, Salem, MA

November 16, 2013

Auto Scanner: Power steering makes a whining sound

Auto Scanner
Larry Rubenstein

---- — Q: My issue is my 2008 Honda Accord with 21,000 miles. We were away for five weeks on vacation, and when we returned and I used my car, the power steering was making a whining sound. I took it in for service and was told the racks were leaking. They added fluid. I was told the racks needed to be replaced (a very expensive job); that was three weeks ago, and no further leaking has occurred and no problems with the steering. Do you think the seals dried out temporarily and have re-swelled because of use?

A: I give you the prestigious award of diagnostician of the week. I believe you are spot-on with your diagnostics. I do recommend you keep an eye on the fluid level at least once a week. If the power-steering fluid feels gritty to the touch, has a burnt smell, or is brown in color, consider doing a power-steering flush with an additive. The low mileage on your 5-year-old car was a key factor in the dry seals. Consider having the rack reinspected over the next few weeks.

Q: I recently purchased a 2013 Chevy Volt, and within the first month, the heat stopped working. The dealership had to order a new heater, but they are out of stock throughout the country due to this same problem on many Volts. One week later, the car is still in the shop, and there is no date that they can give me for when the car may be ready. The dealership refuses to take the car back. What can I do here?

A: The heater problem with the Volt is a nationwide problem. I would say, from what I read, about 25 percent of the Volt owners are having no heat, and another 60 percent are getting poor heat. If the dealer does not perform in a specified amount of time, I suggest you call the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and register a complaint. Because the driver’s comfort is paramount to safe driving, I would also complain to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If enough people complain, it may start a recall for heater problems. I think you have been patient long enough, and now the dealer has to step up to the plate.

Q: My Mazda dealer says that their database does not include “Mazda Technical Service Bulletin No. 051/10.” Can you provide me with additional information for them?

A: Unfortunately, I cannot reprint the bulletin in its entirety due to legalities. However, the first line of the bulletin reads as follows: “Reference Number(s): Cat.09, No. 051/10, 09-51/10, Date of Issue: Date of issue November 23, 2010.” If the Mazda dealer does not get it from this, send me another email, and I will figure out a way of personally giving you a copy of the bulletin in its entirety.

Car care tip: If your car is due for an engine tune-up, have it done now before the heavy winter sets in. Freezing temperatures will make rough idle, hard starting and hesitation even worse.


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