By Lena Thompson
I have been in the automotive industry since my first job in 1983 at Recycled Bugs and Rabbits (VWs that is). I’ve sold parts, authorized repairs (for a service contract company), worked as a technician (all makes and models), diagnosed vehicles on an original equipment manufacturer tech hotline and later diagnosed vehicles in the field (in Texas for three years). Now I’m a program manager for an OEM. I am responsible for managing and fixing service-related concerns (except safety) on one vehicle line.
Throughout the years, many people have asked me for auto advice. So, one night while hanging with a friend I realized, why not just give my advice in a column like my favorite car guys do on public radio? And, what a better place to do that, than in Between The Lines? I am a dyke and I did work on the big Mack trucks for two weeks back in 1995. I quit when I couldn’t get that HUGE 16-by-6-inch (I’m guessing) oil filter off, without help!
So, recently, I solicited questions from friends and co-workers. Here are a couple that I will share with you…
High-mileage car shimmies at high speed
Dear Diesel Dyke,
I have a 2000 Saturn SL1 over 140,000 miles. When I get to 60 miles an hour or higher the car shimmies very bad and I hear a strange noise making a left turn. Any ideas?
There is a TSB (technical service bulletin) that may possibly be related to your concern. Issue: Steering wheel shake or vibration 62-68 mph, due to excessive wheel stud run out. The repair consists of replacing the front wheel hub. This TSB affects 2000-2002 S-Series vehicles. The repair procedure advises the technician how to check for run out and determine if the hub is indeed the failure.
In addition, other concerns need to be checked out. If the vibration is at wheel speed (usually checked with a Vibration Analyzer), a simple wheel balance may cure your concern. The tire itself could have a shifted belt and need to be replaced or the wheel could be bent, from the myriad of potholes in the Detroit area. Steering components should also be checked. A loose tie rod end can cause the steering wheel to vibrate, but your tires would also have evidence of outside edge wear and scalloping.
But, the above items do not address the noise on left turns. If the noise is a clicking noise, the CV joint may be damaged. If the CV boot is torn and leaking grease, the joint may have been damaged from water and dirt. There would be evidence of grease thrown around the suspension components, if it is leaking.
I suspect you may have two distinct concerns.
How often should fuel injectors be changed?
Dear Diesel Dyke,
Recently, I took my 2003 Focus in to get the regular oil change and something in the front end had to be taken care of too. While they were working on my car, the service guy explained to me that I needed a fuel injection cleaning ($110!!), I had it done and my car worked as good as it did the day I drove it off the lot. My question: How often should I get the fuel injection cleaned? Is it OK to use the canned stuff I could easily (and more cheaply) buy at an auto parts store?
Back when I was turning a wrench (in the early ’90s), my shop did offer a fuel injection cleaning service. It also, was not cheap. The reason was because the machine we used simulates your fuel pump and injects the cleaner at the same psi (or higher). We used a specific concentration of cleaner mixed with gasoline. Of course the folks that sold us the unit had all the data to support the program explained that it cleaned the injectors as well as deposits on the intake valves, so my boss purchased it.
Fuel is one of those variables that manufactures cannot control. There are many driveability concerns attributed to fuel quality: low power, stalling, hard starts even no starts. I recently read that 25 percent of the fuel injector’s efficiency can be affected by fuel deposits in the fuel injector’s filter. And sometimes just going to a brand name gas station isn’t the answer. All the service stations ultimately get their fuel from the same refinery in your region. It’s only the additive package that is different. So, it is possible for an entire region to be affected by issues such as high sulpher levels or contamination from olefin wax, dirt, water, etc.
It’s not your imagination that it worked! And using that bottle/can injector cleaner in the future, may be a good way to maintain what you have started (for way less money!).