Q: My 2009 Prius has 37,000 miles on it, and this winter my gas mileage has dipped down to near 30 miles per gallon. I purchased the car in January 2011, so I ran it all winter in 2011 and never got less than the low 40s for mileage. Now this winter, I'm in the low 30s. The Toyota dealer's service adviser said it must be the gasoline mixture for the winter. That explains two or three miles less per gallon, but not 10 miles per gallon. I use Exxon Mobil gas, and my tires are properly inflated at 33 psi all around. I called Toyota Corp. and spoke to a customer adviser, and he couldn't come up with anything other than gas mixture and tire inflation. It has to be more than that. There are no red lights on the instrument panel indicating a hybrid problem. Any ideas? It's a mystery!
A: I took a search through the ALLDATA information base for technical service bulletins. Sadly, Toyota is not recognizing a fuel mileage problem with this car. In my shop, I would be hooking up a scanner and checking fuel trims and oxygen sensor flip rates. If those were all OK, I would then be looking at the brakes, which are apt to be giving you a problem at 37,000. All wheels should spin freely with the vehicle on a lift. It really shouldn't be too hard to find this one.
Q: From your articles, you suggest Toyo tires for an SUV. What type of Toyo? Would it be the Open Country H/T? We have a 2007 Toyota 4Runner, 46,000 miles, tire size is 265/65/17. Would there be a less costly recommendation? Quietness is a preference. Your constant common-sense approach to auto-related issues is most assuring. Great articles!
A: Thanks for your kind words. I did a lot of checking, and the Toyo Open Country H/T is a 60,000-mile tire with a relatively quiet tread. As far as price goes, there is nothing in your size range that even comes close for the mileage this tire is rated for. If you buy these from any of the major retailers or repair shops, there is a road hazard warranty available, as well.
Q: I have a 2002 Cadillac EXT with 90,000 miles. We bought it in 2003 from the Cadillac dealer with 17,000 miles. It has been a great truck with normal maintenance. At 68,000 miles, we had to replace a left front wheel bearing, and at 87,000, a Pitman arm. Now the steering is very stiff with a slight whine when we turn slowly into a parking spot. A mechanic flushed the power steering fluid a month ago, but now the stiffness is back. Any idea of what is causing this?
A: First thing to do is disconnect both outer tie rod ends and make sure you don't have a frozen strut top or a frozen ball joint. To do this, the vehicle goes on the lift, and then remove the outer tie rod ends and move the tires from side to side to feel for binding. If that is well, check for any vehicle body computer codes concerning variable ratio steering. Check for a locking steering column joint. If all the previous check out, I would use a BG power steering system flush. The GM steering pumps of that era were problematic, and that may be the case. But give the flush a try. If you do need a new pump, they are not overly expensive.
Car Care Tip: Even though we haven't had much snow, your battery can weaken due to age and temperature. A courtesy battery check is available at most repair facilities.
• • •
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.