SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 22, 2014

Auto Scanner: ’97 Mercury sounds like a jet engine

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: My daughter’s 1997 Mercury Mountaineer makes a strange sound only while moving. It sounds like a jet engine as we pick up acceleration. The transmission shifts fine. I thought it was an exhaust problem, but I crawled under the car when I put it on ramps and could find nothing. The front bearings have been changed in the last two years. Any suggestions would be a blessing.

A: There are many components that make noise on a car as you move. Just because you had your bearings changed a few years ago does not guarantee that they have not failed. Among the top items that fail on your car would be hub bearings and the transmission planetary gears — and, of course, you should look at your tires. What I would do is take it to a repair shop and let them analyze it on the lift. You may have a safety issue and don’t realize just how bad it is.

Q: My question is about odometer rollbacks. Here’s my story: In 2005, I bought a 2002 Subaru Forester from a nearby dealer. It had 30,000 miles on the odometer. Over the past four years, I have had this work done on the vehicle: 60,000 mile service, four tires at 73,000, replaced rotors and brakes at 89,000. Replaced front A/F sensor at 100,000; timing belt, water pump, cam seals, etc., at 104,000. Replaced defective thermostat at 100,000. Replaced catalytic converter at 105,000, left rear wheel bearing at 110,000, transmission at 113,000. During the transmission change the mechanic thought it was odd that it would fail after so few miles. His experience was that they lasted many more miles. That got me to thinking about when we bought the vehicle; I remember vaguely that there was a hole in the carpet under the gas pedal. I think I was suspicious, but my daughter needed a car and she liked this one, so we bought it. Other than the carpet hole, the car looked good and ran well with good gas mileage. I accepted the repairs as “things wear out and you fix them.”

So, here is the question. I think that the car had many more miles on it than the 30,000 on the odometer when I purchased it. Is there any way to tell the real mileage? Is there some EPROM that mileage is kept in that cannot be changed? I recently saw in a British TV car show where a person changed the mileage on an MB E320 from 90,000 to 30,000 miles in under two minutes.

A: As I read through the list of repairs, I don’t really see anything out of the normal. However, to relieve your own mind, there are a few things you can do. If the car was registered in Massachusetts the entire life of the vehicle, the Registry can trace the mileage of all the state inspection stickers, and you can see if the mileage is consistent. The other thing you can do would be to find out who the original owner was, make contact with that person and find out the mileage at the time of the sale.

Car Care Tip: Some car washes are open year-round. If you have the chance to wash the salt off the bottom of your vehicle, your car body may last longer and not rust out so soon.

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Larry Rubenstein is a master technician who owns a North Shore service station. His column appears every Saturday. Write to Larry at The Salem News, c/o Auto Scanner, 32 Dunham Road, Beverly, MA 01915, or send an email to scanauto@aol.com.