Question: On a recent rainy morning, I was driving my 1993 Dodge Caravan (just over 100,000 miles) when the steering suddenly became very hard. Shortly after that, there was an electronic beep and the “check gauges” light came on. I ended up having it towed
to a service station. The mechanic who worked on it said the drive belt got wet and came off. He put it back on and said everything was OK. My questions are: How does the drive belt get wet enough to come off? Is everything in fact OK? Should I take the vehicle in to have it checked out?
— J.K., Downers Grove, Ill.
Answer: Accessory drive belts seldom jump off in a suicidal fit. Either the belt has stretched (quite unlikely) or the automatic belt tensioner is kaput. We like to replace the belt and tensioner together. Take it in and have it looked at. BTW, there are free plastic measuring tools available at most auto parts stores and even apps for your smartphone to evaluate belt wear.
Q: Not long ago, you mentioned getting torque wrenches calibrated. Where would you take them to do this? I’ve had one for at least 30 years and have never had it calibrated. Help would be appreciated.
— F.B., Westchester, Ill.
A: We used to hand ours over to the Snap-on tool guy. When he returned the following week, we got the torque wrench back. But the Snap-on guy does not stop at my office, so I surfed the internet. Wow, there are plenty of places that do the job. Use your favorite search engine to look for torque wrench calibration.
Q: I was surprised by your answer to B.A., of Palos Park, Ill., that the automatic transmission fluid should have been supplied at no cost due to the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act of 1975. Doesn’t that mean that dealers should not be charging for fluids when cars are brought in for oil, radiator, or transmission fluid changes?
— C.W. Des Plaines, Ill.
A: Nice try, but you ain’t gettin’ nothin’ for free. According to the law, companies may not void a warranty if something other than their own brand of parts or fluids are used. Owners are free to select any brand they wish as long as it meets the specifications of the original. For example, GM cannot void your warranty if you do not use Dexos motor oil. Just be sure to keep all your receipts should a dispute arise.