My truck keeps burning through starters

John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.
John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.

Q. I have a Ford F-250 Super Duty Diesel pickup truck it has burnt through six starters in the last year. The last time I had the starter replaced, ignition coil and the ignition relay. However the problem just reared its ugly head again. I am tired of paying the mechanic. What do you think it is?

A. I would start with performing a very thorough inspection of all of the wiring from the batteries to the starter. I have seen some cases that starters fail on these diesels due to corrosions at the battery cable eyelet at the starter relay and starter motor connections.

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Q. Could you please give me information about grinding brakes on a 2013 Hyundai Elantra? The car has only 15,000 miles on it. At 87 I am a retired pediatric neurosurgeon, an active runner, and but totally unsophisticated about cars.

A. There are times when a vehicle sits overnight that a light coating of rust builds up that may result in some slight grinding during the first few brake applications, in general brakes should not grind. Hyundai did have some issues with brake noise on some model 2012-2013 Elantra vehicles and repair was a new design brake pad. In other cases the parking brake was over adjusted and that could also result in some brake noises. These are the two areas that I would check first.

Q. We purchased a new Honda Civic Touring sedan this past December, one day in late February; my husband heard a huge series of “booms’’. This noise sounded was a loud banging like heavy objects falling on the car roof—about 3 or 4 in a row. It repeated, and he brought the car back to the dealership and they added a radio software update based on information my husband read on-line about issues with the subwoofer. It happened the other day when I was in the car, the car was moving, it happened when the radio was turned off. When the car was still, it happened before we started driving. If I was driving and that booming began, I would probably slam my foot on the brake or swerve and possibly get into an accident. We brought it back when it happened again with me in the car, and they still didn’t know what to do. My husband proposes disconnecting the subwoofer, but there is no guarantee that will help and it seems to be ridiculous to be driving a defective car. Do you have any suggestions?

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A. I have not heard of any problems with this car but the subwoofer is a definite possibility. The factory radio is a 450 watt unit with multiple speakers and a booming subwoofer. It is possible the radio control unit is faulty and causing the subwoofer to fire at full volume. At this point I would try to document the next time you hear the noise, perhaps even recording it so you can demonstrate it to the dealer.

Q. In the past few years, the oil companies and the oil change shops are charging a few dollars more, for the so called high mileage oil. On the back of the oil bottle, there is the American Petroleum Institute (API), which shows the grade of SN, which I think is the highest level of oil quality. On both regular oil and high mileage oil, they are both rated at API SN, the highest rating. It is my thinking that there no difference. I do not believe the oil companies or the oil change shops will tell us the truth, because they are making more money, with this higher priced high mileage oil. My question is, if there is a difference, is the difference enough to charge more money?

A. At one time I thought these high mileage oils were more marketing than chemistry but I’m starting to change my mind. According to oil engineers that I have talked with, the high-mileage oils have additives that help keep older engine seals pliable. These additives to some extent may even swell seals slightly to prevent some oil leaks.

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Gasoline Update: Last week’s column that mentioned Top-Tier fuel generated more questions which I will attempt to answer. Top-tier gasoline is fuel that has up to three times the amount of deposit cleaning additives that is mandated by the federal government. These additives are used in all grades (octane) of fuel. The purpose of these additives helps keep engine valves, fuel injectors and combustion chambers clean. I will admit, that I thought Top-Tier fuel was nothing more than a marketing scheme by a combination of fuel manufactures and some auto makers. Recently AAA preformed some extensive testing and found that fuel labeled Top-Tier did a superior job of keeping the test engine combustion chamber cleaner than non-Top-Tier fuel. To find out more information at Top-tier fuel go to www.toptiergas.com.

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