. My van needs more work than its actual value in order for me to pass inspection here in Massachusetts. It is not a safety rejection, but has to do with emissions. The problem is the check engine light will not go out. Like I mentioned, the amount I would have to invest in my van is more than the actual value. I do not make enough money at my job to invest this much money or to buy another vehicle. I need my van to get back and forth to work; unfortunately I have been inconveniencing co-workers to pick me up to get me to the job.  Any help or advice you can give me would be deeply appreciated.


A. The inspection station that rejected your car should have given you more options. You have three options; one, have the car repaired, two, apply for a repair waiver, and three, apply for a hardship waiver. To apply for a hardship waiver, have a registered emissions repair technician prepare an estimate of repair costs for your vehicle. The estimate to repair the major component needs to be at least: $930 for a vehicle more than ten model years old. The rates are higher for newer vehicles.) Have any other emissions problems (other than the major component replacement or overhaul) repaired, if they were identified during your vehicle’s initial inspection. Demonstrate that your vehicle passed its safety re-test if its initial inspection identified any safety defects. If more than 60 days have gone by since your vehicle passed its safety inspection, it may be required to undergo a safety test again. More information can be found on www.vehicletest.state.ma.us

Q. Where is the tire pressure sensor located on 2011 Toyota Camry? The low tire light comes on and the tires are fine.  

A. The tire pressure sensors are located in all four tires as part of the valve stem assembly. These sensors transmit information to a tire pressure warning receiver located in the car. This receiver will then transmit to the indicator in the car. Although it is possible one of the tire pressure monitors are faulty, it is much more likely that one of the tires has a leak and is low on air. A technician with the proper scan tool can check each sensor.


Q. I have a 2012 Toyota Prius V and I love it. I was wondering if it has been studied whether the battery charges differently when braking lightly for the whole stopping distance, as compared to coasting for a while, and then braking harder for a shorter distance?

A. It is coasting and light braking that help recharge the battery. In all cases, decelerate at a slow and steady pace. Applying pressure on the pedal increases the deceleration rate, which can cause the actual service brakes to be applied too early. The service brake is certainly necessary to stop the car, but also wastes energy. In a conventional car, the adage of easy on the gas and brake to maximize fuel economy works just as well with hybrids, in my opinion.

Q. I own a 10 year old car and one of the catalytic convertors is glowing red hot after about 10 minutes of driving. My SES light is on, and after a lot of research online it seems that the oxygen sensor may be an underlying cause. Do I need to replace all three catalytic converters? How do I find out which oxygen sensor is bad? I’m trying to keep costs down and don’t want to buy any unnecessary parts. I was told by a mechanic I only needed to replace the front catalytic convertor. This car only has 140,000 miles and I drive quite a bit for work. What should I do?  

A. I would start with finding a new repair shop. Replacing the catalytic converter without finding out why it is getting hot and turning red is just a waste of money. A good technician will check the car’s computer, read the fault codes and use a diagnostic flow chart to verify the problem, find the cause, and finally repair the car.

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