Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 2002 Subaru Impreza WRX wagon. Yesterday, while sitting in traffic, I noticed that my temperature gauge was all the way in the red. I glance at it occasionally (weekly), and this is the first time I've noticed a high temperature. I continued on to my destination, parked the car for about two hours, then drove the car home. For the first three to five minutes, it was fine (below the middle mark), but then it slowly crept up, steadily but surely, to the RED HOT zone. It crept up there over the course of about 15-20 seconds. Any idea what would suddenly cause this? Thanks! - Travis
TOM: Maybe it's global warming, Travis.
RAY: Yeah, combined with a blown head gasket.
TOM: It's possible it was something cheap and simple, like a stuck thermostat. Notice I said "was" something cheap and simple. Because now it's probably complicated and expensive.
RAY: Because you kept driving, even when you knew the car was already overheating, you may have made it a lot worse.
TOM: If your original problem was a loose hose clamp, now it might be a blown head gasket or a cracked head.
RAY: So, what to do? Well, unless your mechanic is three minutes away or less, have the car towed to him, and ask him to take a look. He'll check for simple stuff first. If he doesn't see an external leak, he'll do a head gasket test and call you with his "I've got bad news for you" voice.
TOM: In the meantime, you can start working on your home equity loan application, just in case.
RAY: And next time, when you're tempted to "make it home, then figure out what's wrong," be aware that there are some circumstances when that approach will cost you thousands of dollars.
TOM: Two of those circumstances are when you see red idiot lights on your dashboard that say either "HOT" (or sometimes "COOLANT") or "OIL." When you see those, pull over, shut off the engine and call for help. Remember, Travis, they're called "idiot lights" for a reason.
It's NEVER cheaper in the long run to buy a new car. Want proof? Order Tom and Ray's pamphlet "How to Buy a Great Used Car: Secrets Only Your Mechanic Knows." Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Used Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
Dear Tom and Ray:
I have a 2003 Mitsubishi Lancer with about 90,000 miles. Several months back, I was driving home on a rainy night and splashed through a deep puddle. Immediately, a loud whining noise came from the car, which grew louder when I pushed on the gas. A minute later, it stopped. Then about a week later, on another rainy day, it happened again. It happens for only about a minute, then stops. It now happens even when it's not raining, when I just step on the gas for more power. The whining is very loud and scary, and it makes me think the car is going to explode. My husband thinks it's nothing and that I should continue to ignore it; however, I am pregnant and don't want to head into motherhood worrying about my safety and the safety of my baby. Please help! - Moon
RAY: It sounds to me like a slipping belt, Moon. I'm guessing your splash guard fell off, and that allowed water to splash up and temporarily lubricate your belt. Belts aren't supposed to be lubricated; they're supposed to be sticky. When a belt slips and slides on its pulleys, it makes that shrieking/whining noise.
TOM: And all that slipping wore out your belt even more, so now it slips even when it's not wet.
RAY: It makes noise when you step on the gas, which is a classic symptom of a loose or worn-out belt. Eventually, the belt will get so bad that it'll squeal all the time. Then one day it'll break and fall off, and you'll lose your power steering and alternator, among other things.
TOM: But the noise will be gone!
RAY: True. But my advice would be, before that happens, to take it into a shop and tell them you have what you think is a belt noise, and ask them to check it out. You want to get this fixed, Moon. Trust me on this - there will be more than enough squealing and whining in your future. You need to enjoy and savor all the peace and quiet you can get in the next few months!
Dear Tom and Ray:
My son left for Europe to get married and live. He left me his 2001 Chrysler Sebring convertible. It lasted three weeks before the engine blew up. I still owe $1,200 on it because I co-signed. Question: When it is paid off, do I junk it, or rebuild it? It needs a new engine, a new top, new fluids, a new battery, new tires and lord only knows what else. - Cathy
TOM: Well, if you're looking for permission to dump this thing, Cathy, you've got it.
RAY: Sure. I guess if you're looking for the silver lining, you can at least be grateful that your son didn't leave you a juvenile boa constrictor when he jetted off for Europe.
TOM: I disagree! At least the boa constrictor might be useful and catch some mice!
RAY: Anyway, this is the kind of car you would fix and keep only if you were in love with it. We can tell you're not. In fact, I would guess that you're barely on speaking terms with it these days. We don't blame you.
TOM: But what you should do is figure out what its real value is. The best way to do that is to look at what other people are selling similar cars for in your area.
RAY: Go to a website like cars.com, and search for used 2001 Sebrings with similar mileage. Now, granted, those probably will have working engines and tops, and still-hirsute tires. So you'll have to adjust your price to allow for a used engine and the other repairs your car needs. But you may be surprised to find that, even as is, it still may be worth a thousand bucks or two.
TOM: And that's the way you should sell it: as is. Don't invest the time and money into fixing it yourself. Let its next owner do that.
RAY: If it still is worth something, you might be able to sell it, pay off the loan and maybe have enough left over to send a nasty postcard to Junior over in his villa in Monte Carlo. Good luck, Cathy.
What's the best way to warm up your engine in the morning? Find out by ordering Tom and Ray's pamphlet "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!" Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Ruin, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
Get more Click and Clack in their new book, "Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk." Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.