Q: I have a 2017 Toyota Tacoma with the four-cylinder engine. Sometimes — when I am city driving — it seems as if it’s not getting gas and gets a sluggish feeling. I’m just wondering if this is normal.
The Toyota dealer said it happens sometimes with four-cylinder trucks.
The truck takes 6.5 quarts of oil, which seem like a lot of oil for a four-cylinder engine. What is your opinion of a 2017 Tacoma? Is it a reliable truck?
A: The Toyota Tacoma historically has been a very reliable truck both here and around the world. The four-cylinder engine takes 6.2 quarts of oil and in my opinion more oil is better. Oil not only lubricates the engine to prevent wear but also helps with engine cooling.
Your Tacoma uses a six-speed automatic transmission and, from time to time, it may not be dropping to a lower gear causing the truck to feel a little sluggish. When this happens, push on the accelerator a bit harder and see if it drops into a lower gear giving you the acceleration you are looking for.
Q: I have a problem with a 1995 Mercedes Benz C280 with only 60,000 miles on it. This vehicle was driven sporadically, but now is needed every day.
In 2016, we started having problems with it. The car would start and — after driven a short distance and parked — wouldn’t restart. The engine wouldn’t turn over. No clicking or any other sounds. After waiting awhile, it would start and be driven home. This continually happened and created anxiety for anyone who drove the car.
We had the car checked by several different mechanics who performed a series of tests and replaced hundreds of dollars’ worth of parts. It still has the same problem. We also had the battery replaced which is dead now from sitting. Please help us to turn this into a usable vehicle.
A: As you have found out, these types of problems can be the most difficult to diagnose and repair. Some areas that can be an issue with this year and model are poor negative battery cable connections. A technician should measure voltage drop on the starter circuit with both a hot and cold engine.
The antitheft relay has also been known to be a problem as well as the ignition switch itself. I would suggest leaving the car with one repair shop, so there is no duplication of effort.
Q: This may be a stupid question, but I have seen you reference interference engines. What exactly is an interference engine?
A: The typical engine is a four-stroke design. An intake valve opens (intake stroke) and draws fuel and air into the combustion chamber and then the valves close as the piston compresses the mixture (compression stroke) and at the proper moment the sparkplug ignites the fuel mixture which drives the piston downward (power-stroke) and then the exhaust valve opens (exhaust stroke). This synchronization of moving parts — the camshaft, valves, crankshaft and pistons — is connected together with a timing belt, chain or gears.
An interference engine is one that — if something goes wrong (timing belt breaks or chain failure) and the timing is off — the pistons and valves can collide together causing catastrophic engine damage.
By the way, the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask!
Q: I have a older Honda motorcycle that I only ride in warm weather. The bike is 12 years old but only has 6,500 miles on it. The tires look fine, but I have seen you write that car tires last 6-10 years. What about motorcycle tires? Should I replace them?
A: If you have a blowout in a car it can be scary but generally controllable.
Having a blowout when there are only two tires in my opinion is much more dangerous.
If this was my motorcycle, I would replace the tires.
John Paul is the AAA Northeast Car Doctor. He has more than 40 years of experience in the automobile industry and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. Write to John Paul, The Car Doctor, at 110 Royal Little Drive, Providence, RI 02904. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Car Doctor” in the subject field. Follow him on Twitter @johnfpaul or on Facebook.
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