Dear Doctor: My wife has a 2011 Subaru Outback with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. Four months ago it started to stall when stopped at idle or in park, but would restart within a few minutes. I did replace the battery. The Subaru dealership said the problem could be the camshaft position sensor, but it tested OK. Occasionally, the check engine comes on with the cruise control, brake and electronic traction control symbols flashing. What is your opinion on this?
Dear Curtis: When the computer sets a check engine light the traction light will also come on. Intermittent faults can be very hard to locate. If I were looking at this car, I would connect a spark tester to the vehicle and ask you to drive the car until it stalls. When you try to restart the engine you would know if there was any spark. Also, at my shop we have loaner scan tools that we send out with customers, show them how to use and what to look for when the engine does not start. The scan tool can display if the camshaft and crankshaft sensors are working via a rpm reading on the tool while cranking the engine over. Go back and ask the dealer’s technician to check for history codes that could still be stored deep in the computer memory.
Dear Doctor: I purchased my 2016 Jeep Cherokee new. At 1,700 miles, a very loud clunk was heard every time the motor entered first gear. This happened while visiting family 200 miles away from home, so I went to a nearby Chrysler-Jeep service shop. They did six updates, informed me it’s “learning” my driving habits and until then the clunk will remain. The service manager noted that this transmission will be a problem. I drove away with same noise. But now the noise switches to “grinding” at low gear and occasionally makes a loud blowing fan noise from under the hood. What can you tell me about this engine? We have owned Jeeps for decades and never had a problem.
Dear Liz: I’m sorry to hear about your problem. I have driven many new Jeep vehicles over the years and have never had the problem you are having. I will say that all of today’s vehicles have a learning curve that can take up to 5,000 miles. Your Jeep, like any other all-wheel or four-wheel drive SUV, may have some driveline noise when shifting into gear from park or switching from drive to reverse, or reverse to drive. However, a grinding noise is not normal. Go to another dealer and if you still get no satisfaction have them contact the Jeep company representative to meet you at the dealership. We have two newer Jeeps in my family with no problems.
Dear Doctor: I have a question concerning the shelf life of synthetic motor oil. I use Mobil 1 (5/20) in my Dodge Charger with the Hemi engine and I use Castrol Edge (5/30) in my wife’s Ford Fusion with the turbocharged engine. I change the oil every five to six months. Whenever I see of a sale on synthetic motor oil I buy it and keep it stored for future use. I just want to make sure I don’t go past the useful life. What is your opinion on unopened motor oil?
Dear George: There are many different synthetic oil brands on the market, each brand has different additive packages. Read the label and see if the oil meets the vehicle requirements. I personally use only name brand oils and filters, both at my shop and my own vehicles. You can also research brand oil longevity at the oil manufacturer’s web site.
Dear Doctor: Is there a shelf life for opened products, such as engine and transmission oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, or fuel stabilizer? I find that I’m bringing a lot of opened products to the recycling areas because I don’t know if they’re still good.
Dear Joe: Brake fluid has a two-year shelf life. Once opened, brake fluid needs to be tightly resealed so as to not attract moisture. On fuel stabilizer, each brand has it’s own shelf life, but no more than two years on average. Oil, antifreeze, transmission fluid, power steering fluid can all have a shelf life of up to five years, as long as the containers are sealed tightly and stored indoors.
Dear Doctor: I have heard that a 2WD vehicle with snow tires will have better traction than an all-wheel drive vehicle with all-season tires. Is this true? If so, then would swapping snow tires every season be more economical than paying the additional cost of an AWD vehicle with its reduced gas mileage?
Dear John: Aggressive snow tires make an unbelievable difference in motoring through snow compared to any all-season tire. Under most winter conditions, snow tires on a 2WD vehicle will work for the majority of vehicles. I recommend buying four aggressive snow tires with rims and tire pressure monitors if equipped. I do not recommend breaking down the tires each season for a change over — it’s not good for the tire sidewalls.