Niagara Gazette

March 7, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: What can you do to eliminate brake squeal?

By Tom Torbjornsen
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The Gazette has partnered with local automotive expert Tom Torbjornsen to publish his weekly national column. Tom’s Corner will appear in Thursday’s editions.

BILL FROM MONTGOMERY, ALA.: I recently bought a 2008 Ford Focus with 63,000 miles and the brakes squeal. I took the car back to dealer and they coated and sprayed the pads and told me that the front pads were aftermarket and not Ford brand and may squeal again. What can I do to eliminate the noise? It is really annoying.

TOM: I have gone to extreme measures to eliminate brake squeal. I changed the pads, installed insulator shims and new anti rattle clips, glued the pads to the caliper pistons, pinched the pad-securing arms more tightly, resurfaced the rotors with a non-directional finish after a light cut on the rotor face, and replaced rotors … all in an effort to eliminate brake squeal. Sometimes one of these procedures worked, other times I had to do more to stop the annoying noise. So it’s hard to say what will work. Try each method outline here one at a time, starting with shims and clips, and proceed from there. If you decide to replace the pads, use ceramic pads. Good luck.


ERIC FROM NIAGARA FALLS: I own a ‘99 Chrysler Cirrus Lxi, 2.5-liter engine-V6, with 113,000 miles. I am looking for ways to get more horsepower out of the engine (both cheap and not so cheap). Any ideas?

TOM: It all depends on how much of a bankroll you have. There is a wide range of cost for extra horsepower, and it all depends on how much more you want. Rather than take up the space to explain increasing horsepower and the options available, go to and you will find several ways to extract more horsepower out of your Chrysler product. Also, check with your dealership’s parts department as they have a performance parts division.


BARB FROM NORTH TONAWANDA: I own a ‘05 Honda Civic with no air conditioning. The windshield constantly fogs up and I can’t seem to fix it, so I am constantly wiping the windshield. The water is oily and smells sweet. This has become a real safety issue. What should I do?

TOM: Sounds like your car has a bad heater core. When the core spews a leak, the water sprays into the air stream blowing over the face of the core. This mist enters the vehicle’s cabin in the form of a fog on the windshield. The fact that it is oily to the touch and smells sweet tells me that it is antifreeze coming from the heater core. The dash has to come apart and the core replaced. Best to you.


JOHN FROM AKRON, OHIO: I own a Dodge Caravan. It has an oil leak because the head gasket has to be replaced. Could I just change the oil and add oil stop-leak to solve the problem? Are stop-leaks harmful?

TOM: The use of oil stop-leak is not a good idea. The head gasket is leaking because the material that makes up the gasket is gone for whatever reason. You cannot replace the missing gasket material with stop-leak. Have the head gasket replaced before you do real damage to the engine.


PAT AND GWENDA, UK: I was just reading your article “A Brief History of the Volkswagen Beetle” and was fascinated by all the Beetle memoirs. I think you could be the one to help me. Recently my other half purchased a fairly new model Volkswagen Beetle that we have enjoyed immensely. It is completely fitted out, housing a full-fledged certificated ‘Gerbera’ Flower in the Bud Vase. Both being children of the sixties, we sat at home one evening contemplating the new child sitting in the driveway and the question, “What is the real reason for the flower and why is it associated with the Beetle?” With this singular thought pulsing in our heads, we went in search of this answer with avid commitment, only to be thrown onto the rocks of despair. Hence we now ask somebody with an extensive knowledge of the Beetle to assist us in the quest to answer the seemingly unanswerable. Exhausted, we call on the GODS since we sense that we are a part of the whole. Our Volkswagen Beetle driving experience will be incomplete without this closure. Can you help us?

TOM: Think of all the VW buses and Beetles of the sixties… flower power, Pat & Gwenda … flower power… flower power. You figure it out from there.


JAMES FROM LAS VEGAS: Awhile back you promoted a product on your radio show and I am unable to remember the name. It was a battery device that, when inserted in the cigarette lighter, prevents the loss of radio presets and transmission memory when disconnecting the car battery. Can you please let me know where I can find this device?

TOM: The device you speak of is called a memory retainer tool. It plugs into the cigarette lighter or a 12-volt outlet in the vehicle. A 9-volt battery is plugged into the other end. This tool provides enough of an electrical stream to maintain all computer memories and pre-sets when the vehicle’s battery is removed.

‘Til next time … Keep Rollin’

“America’s Car Show” with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.