Pump, Belt, Coolant and Gauge Questions Pump, Belt, Coolant and Gauge Questions

Q. I have a 1994 Olds Achieva, and it keeps wearing out serpentine belts. Every 15,000 miles, I have to replace the belt. What would make the belt go bad so often?

A. On today’s vehicles, one belt runs everything. There is a tensioner that is spring loaded and controls the proper tension on the belt. These tensioners can seize up or actually not hold any tension on the belt, causing it to wear out prematurely. You can remove the belt and check the tensioner for movement. Also, check the other pulleys such as the water pump, alternator and power steering for any looseness or excessive tightness.

Q. How do I know when it’s time to have my vehicle tuned up?

A. Many consumers today are confused by the 100,000-mile tune up advertisements. Some tell tale signs that your vehicle need attention in this area are: hard starting, stalling, poor fuel mileage, rough running, shaking at idle, and/or poor engine performance. There are also many definitions of a tune up. First of all check, your owner’s manual to see what is the recommended service interval for your particular vehicle. Chances are that recommended replacement for items like your air filter, fuel filter, pcv valve and certain ignition components will be every 15,000-20,000 miles. Typically, depending on the grade of spark plug, these will be required every 30,000 to 60,000 miles up to 100,000 miles for the premium grade spark plugs.

Q. I have a 1991 Buick Regal with a V-6. I had the water pump replaced recently because it was leaking. Since then another problem has developed: at times the car will stall and won’t restart until I let it sit for a while. It’s impossible to depend on the car. Could the water pump have anything to do with this stalling condition?

A. My first reaction would be to say it is a coincidence. But after researching your particular vehicle, it could be related. There is a crankshaft sensor located directly underneath the water pump. This sensor may have been damaged in the process of replacing the pump. I suggest taking your vehicle back to the shop where the work was done. Explain to them what you have had done to the car and its current problem. This sensor can be tested. If it’s O.K., you may need to have a few other diagnostic tests performed. As with any diagnostic work, the more information you can give your technician, the better.

Q. When should I service my cooling system?

A. At my shop, we recommend to our customers that the cooling system be serviced every 2 years or 24,000 miles. (car manufacturers say 3 years or 36,000 miles). There are additives in antifreeze that provide alkaline to help neutralize internal corrosion before it begins. We are finding that, after 2 years, the antifreeze starts to lose the corrosion resistance. When having your cooling system serviced, it should be flushed to help remove debris that may have accumulated in the system. It should then be refilled with a 50/50 mixture of antifreeze and clean water. This is also a great time for a visual inspection of your belts and hoses.

Q. When my '92 Ford Tempo is running, I hear a loud humming noise from the rear. Is this noise something I should worry about?

A. For many years now, since the arrival of fuel injection, vehicles require much more fuel pressure and volume to operate. Because of this need, electric fuel pumps have been placed in the fuel tanks. I suspect the noise you are hearing is from your electric fuel pump.

You may consider having a fuel pump pressure and volume test performed. This will let you know the condition of your fuel pump based on the vehicle's factory specifications.

On a fuel injected vehicle, you can take a few preventive measures to protect your electric fuel pump. One is to change your fuel filter every 12 months or 15,000 miles, whichever comes first. The other is to keep your gas tank at least 1/2 full. The gas acts as an insulator to keep your electric pump running cool and efficient.

Q. My vehicle just turned 60,000 miles and my technician advised me to replace my timing belt. Is this really necessary?

A. Most car manufacturers recommend that timing belts be replaced around 60,000 miles. Check your owner's manual to find out what your manufacturer suggests. Timing belts (rubber) have replaced timing chains (metal). Timing belts are lighter and quieter than timing chains; however, like other components, they do require some maintenance. Timing belts should be replaced before they break.

There are two types of engines: "free running" and "interference." If your vehicle has a free running engine and your timing belt breaks, your car will quit running. Usually, it just requires timing belt replacement to repair your vehicle. However, if your vehicle has an interference engine and the belt breaks, you stand a good chance of causing internal engine damage to your valves. This can get very costly. It is much better to prevent a problem than to wait until one occurs. I would suggest you listen to your technician and have the timing belt replaced.

Q. I have noticed that my temperature gauge is moving closer to the hot mark than it used to--it normally stayed right at mid range. What could cause this?

A. First check for any coolant leaks around the radiator, hoses, water pump gaskets etc. Check the thermostat to make sure it's opening properly and not stuck shut. Inspect the fan belt to make sure it's tight and not slipping. Examine the front of the radiator and make certain it's not full of debris and dirt. These are just a few basic things to check.

Remember when working with your cooling system, never open the radiator cap when the engine is hot. This can be very dangerous and lead to severe burns!

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