Show Rundown

#0951: Three Years, No Reverse

Original Air Date: 12.19.2009
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A car stereo thief gets a little irreverent, leaving behind an amusing note. (If you're not the car owner, that is.)

Call 1

Jamie (Albuquerque, New Mexico) - 1991 Toyota Tercel

An engine question. She is losing a lot of oil, going through 2 quarts every 600 miles. She doesn't want to bring it to mechanic, so she is doing some work on the car herself. Replaced valve cover gasket, didn't help. Next she's planning to change oil pan gasket. She doesn't see a puddle under her car, but gets a big plume of smoke when she starts it. Could change the oil pan gasket, but it's more likely she's burning oil. Try additives to see if they help-- maybe 'Restore.' Rings could be stuck. Try changing the weight of the oil, too.

Call 2

Rick Namey (Orlando, Florida) - 2004 Chrysler PT Cruiser

An engine/fuel question. About 10-15 seconds after he starts it, every single time, there is a backfire under the hood. Sounds like a classic case of backfiring, due to a bad coil, which is causing a spark plug to not fire--common problem in these cars. Could also be a bad sensor.

Call 3

Pam Bittner (Fort Collins, Colorado)

A buying/teen/convertible question. Her husband promised their 15 year old daughter, that if she scored 20 goals this soccer season, he would buy her a convertible. She is going to kill him, because her daughter is at goal #16, and has 6 games to go. Are there any safe convertibles out there for less than $50,000? Ray suggests a used Volvo or Saab.

Call 4

Joe (Flagstaff, Arizona) - 2000 Dodge Pickup

A heat/cooling question. Whenever he turns the heat on, or the defrost, he gets condensation that smells like antifreeze on the inside of the windshield. It's the heater core, needs to be replaced--he can do it himself, but likely requires taking dashboard out.

Call 5

Sue Reiner (Kimball, Minnesota) - 2009 Subaru Impreza

A fuel question. Since her car has a turbo charger, it's recommended that she only use premium gas. Sometimes she finds herself in a remote part of Minnesota where gas stations don't have premium. Okay to use regular? Yes, during colder weather, but refrain from doing it during the summer or during hard driving.

Call 6

Shelly Gill (Homer, Alaska) - 2005 Toyota Highlander

A body/electrical question. They had a volcanic eruption all spring, and even though they put pantyhose over everything, ash got into the tracks of her sun roof. Now, it's stuck open about a quarter of an inch, and motor just grinds. Tried blowing out ash with compressed air, didn't work. Have someone hold the button and try to push it closed manually. Otherwise, need to take sunroof apart. Can try to get the procedure online from Alldata or get a local shop to download it for her. Job will take time, may just be easier to take it to the Toyota dealer in Anchorage, 250 miles away.

Call 7

Scott Knighton (Haverton, Pennsylvania) - 1999 Ford Ranger

A driving/wear and tear question. He has two ways to get to work. One is 40 miles, all highway, the other is 20 miles, all city. But which is better for his truck? The highway road might be less wear and tear on the truck, because he'll be at a more constant speed, road is in better condition.

Call 8

Sarah Wilson (Floyd, Virginia) - 1993 Honda Civic

exhaust/safety? Wants to drive it home to Savannah after Christmas. Backed into a tree about a month ago, now it runs rough, muffler sounds like it's going to fall off, she smells exhaust, gets loud clunk when she starts it, loses power up hills, and gas mileage is lower. Safe to drive? She may have crimped the exhaust system when she hit the tree. Have someone put it on a lift. If exhaust system looks okay, good be a misfiring cylinder, fixable by a tuneup. But, don't drive it in its current state--could get CO poisoning from exhaust.

Call 9

Scott Lepore (, Florida) - 1997 Volkswagen Jetta

Transmission/starting question. He's been without reverse for almost three years. Someone told him it could be the linkage, doesn't want to spend a lot of money, is there a cheap/easy fix? Probably not, but first needs to find out if problem is inside the tranny or outside--will likely need a tranny rebuild.

Call 10

Janelle (Ithaca, New York) - Toyota Sienna

An electrical/battery/starting question. Used to have a Prius, lights automatically shut off. Now has kids, is driving a Sienna, lights don't shut off, and 'ding ding ding' warning doesn't work. She's leaving lights on, killing the battery. Saw a charger that you plug into the lighter, and can use to jump your car without hooking it up to your battery. Will this work for her? Guys say this is perfect for her. But, it won't work if the battery is totally dead, so she may need to spend more and get a jump pack.