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Car Doctor: Whiny Ford is driving me crazy

Posted by John Paul  June 29, 2011 03:00 PM

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Q. I'm the original owner of a 2004 Ford F-150 four-wheel drive truck. Late in 2010 with 70,000 miles I started to get this winning noise from the drive train. I thought it was a universal joint but they checked out fine as did the wheel bearings. I went to YouTube and found other owners with the same problem. Some had brought their trucks to dealers and replaced this and that but didn't seem to fix the problem. Any inside advice on what it might be?

A. The first thing you need to do is determine where the noise is coming from. This model has had two distinct problems. The first is a problem internal to the transmission or if you are lucky a clogged transmission filter may be the problem. The second is with a noisy rear differential. Once you can determine where the noise is coming from then you can determine what needs to be repaired. In just about any case it will be expensive.

Q. I’m looking for your opinion. For the first 30,000 miles I used regular oil in my 2002 Toyota Corolla. The next 40,000 miles I used synthetic oil. The next 40,000 miles I have switched back to regular oil. The car now burns a quart about every 500 to 600 miles. Could I have done any harm with the switching of oils?

A. It is perfectly acceptable to switch back and forth between conventional and synthetic oil. At 110,000 miles I wouldn’t expect a Toyota Corolla to burn oil, but the car is nearly 10 years old. If you are concerned about the oil consumption you could have a compression test and cylinder “leak-down” test performed. This test will help determine how the oil is being burned, although at this point it may just be cheaper to add one quart of oil once or twice per month as needed.

Q. I faithfully read your Car Doctor articles. I have a 2007 Hyundai Azera Limited with just over 46,000 miles on it. The car has been very reliable and I have it serviced regularly at the Hyundai Dealer where I purchased it.  Earlier this year I noticed a couple of chips on the hood just below the wipers.  I took it to a garage and the guy offered to repaint it for $300 which seemed reasonable to me.  The assumption being perhaps it was rocks that caused the chips. 

He did a great job and a month later I noticed the chips had resurfaced in what would appear to be the same spots. I took it to the Hyundai garage and they assumed it was damage caused by road travel. They had no TSBs or anything of the nature that would relate it to be a common issue for that vehicle. I love the car but am the type that likes to have things perfect and these chips being right in the path of vision are only that much more annoying.  It is paid off and I have looked at some newer models but I would like to keep it if I could just put this issue to bed.

A. I have not seen this problem before and after looking on several automotive forums it doesn’t appear to be an issue with this model. At this point I would return to the shop that did the repair. Many will warranty their work for one year. You might also include a paint film. This is a nearly invisible clear adhesive product that is installed on painted surfaces that tend to suffer from “road rash.”

Q. I have a 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee Orvis edition, purchased new; it now has 108,000 miles on it. Lately the display shows “service four-wheel-drive."  It continues to beep and then it goes off. I was an auto service director for 30 years and no one has an answer for me. Could you please advise me on what has to be done to solve this condition?

A. It is my understanding that "Service 4wd" in the cluster means there is a final drive control module (FDCM) fault. This can be from a lack of communications caused by a software glitch. In many cases it can be fixed by a computer flash update. Have your shop refer to technical service bulletin number: 21-014-06 REV A

Q. Do you ever come and speak to groups about new cars and car issues? I belong to the Lions Club and we are always looking for speakers. We can’t pay you but the breakfast is pretty good.

A. I would be happy to speak with your Lions Club as well as other groups, time permitting and travel permitting. Send me an email ( and I’ll check my schedule.   

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
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George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
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