Ask the Auto Doctor: Towing, trailering — go with 4×4 Truck

Staff reports
Farm Forum

Dear Doctor: I’m considering purchasing a new Ford F-150 with the 2.7-liter V-6 engine. I might use the truck to pull a 22-foot boat up and down a launch ramp. Can I get away with two-wheel-drive and a 3.73:1 locking axle, or should I spend the extra money on the 4×4 configuration? I like the lower height of the 2WD truck. Gordon

Dear Gordon: I have used both 2WD and 4×4 pickup trucks to tow and pull trailers and boats up and down launch ramps. It all depends on the launch ramp drop into the water and whether it is wet or slippery with seaweed, however, I have found that many 2WD trucks get stuck when trying to pull a boat and trailer out of the water, especially when there is seaweed and muck. The big advantage to the 4×4 is the low-gear-range transfer case that can easily pull loads out from the water in a deep drop off.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2012 Honda CR-V with approximately 71,000 miles. At 65,000 miles, I started hearing a rattle after starting the engine. I thought it was a loose cowl or cover underneath the engine. One dealer could not find any issues, but another dealer told me it was the VTC oil actuator. I did a little research online and discovered that this is a big issue with certain Honda models, including mine. I have an extended warranty and they covered it. The problem seemed to disappear for a few days, but it has now returned and is as noisy as ever. I have been told that this does not affect the way the car runs. I love the CR-V, but it now sounds like a piece of junk. What are my alternatives? Jeff

Dear Jeff: If the new replacement actuator only made a difference for a short time, then there is likely a pressure problem getting oil to the actuator, or worn internal parts that could be caused by lubrication issues. Variable timing control valves and timing chain adjusting sliders are a big problem for all car manufacturers because of sludge buildup from insufficient oil change intervals, or from using the wrong oil. Have the dealer get the Honda representative to meet with you at the dealership to get the problem resolved. If Honda does not offer any help, there are plenty of great other brands — some with 100,000-mile powertrain warranties.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2013 Ford Explorer Sport with 32,000 miles. I recently noticed that between 35-55 mph I feel the shift from the transmission. I thought it could be due to a cold engine and not letting the vehicle warm-up sufficiently, but it still happens, even with the warmer weather. There’s no bang or anything like that, but from the driver’s seat I feel the shift between gears. I really like the Explorer, so any help is appreciated. Gerard

Dear Gerard: The multi-speed transmissions are continuously shifting at speeds up to 60 mph to keep the engine RPM in the best operating range. You may want to have a technician road test the vehicle to ensure the transmission is operating properly.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2005 Nissan Sentra. When starting up, the engine idles very rough for about 20 seconds and then frequently stalls. What should I do about this? Jean

Dear Jean: When an engine starts to idle high and then stall, the most common problem is a vacuum leak from the rubber/plastic air intake to the engine throttle body, or any vacuum hose that may have cracked or fallen off. You should have a technician look under the hood and check for any trouble fault codes.

Dear Doctor: You recently answered a question from a reader about carbon buildup on the valves of a turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection. You recommend using injection/carbon-cleaning chemicals in the gas tank once in a while. But it is my understanding that the chemical in these “cleaners” can cause hot spots at the turbo, making the turbo engine run hotter, and possibly resulting in premature failure. For example, Ford engineers do not advise any type of chemical fuel de-carbonization method (for the intake or exhaust valves) other than actually removing the heads and brushing off the carbon in their direct injection/turbo EcoBoost engines. Can you further clarify? Tom

Dear Tom: I don’t agree with engineers’ recommendations to remove the carbon deposits by removing the cylinder heads and cleaning the carbon off at a cost of $800 to $6,000, depending of the engine and the amount of carbon buildup. Some dealers do suggest adding a fuel additive at each oil change. The use of the correct engine oil — and more frequent oil change intervals — along with using premium gasoline on turbocharged engines, all help eliminate carbon buildup. Quick acceleration when entering onto the highway also helps blow out the carbon buildup. I use both Chevron Techron and Seafoam and recommend using them at every oil change.