Niagara Gazette

June 6, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Timing belt versus the timing chain

By Tom Torbjornsen
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A few questions and answers this week.

MONICA FROM PEORIA: I own a 2005 Toyota Camry 2.4L. Is there a magic 75,000-mile event that requires the expensive replacement of timing belts and chains or the engine will self-destruct? I hear stories to this effect, and my Toyota dealer hedged the question. Help!

TOM: Your car has a timing chain, therefore there’s no timing belt to worry about. The chain should last the life of the engine. Earlier Camry’s (’01 and ‘02) with the 2.2 liter engine had a timing belt. However, in 2002 Toyota did away with the 2.2 and started using a 2.4 liter engine that uses a timing chain, which does not require regular change intervals, as does the engine with the timing belt. Tell whoever is scaring you with these old wife’s tales that he/she knows not of what they speak and to stifle themselves!

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ANGELITA FROM LUBBOCK, TEXAS: I own a 2009 Cadillac DHS and in between oil changes I have to add 2-3 quarts of oil because of the size of my engine. I purchased a case of 30W motor oil on sale at a local department store. When I got home I noticed that the oil had an expired expiration date. Is the oil still good?  I kept my receipt; I don’t want to harm the engine just to save $15.

TOM: I checked my ALLDATA database and the manufacturer states that 5W30 synthetic motor oil is required for that car, so return the case of cheap straight 30-weight oil. If you use straight 30-weight you are asking for engine trouble. However, the thing that concerns me most is the fact that you have to add 2-3 quarts of oil between changes. This is too much oil consumption. Have your car evaluated and find out what’s going on. Best to you.

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SAL FROM THE BRONX: I own a Cadillac CTS 2011 with 1,837 miles. When should I change the oil?

TOM: I would change the oil and filter now, and then change it according to the OLM (Oil Life Monitor) thereafter. Make sure you use only 5W30 motor oil with the “dexos” designation. This is the only acceptable motor oil for use in this engine as per GM. Using another oil will result in loss of factory warranty coverage in the event of an engine failure. Success to you.

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DAVE FROM WEST VIRGINIA: I bought a used 2005 Stratus, 3.0L V6 with 42,000 miles. I am very impressed with the performance from such a small engine. How reliable and long lasting are these cars? I have searched and can’t find any information about the car, good or bad. I had a ‘94 Ford Explorer with over 250,000 mile on it that ran great until the head cracked. Can I expect to get the same longevity from my Dodge?

TOM: This car is pretty much trouble free. Aside from a few minor glitches with wipers smearing and a few engine trouble codes due to a need for software updates to the PCM (Powertrain Control Module) the vehicle platform seems to be trouble free. With proper maintenance according to factory specs (following the severe service schedule) you should get many years out of this little gem.

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JACKIE FROM BILLINGS, MONT.: I own a 2004 PT Cruiser (manual transmission) with about 81,000 miles. It won’t shift into reverse at all, whether the motor is on or off. All of the other gears shift fine. I did a little research on the Internet and the only similar problem I found was on a 2001 model. Their diagnosis was either a bad shifting cable or a linkage problem. A friend looked in the Chilton book and told me that the car has a hydraulic clutch and there should not be a linkage problem. By now you can see that I really don’t know much about cars. In the past I have been raked over the coals by mechanics and I can’t afford that again. I know I am going to have to take the car to a transmission shop but I’d like to go with some knowledge under my belt. Please help me if you can.

TOM: That car has one of two manual transaxles offered by the carmaker. Each transaxle has shift cables that are adjustable. If the cables are properly adjusted, the problem lies within the transmission. It could be in the form of bad synchronizer or blocker rings. These are devices that shift the gears inside the trans when you manipulate the gear shifter inside the vehicle. I would say the problem lies either in a maladjusted shift cable or syncro or blocker ring, or a shifter fork problem, and NOT a clutch. If it were a clutch problem, it would be evident in all gears. Go to a transmission expert for this repair. Good luck.

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BUTCH FROM NEVADA: I’d like to know how often I have to change the oil in my Chevy Trailblazer with 58,000 miles?

TOM: Your truck is equipped with an oil life monitor. This system measures when to change the oil based on three criteria: crankcase temperature, combustion chamber events (work the engine does), and moisture in the system. The system is accurate to within (+) or (– ) 5 percent of oil life. Just make sure the system is reset every time you change the oil and always use the oil that GM recommends or a better oil. Follow the dictates of the OLM and you will not go wrong. Success to you.

‘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.