I wish you guys would lighten up.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

My '90 Buick LeSabre sometimes sounds like it has an open muffler. It has happened only three times in 15,000 miles of driving. Each time, I had been driving at expressway speed for at least an hour, then encountered heavy rain. Suddenly, the open muffler sound. I put the lever in Neutral and gunned it. It sounded like Saturday night at the drag strip! The noise lasted for five to ten minutes, then stopped of its own accord. My Buick dealer, usually pretty sharp, can't find anything wrong with the exhaust system even though I've had it in several times. What do you think? P.S. As a regular reader of your classy column, I'd like to offer some ad?vice. I wish you guys would lighten up. Life is too short to be taking things so seriously all the time!

TOM: Thanks for the tip, Richard. Ever since I was a little kid, people have been telling me to lighten up.

RAY: Actually, they were telling him to SMARTEN up, he just misunderstood them.

TOM: About your car, Richard. My first thought was that the water was affecting some part of the emission control system, like the diverter valve. If the diverter valve were behaving peculiarly, that could explain the type of noise you have. But I can't figure out exactly how that would happen, or why the dealer would be unable to reproduce it.

RAY: The other possibility is that the noise is coming from a belt. If one of the belts got wet enough--like by going through a puddle during a heavy rain--it could start to slip, and could make a sound similar to the one you de?scribe. Then after five or ten minutes, things would dry out and the noise would go away.

TOM: What you really have to do is simulate the noise for your dealer. Take the car for a good, long drive. Then, before it cools off, get your dealer to put on his Jacques Cousteau gear and get under the car with a hose. If he can reproduce the noise by spraying the engine with water, he ought to be able to figure out where it's coming from.

RAY: And this experiment will serve two purposes. It'll help diagnose your problem. Plus, thinking about your dealer lying under your car in full scuba gear--with the wet suit, flippers, mask,and oxygen tank--ought to give us a few laughs and help us lighten up.

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