Q. I have a 2004 Ford Freestar with 205,000 miles on it and according to my dealership, the valve cover gaskets are leaking. They determined this during a routine check when I went for an oil change. I have called several places to get quotes and I was told prices between $350 and $450. Spending upwards to $500 on a minor oil leak on a now 17-year-old minivan seems like a lot of money. Should I get it fixed?
A. From your description the leak appears minor in nature if you didn’t see oil on the ground or smell oil on the engine. Some gasket seepage is perfectly acceptable and considering the age and mileage it may be okay to take a wait and see attitude. Now certainly the leak won’t get better by itself and getting a second opinion can never hurt.
Q. I have a 2007 Hyundai Santa-Fe and from time to time the power steering sticks. I was told the crankshaft pulley needs replacing. I have been driving for 45 years and never heard of this type of failure. I purchased this Hyundai new and hands down it has been the best car I have ever owned. I am going to have the repair completed, but have you ever heard about this type of repair before?
A. This is not very common, but I have seen the inner and outer ring of the crankshaft pulley fail occasionally. It isn’t just a Hyundai issue i have seen it with Lexus, Toyota and a few others. From what I can tell the amount of adhesive used glue the two parts of the pulley together was not sufficient and the outer ring spins or wobbles and causes the issue.
Q. I am leaving my car up North for the winter and will have a neighbor check on it. Is there anything I should do or not do to keep any problems from happening? I don’t have the luxury of a garage and the car will be stored outside, and it will be registered and insured so it can be driven. My neighbor has the keys and has offered to start it from time to time.
A. It is always best if the car can be driven rather than just allowed to sit. Every three weeks or so have your neighbor take the car for a ride for about 30 minutes. This will help keep everything moving, wear accumulated rust of the brakes and help keep the battery charged. Ideally check the tire pressure a couple of times over the winter and keep the fuel tank close to full and add fuel stabilizer.
Q. Sometimes your answers confuse me. I have read your column for years and I’m still not sure if you like electric cars-I think you wrote once you owned an early model electric. I also heard your radio show when you were talking with someone about the 800 horsepower Hellcat powered Dodge. How can you like a stupid car that only a few people will buy like this Hellcat and recommend a Chevy Bolt electric car?
A. I think all vehicles have a place in this world. I would never own an 800-horsepower gasoline car because it doesn’t fit my lifestyle or budget, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the engineering that went into it. Purchasing a vehicle is a personal decision and for some people the idea of a battery electric car is perfect. Others want a gasoline/electric hybrid. And there are some drivers who want the fastest most powerful car on the planet. To me having the ability to make that choice is most important. And yes both he Hellcat and the Bolt are terrific cars.
Q. I just purchased a new Ford F-150 and it is the nicest vehicle I have ever owned. I have two question when I purchased the truck the dealer had nitrogen installed in the tires and I remember you had some thoughts on this. The second thing is the engine shuts off at a stop-most of the time. What do you think of nitrogen filled tires and can I shut off the engine stop feature?
A. Nitrogen will not hurt anything, but I’m cheap and I would never pay extra for nitrogen when regular air is free and contains 78 percent nitrogen. Pure nitrogen does not seep as much so tires should stay properly inflated longer and carries less moisture which will help with coorsion issues that some alloy wheel suffer. There is a button on the dash to shut off the idle stop feature (you need to do it each trip) which many owner’s find annoying. Some owners have gone so far as buying a trailer light test plug and leave it installed, which defeats the idle stop.