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The Yankee Express

Rely on basic diagnostics to resolve VSC issue

Q. I am the original owner of a 2002 Toyota Highlander with a V-6 engine and all-wheel-drive with only about 107,000 miles. It has been a really good vehicle for me, and I currently use it as a secondary vehicle. The VSC (vehicle stability control) light has been on for some time.  Many years ago, it would come on and I’d bring it to the shop and usually they would replace a sensor. Most of the time the light would come on again on my way home from the shop. This happened at least three times. We never quite figured out what the issue is. Now my engine light is also on, and I don’t know if it is related. Any ideas before I spend a fortune diagnosing the issue? I just had it inspected and replaced all the brake pads and three of the calipers. Nothing else was needed. Any thoughts? 

A. You need to start with some basic diagnostics. Using a scan tool, a technician will be able to read the code for the VSC issue as well as the check engine light. I suspect there is another sensor or tone ring issue that is turning on the VSC light and common with this vintage Highlander is a leak in the evaporative emissions system. Unfortunately, it will take some time and your money to find the cause of the problem. Also, I question why the shop only replaced three calipers. This can lead to uneven braking.
Q. When shopping recently for new car, I was shocked to learn that cars do not have CD players in them and haven’t for several years. I have a 2017 and a 2019 BMW X3 and I cannot imagine not having a CD player since I am always listening to books on CD, are there any new cars that have CD players in them?

A. There are a few vehicles with CD players, Ford, Nissan and I believe the last Cadillac I drove had a CD player. Unfortunately, CD players are going the way of cassette tapes and 8-tracks (dating myself). If you find a vehicle you like you may be able to add an aftermarket CD changer. Also, my local library has a feature that allow you to download a MP3 audio books. Perhaps your library has a similar service. Then you can listen through Bluetooth from your phone.
Q. I am the proud original owner of a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Pace car replica. I am keeping it a survivor at 120,000 miles. I have a very good shop specializing in GM vehicles go over the car and found very little mechanically to be done. A compression test showed all cylinders had compression of 135 -145 except the number three cylinder that was 115 pounds of compression. After a good tune-up the car runs very well. Should I be concerned with cylinder number 3 as the fix is a major job?

A. Generally, it is best when all of the cylinders have compression within 10 percent of each other. So, using your numbers having compression of less than 120 PSI indicates a problem. Although realistically at 115 PSI, I would just log it to age and know that at some point you may need to rebuild the engine. But if this were my car (1969 Camaros are one of my favorite cars), I would just drive it and enjoy it. 

Q. My question concerns my 1972 Buick Skylark braking system.  I have been struggling with a hard brake pedal that takes very high effort to stop the car.  In the past year I have replaced the brake booster, master cylinder, proportioning valve, all brake lines (both metal and rubber), front calipers, pads and rotors, and rear cylinders, hardware and shoes. The rotors are Hawk drilled and slotted and the pads are Hawk. The engine is a Buick 350 with a Rochester Q-jet on a TA aluminum intake, Kooks headers and a mild performance camshaft with 114 degree lobe separation (minimal overlap).  Idle vacuum runs 16 to 18 inches. It used to have that GM power brake feel but hasn’t in a long while, any ideas? 

A. I would start with checking engine vacuum at the brake booster, you should see between 17-21 inches of vacuum at idle. If it is less than this, it could be part of the problem. Also, the performance brake parts tend to work best when they are hot and have a bit of vague hard pedal when first starting out. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over forty years’ experience and is an ASE-certified master technician. He will answer readers’ questions each week. Email your car questions to [email protected]. Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook, mrjohnfpaul.