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Can a tire valve really cost $75?

Posted by John Paul  November 29, 2011 11:43 AM

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Q. I recently wanted to check the air pressure of the tires on my car after hearing you talk about how important it is on your radio program. I noticed that one of the valve stems was bent and the air gauge wouldn’t read any pressure. I went to a local tire store to inquire about having the valve stem replaced and was told that it would cost about $75. The last tire valve I had replaced cost $5. Is this possible?

A. It certainly is possible if your car uses a tire pressure monitoring system. Some of these systems use a sensor that is part of the valve stem. This sensor transmits information to the car’s computer to let the driver know if there is a low tire.

Q. I purchased a Toyota Camry new in 2005 and the engine has been loud since day one. It is louder when the car is cold and I have been warming it up before I drive. Is there some sort of valve adjustment to stop this noise?

A. The valves in this engine are adjustable and they should certainly be checked, though the noise may be coming from a variety sources. A common problem with some of these models is the tensioner for the drive belt which will rattle and make noise, as well as a failure of the harmonic balancer (recent recall). A good technician should be able to determine where the noise is coming from with a mechanic’s stethoscope or other suitable tool.

Q. Why is my Honda Accord with a V-6 engine designed to run on regular gas, while smaller cars such as the Civic Si and Acura TSX require premium fuel? I noticed that small, high performance cars need premium, and bigger cars with bigger engines only need regular fuel. Can I use regular fuel in a car that requires premium and premium fuel in a car that only needs regular?

A. A small, higher performance engine relies on premium fuel to take advantage of its higher compression. It is this high compression that develops the extra power and performance that buyers of sporty cars seek. Using premium fuel in an engine that doesn’t require it is just a waste of money. Using regular fuel in an engine that is designed for premium can reduce the engine performance and in some cases fuel economy.

Q. After driving on some poorly maintained roads, I am now hearing a loud sound from the driver’s side of the car. It sounds like a loud muffler noise, like there might be a hole in the muffler or broken pipe. But here is the weird part, I parked at night and the sound was not there but when I started the vehicle the next morning I immediately heard this noise that seems like it is starting to get louder. What do you think?

A. The problem could be a cracked exhaust manifold or exhaust pipe. When the engine gets hot, the crack expands and seals itself. I would recommend leaving the car overnight at a repair shop to allow the mechanic to start the engine when it is cold. This should help pinpoint the leak.

Q.I have a problem with a funky odor coming from my vents when I turn on the fan in my car. When I turn on the air conditioning, the odor goes away. The dealership where I took the vehicle for service replaced the cabin air filter thinking this would solve the problem. This was only about a month ago. I've only owned this vehicle for about a year and didn't have any odor problems last year. It is a 2006 Buick Lacrosse. It seems the high humidity and any rainfall causes this odor. You previously helped me with a steering column noise and I was wondering what your thoughts are on this odor?

A. The problem could be a build-up of mold and mildew in the air conditioner duct work, plenum, or A/C evaporator. This can happen if you use the air conditioner routinely on the recirculation or max-air setting. Spraying the heater/air conditioner intake and duct work with a disinfectant could remedy the odor. In addition, make sure the air conditioner drain is clear. If this doesn’t work, a repair shop might try a microbial cleaner sprayed deeper into the air conditioner system.

Q. Perhaps you can help me regarding my 1994 Ford Taurus. I’m looking for a replacement key-fob remote that operates the car's door locks and also arms and disarms the alarm system. I checked with the Ford dealer and was told it could take up to four weeks for a replacement. Do I have to order through a Ford dealer, or is there a suitable after-market unit that will work just as well?

A. This is where the internet can be a great resource. A quick check on the internet shows several sources. One that seems popular is On this website, you can purchase a replacement remote for about $50.00 with instructions how to program it for your vehicle.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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