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Can leaves stop an engine from running?

Posted by John Paul  February 6, 2012 03:58 PM

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Q. My car was running terribly so I brought it to the dealership and was told that problem was caused by the air intake plugged with pollen. They cleaned it out and now the car runs fine. Can this be true or did they just find something simple like a hose that fell off but wanted more money for the repair?

A. This can absolutely be true. I have seen air intakes clogged with leaves, mouse nests and I suppose floating “tree-fluff”. If the mass air flow sensor becomes clogged with this cotton-like pollen, I could easily see how there would be a drivability problem. Although I have to say if you don’t trust your shop or the people who work there, it may be time to find a new one.

Q. I have a 2001 Toyota 4Runner with approximately 67,000 miles. Over the course of the last four years, both the front and rear bumpers have rusted and rotted resulting in a gaping hole in the front bumper- and the rear soon to follow! I contacted the Toyota Corporation on many occasions and told them about this defect (which I have noticed on many 2001 4 Runners). The only action they took was taking my information and filing it away. I would really appreciate your advice and help in getting Toyota to rectify a serious safety issue as it relates to the integrity of the SUV.

A. I have also seen many Toyota trucks that have rusted out bumpers, as well as the much publicized frame issue with the pick-up trucks. Rust is a fact of life living in New England, with the combination of salt on the roads and salt air, some degree of rust is inevitable. The reason, in my opinion, that Toyota has not done more with rusted bumpers is, that bumpers are, according to the Federal Motor Vehicles safety standard 49 CFR Part 581 are not required safety equipment on trucks. That said, if this was my truck I would replace the bumpers.

Q. How often should I have the tires rotated on my car? The dealer’s pricing seems more expensive, is it worth the money to have this work performed at a dealership?

A. As a general rule you should have the tires rotated on your vehicle every 7,500 miles; check the vehicles owners’ manual for specific recommendations. In addition to longer tire life, this is a great opportunity to have the service person check the condition of the brake pads. Tire rotation is a simple procedure and can be performed at a dealership or independent repair shop. Most shops will combine tire rotation with other service and some tire shops will include “lifetime” rotation in the purchase of the tires.

Q. I have a 2005 Honda Accord LX Coupe. The owner's manual has a maintenance schedule which lists "change brake fluid" every three years. What exactly does "change brake fluid" mean? Is this simply a "drain & fill" of the brake fluid reservoir, or a full "flush" of the brake lines and reservoir? How important is this? I don't think I ever changed the brake fluid on my previous vehicle, a 1991 Mazda MX-6 which I had for over 14 years and 301,000 miles.

A. Brake fluid tends to attract moisture, and moisture is the enemy of a properly functioning brake system. This has never been more true than with anti-lock brakes and their complicated valve systems. The most efficient method of changing the brake fluid is to use the standard brake bleeding procedure. This method replaces 100 percent of the fluid.

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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.
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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.
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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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