Insist garage take second look

Your mechanic might just need to expect your car again.

(MCT) -- Q: I have a 2009 Saturn Aura with 94,500 miles on it. A few weeks ago, the check engine came on, and has stayed on. I replaced the spark plugs and battery, both of which had never been replaced. The code said it was an emissions issue. The repair shop said I needed a new fuel tank evaporative vent solenoid, and they replaced it last week. However, the check engine light has stayed on. The repair shop says that the computer needs to get used to the new solenoid, and that the check engine light will turn off after a few hundred miles of driving. I have driven almost 400 miles since the solenoid was replaced, and the check engine light is still on. Do you have any suggestions?

-Evan Granite

A: This a bit odd because a competent diagnostic/repair technician would typically clear the trouble code and the check engine light would be extinguished prior to vehicle delivery to the owner. Additionally, the vehicle should be driven by the tech as possible to allow the applicable diagnostic monitor to run- with no pending codes set, validating repair success. Without the diagnostic trouble code it's difficult to assess the nature of the original fault. The EVAP vent solenoid may have been replaced due to an internal electrical fault, a leaking or inoperative valve mechanism (somewhat common), or circuit faults or system leakage occurred elsewhere and the vent solenoid was replaced in error. It's also possible the check engine light is illuminated because of a new/differing fault. Take it back and insist they take another look at it!

Q: I recently took in my 2000 Honda Civic for a timing belt and a bunch of other things. I am the original owner of this well-maintained car (purchased new) and it has about 65,000 miles on it. This was my first timing belt. The dealer said the clutch master cylinder was leaking and they based this on the fact that the reservoir was almost empty (it was last checked three years ago). So they topped it off and quoted me about $600 parts and labor to replace it. I'm going to monitor it over the next few months and see if the reservoir actually goes down or did it just evaporate over the last three years? Am I tempting fate by delaying this repair? They also said my rear trailing arm bushings were broken and quoted $800 parts and labor for that job. They said it wasn't a safety issue and that the downside of not fixing this would be increased tire wear. The car drives like it is brand new. Again, am I tempting fate by delaying this repair?


A: I'm all for adding fluid to the clutch fluid reservoir and checking for future fluid loss prior to replacement! If no visual signs of leakage are found around the clutch master cylinder or hiding inside the cabin/oozing down and under the carpet, one might attribute the loss to very slight/long term seal seepage. If the fluid level drops noticeably within a few months, further diagnosis is advised, including a careful look at the slave cylinder. A note of caution: a leaking clutch master or slave cylinder can lead to a surprise and unnerving clutch engagement when you least expect it. With nothing in front of the Civic, try holding the clutch depressed for two to three minutes, in first gear- engine running, and see if it begins to inch or lurch forward. If not, you should be OK.

I'd want to get another look at the rear suspension bushings to see what they meant by "broken". Suspension system rubber bushings will develop small cracks over time (I don't believe this is of immediate concern), larger cracks with visible gaps (best to replace them soon). If the bushings are in fact breaking up, this would allow excessive wheel misalignment and some pretty noticeable clunking. In this case prompt replacement is warranted.



Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at under-the-hood(at); he cannot make personal replies.