, Salem, MA

July 7, 2012

Chirping Ram has owner scratching head

The Salem News

---- — Q: My 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 truck makes a chirping noise from the belts. I thought the belts needed to be changed, so I took it to the dealership and they told me the serpentine belt needed to be changed. Well, a few dollars later, the belts are still making the same noise. I called them back, and they told me it sounds like my tensioner pulley needs to be replaced. How much is this, and should this have been what they looked at first? Does this sound like the possible problem or am I feeding the dealership frenzy? Any ideas you could give me would be greatly helpful.


My first question would be how many miles are on this vehicle? If I estimate it at about 60,000 miles, I would have no doubt that the serpentine belt was cracked and worn. However, you brought your vehicle in for a chirping noise. The belt tensioner assembly does have a given life, and 60,000 is not unreasonable for the failure. It’s a bit disappointing that the dealership did not pick up on this the first time you brought it in. I think it would be fair of the dealership to install the tensioner assembly, which is about $70, for the cost of the part only and waive the labor charge in consideration that they had already charged you once for the labor to diagnose and replace the belt.   

Q: I recently bought and am restoring a 1978 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham. All was going well until I tried to repair the heater. No heat! The blower motor works fine but will only send cold air out the floor vent no matter what setting I put it on. It has a new thermostat and great circulation to and from the radiator/heater hoses. Any ideas would be appreciated.



I do have fond memories of working on ’78 Caddies in my younger days. The reasons for no heat on this vehicle are numerous. First of all, the most common is the hot water valve that is under the hood. How you check this is to feel the heater hoses in and out of the heater core. Both hoses should be hot; if one is hot and the other is cold, you can suspect the valve or a blocked core. Next, and the most miserable of all is the programmer assembly, which is located against the firewall in the car under the glove box. This electronic device sets the temperature and where the air is delivered. They were a nightmare then, and I am sure they still are today. The best case of all would be if you have a broken vacuum hose under the hood that feeds the HVAC system. The hose should come from a canister, which looks very much like a quart can we used to get grapefruit juice at the grocery store so many years ago. This canister should have an engine vacuum hose going to it, and a hose coming out that feeds the HVAC system. These cans would typically rot out and would not send vacuum to the HVAC assembly. Best of luck restoring this beauty.

Car Care Tip:

Whenever your car goes to a shop and you know it will be on a lift, it’s a good idea to ask the shop to give the wheels a spin. You don’t want to have a car with hanging-up brakes, this will cause a handling problem and a waste of fuel. Your vehicle has to work that much harder when the brakes are dragging. 


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