, Salem, MA

September 21, 2013

Auto Scanner: ’02 Camry has occasional steering column issue

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: Hi Larry, I have a 2002 Toyota Camry LE and I have an occasional rub from my steering wheel on turning the wheel. I have no other problems with steering. What do you think the problem is? Thank you for the help.

A: There are two probable causes that come to mind. First is a piece of the plastic steering column cover may be loose, causing a plastic rubbing at times. The other common problem I see is the steering column has a joint in it that resembles a universal joint. These tend to bind up occasionally. Either case, if the problem gets worse, it may cause your steering wheel to not return to center coming off of a corner turn. You should schedule in to have this looked at soon.

Q: I have an ’07 Ford Explorer, 4.6 V8, 6-speed automatic, 41,000 miles. Over the past three weeks the car has stalled three times. Once while taking a left turn, once while stopped at a light, once while approaching a light at 10 mph. No codes are showing, The dealer has no clue, I’m fearful of a serious accident. Would greatly appreciate your trusted advice.

A: Sorry, I have to agree with the dealer on this one. There are no factory service bulletins concerning this problem. There is not a check engine light leaving the technician with a path to follow. The problem has only happened once a week on average. One of the rules in my business is “in order to fix the problem, we have to be able to duplicate the problem.” I do apologize, I know this is not what you wanted to hear, but it’s the way it is.

Q: I have a 2011 Honda Accord with 3,200 miles. With speeds under 10 mph the engine hesitates when I try to accelerate. I’ve returned to the dealer and they confirmed the hesitation. They also drove another new Honda on the lot and similar hesitation occurred. They stated that this is a normal characteristic and all will be fine in due time. The explanation for the hesitation is that the computer is confused and doesn’t know whether to be in first or second gear. I got a second evaluation from another dealer and it appears that he was well aware of the problem. I can’t believe this couldn’t be corrected immediately. This is a safety issue since I have been in situations of making a turn at an intersection with oncoming traffic bearing down on me. I sent a certified letter to Honda Customer Service in California, but no action has been taken. I like the car but I’m ready to enact the lemon law. Any suggestions?

A: A search in the ALLDATA information system does not show any technical service bulletins at this time concerning this problem. I am curious why you didn’t feel this problem when you road-tested your car before the purchase. Since you say the other cars on the Honda dealers’ lot have the same problem, I would expect the problem was there during the road test. As far as a safety issue goes, you may want to call the National Highway and Transportation Authority and report this potential crash situation. One little adjustment I would like you to try would be manually put the car in first gear when you start out, and then manually use the shifter to go up through the gears. If the hesitation is gone doing this, than you are experiencing a problem of the transmission starting in second gear rather than in first. A software update issued by Honda will be enough to resolve this issue.

Car Care Tip: While driving home the other night, I glanced over at cars near me on Route 95 in the Topsfield area. Seven of 10 drivers that I passed or that were near me had cellphones to their heads and they clearly were not giving full concentration to their driving. To those who need to talk on the phone while they drive, consider a Bluetooth device. Your cellphone retailer will be able to help you hook it up.


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