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#1218: Tire Pressure Goblins

Original Air Date: 05.05.2012
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Some signs it may be time from a new car, courtesy of the Washington Post.

Call 1

Henry Marr (Albany, California) - 2000 Toyota Camry

When Henry starts his car in the morning, thick black smoke pours from the exhaust for about 30 seconds. This has been happening for about three years, but recently, he gassed one of his neighbors and she's no longer speaking to him. He thinks it’s soot, but Tom and Ray say that would turn on the Check Engine light, so he’s more likely burning a little oil. It’s not unusual, or anything serious, but it’s worth having someone look at it.

Call 2

Evyn Mitchell (Portland, Oregon) - 1996 Nissan Pickup

A few months ago, Evyn replaced her clutch and transmission. Now, it feels like the car is not changing gears smoothly for the first hour or so of driving, and like something is holding it back when she accelerates. Also idles strangely, and shakes. Her Check Engine light has been on for three months! Her mechanic said she’s got a bad O2 sensor, but that it wasn’t serious. Tom and Ray say it probably is an O2 sensor, but she should replace it--she’s polluting the air, hurting her gas mileage and probably damaging the catalytic converter.

Call 3

Bruce Schreiber (Danbury, Connecticut) - 1997 Acura SLX

Bruce’s tires seem to lose pressure overnight--he’ll leave the car, and next morning it looks like tire is down to 1/3 or 1/4 flat. He puts air in, and it happens again a couple of months later. Are there night time tire goblins sucking air from his tire? It’s more likely he has a very slow leak, and he’s just not noticing incremental air loss.

Call 4

Michal Longfelder (Berkeley, California) - 2000 Honda CR-V

Michal’s partner never uses direction signals to change lanes on the freeway. He uses them on surface roads, but says he doesn’t need to on freeways, because he’s a good driver. She thinks this is dangerous. Tom and Ray agree--it is dangerous, and he may be doing it for any number of reasons. He can also get a ticket, so she should try to cure him of this.

Call 5

Bill Jenkins (Concord, Massachusetts) - 1972 Porsche 911

Bill was driving in Vermont with a lady friend. He decided to turn off the headlights, to better appreciate the moon and star lights. As soon as he turned off the lights, smoke started pouring into the cabin, and he smelled wires burning. Smoke stopped when he turned the lights back on. Now, it smokes any time he turns off lights while engine is on. He’d recently replaced the speedo himself--Tom and Ray think in doing that, he messed up the wiring, hence the smoke. He needs to take it to a professional, and get the wiring checked.

Call 6

Lisa Frohn (Seattle, Washington) - 2000 Volkswagen Passat

Lisa’s car sounds like a space ship when she starts it in the morning--makes a theremin-y “wooooooo” sound. The car also feels like it’s surging when she’s stopped. Her mechanic said it was the secondary air pump, and replaced it, but noise didn’t go away. Tom and Ray think it’s more likely a vacuum leak--could be in manifold or hoses. She should go back to mechanic, tell him air pump didn’t fix it-- he should fix vacuum leak for free.

Call 7

Sam Woolford (North Andover, Massachusetts) - 1998 Toyota Avalon

When Sam starts to roll forward, he hears a thumping sound coming from a rear wheel--it sounds like a flat tire. Also, the car vibrates as he speeds up, and gets worse as he goes faster. If he parks for 3 to 4 hours, then starts the car again, it’s okay. Tom and Ray are confident he has a stuck brake on the rear wheel--he needs to get it fixed, because he’s driving with brake engaged, meaning fluid could boil and he’ll lose his brakes.

Call 8

Cynthia Arnette (, California) - 1988 BMW 535

Cynthia is a graphic designer. She was working late one night and remembered she needed to change her oil. In the midst of doing it, she realized she was pouring in Maalox instead of oil. Her car seems to be running okay, but did she damage the engine? Tom and Ray say, probably not, but wouldn’t hurt to get it flushed.