What’s wrong with my belt tensioner?

Q. I just replaced a drive belt tensioner that was only 23 months old and am wondering why this part had such a short life? The serpentine belt was squealing and I was told at the local auto parts store that I would have to replace the belt tensioner again.  It only had a one-year warranty, what is going on?

A. Replacing the belt tensioner may have cured the symptom of the noise but not the cause of the noise. Drive belts can make noise for a variety of reasons, such as oil contamination, worn pulleys or pulley misalignment. Of course, it is always possible the replacement part was just poor quality.  


Q. I want to buy a Hyundai EON but I am very confused between the Sport or Magna Plus models. Is there any alternative to these two model cars? I can’t seem to find one anywhere for sale and would like a car like this.

A. The EON is a car made by Hyundai for India. These are very basic cars that would not meet safety or emission regulation here in the United States. In fact, some models don’t have airbags, anti-lock brakes or even power steering or air conditioning. I would suggest a Honda FIT or Scion iQ as an alternative. Both the Honda and Scion have all the safety and creature comforts that most people find necessary today.

Q. I have a 2000 BMW, 540i, V 8, automatic transmission. It has 141,000 miles on it.  Sometimes when the transmission changes gear, I get a very abrupt change up shifting and downshifting.  It does not happen regularly but maybe once per week.  I have already changed the transmission fluid.  What could be the problem and how costly the repair?

A. There have been several technical service bulletins issued by BMW about hard shifting. Most require reprogramming of the cars computer. I would have the car scanned for trouble codes and perform any necessary updates. If this doesn’t solve the problem, then most likely the transmission will need to be overhauled.


Q. My wife has owned a 2005 Toyota Highlander 4WD SUV since it was new and I like it a lot. However, its original equipment backup lights throw so little light off that, at night, she cannot see what is behind  her when she reverses. All backup light bulbs are working and are of the proper type. The dealer has had no solution to offer her. Is there something that can be done to get brighter backup lights for this car?

A. There are a couple of solutions. You could add auxiliary back up lamps. Adding brighter bulbs may help, but you need to watch the amperage. I have seen some bright bulbs actually melt the lamp socket. In addition, you could add a back up camera. Some cameras have very good night vision capabilities.

Q. I have a 2003 BMW X-5 that I leave parked and not garaged for several months during the winter without the parking brake on. This year when I went to drive it after three months, the front pads were frozen to the rotors. They released, but whenever I would brake the car would shake. I ended up replacing both front rotors. Is there anything I can apply to the rotors so this won’t happen in the future? Or anything else I can do to prevent it from happening again?

A. The best thing you can do, if possible, is to have someone drive the car every month or so. Generally, after a few dozen long-steady stops, the brake pads will clean off the brake rotor rust. If this isn’t possible or this doesn’t work, there is little else you can do. I have seen some people apply light oil to the rotor surface, but before using the vehicle again the rotors need to be completely degreased before the vehicle gets any use. Unless you are handy, this is not something I would advise – ever! 


Q. I currently have an Infiniti M35 and purchased it because I like all the technology in this car. I will be replacing it over the next year or so. Anything you can recommend?

A. Recently, I drove the 2014 Acura RLX and if you like tech features this latest Acura should satisfy. The model I drove had four-wheel steering that improves handling as well as reduces the overall turning radius. There is an active lane departure system that will nudge the steering wheel if you are drifting out of your lane. The sound system has a hard disc drive for recording your favorite music. One of the love it or hate it features of this newest Acura, it uses a series of LED headlamps. Although I’m not sure these jewel-like lights work any better than HID headlamps, they are in my opinion very stylish.


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