The Car Doc talks diesel engines, overheating cars and more

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

Q. I’m thinking about the Ram pickup truck with the diesel engine. I always liked the heavy duty truck with the Cummins engine, but never needed a heavy duty truck. This would be my “cowboy Cadillac.’’ This is a truck that really will never do much work but I like trucks and diesels and want all the bells and whistles. Do I need to have any concern about this new engine or the truck itself?

A. I just recently drove the Ram 1500 pickup truck with just about every option imaginable. The low emissions 3.0 liter V-6 diesel engine ran smooth strong with only a hint of diesel clatter. The model that I drove was a four-door Laramie, with four wheel drive, leather interior, power everything and plenty of attention to luxury details. The bed had Ram’s built in storage boxes, factory spray in bed liner and lots of tie down points and even a bed divider. Fuel economy was also impressive with my test drive averaging 28 miles per gallon. The only option I would have liked was running boards; there was a bit of a step up to get into the cab. I have not heard of any problems with this engine and a quick check of enthusiast forums turned up nothing but compliments.

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Q. I drive a 2006 Hyundai Sonata and I have driven it 202,000 miles in the 10 years I have owned it. Starting the first warm day we had the car would overheat if I drove more than 45-50 minutes. I brought the car to a local dealership and they replaced the water pump. When this didn’t fix the problem I went back to the dealer and they suggested it was the cylinder head gasket. When I asked how much it would cost to fix I was told $720 to $2,000. What do you think and why didn’t they mention this when they replaced the water pump and why the big range in repair costs?

A. Considering the miles on the car and the history of overheating, it is entirely possible that your car needs a cylinder-head gasket. Testing for an internal coolant leak is relatively easy. The shop either needs to use an infra-red exhaust gas analyzer or a kit the measures exhaust gas in the coolant. If the shop has an exhaust gas analyzer they can determine if the engine has a problem within minutes. If they don’t have this tester, they may use a “block-check’’ kit. These reusable kits cost about $50. If the water pump was leaking and the coolant was low, that would explain the overheating. Regarding the shop not mentioning a possible problem, it is not common practice to check for an internal coolant leak if there is a easily identifiable issue such as a leaking water pump. The cost of the repair can vary widely if the cylinder-head needs to be replaced along with the cylinder head gasket. To me it seems the shop is trying to keep you informed of what could be the worst case scenario.

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Q. John, I realize this question is not a typical question but I thought you might have some ideas. Last week I was transporting a “Jello-Brain’’ for my daughter’s class project and the brain tipped over in my car. The brain was heavy on red dye for the full zombie effect. As soon as I got home we tried to clean the interior of our 2015 Lexus RX and discovered that the beautiful tan carpeted floor mat and the carpet in under it were stained a medium red. Any ideas on a product that will lift that red dye out of an expensive to replace tan carpet?

A. When it comes to stains I usually try a vehicle detail shop. With combinations of extraction cleaning machines and ‘magic’’ potions, a good detail shop can clean almost any surface. Short of a contacting a professional, here are some home remedies that may work. An important note; with any of these products, test them in an inconspicuous spot first. Try dish detergent, mix up a solution and use only the suds, allow the suds to stand for a few minutes, then work with a soft brush and remove the solution with a wet-vac. I have also had good luck with shaving foam, not gel. Some others common remedies are; club soda or a mixture or peroxide and water (one part peroxide and three parts water). Finally as anyone who has worked in a garage knows, brake-cleaner can work miracles with many greasy stains stains. Readers any ideas for “Jello-Brain’’ stain removal?

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Looking for comments-The New England Motor Press in conjunction with MIT is looking for people to take a survey about self-driving cars, the results will be released at the NEMPA technology conference in May. https://qaz1.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_encKfK0llUeSHjL

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