Q: Recently, I received a letter from GM suggesting that I bring my 2006 3.5-liter automatic Saturn Vue to a local dealer for an update to the computer firmware. The letter claimed that this will stop potential shuddering due to an issue with the torque converter. Even though I’ve never felt the shudder, do I need to worry about an expensive repair in the future? Because modifying the shifting parameters on a vehicle made five years ago to prevent a mechanical failure in the TC sounds like a Band-Aid. If GM or Honda engineers (the engine and transmission are supplied by Honda for the 2004-07 year models) set a parameter so close to the hairy edge that it could cause a major failure, then have the 60,000 miles on my Vue done irreparable harm? (The fluid looked good before having the transmission flushed a year ago.) Or worse, if the parameter is not the root problem, then is there a known defect with the TC that nobody is confessing to?
A: I feel strongly that you should go for the update. If you haven’t had any issues by this time, I don’t feel the update will cause it any harm either. It was definitely a smart move to do a transmission flush; it will keep the transmission running smooth for a long time.
Q: My 2000 Honda Civic just suddenly lost all radio reception three days ago. It was working fine one day and not the next. No work has been done to it, nothing to the radio or battery. It just stopped getting reception overnight — I don’t know why. Any ideas on how to fix it?
A: With the information you have given me, I would look at the radio antenna first. You didn’t mention if the display was lit. If it isn’t, then you want to check the fuse.
Q: I own a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer, and just recently, I have been hearing a low squealing/grinding noise when I start it. This occurs when the engine is cold. The sound lasts about 45 seconds and stops. About a year ago, I had the serpentine belt replaced. I was wondering if you could provide me any insight on this. The vehicle has 122,000 miles.
A: Noises are pretty hard to diagnose in this column. So, I can only tell you what we see as common issues with your vehicle and vehicles like it. Your SUV may be equipped with an alternator that has a clutch-type pulley. If so, these have been a problem with noise. The other problem we see is with the pulleys that track the belt that run the air-conditioner compressor.
Car Care Tip: This is the time to have your battery checked. When the deep freeze sets in, your battery loses 10 percent power for every 10 degrees less than 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
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.