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Auto mechanic fixing vehicle (Thinkstock Images/Getty Images)
Auto mechanic fixing vehicle (Thinkstock Images/Getty Images)

You & Your Car

Q&A: Answers to your questions about recalls and catastrophic missed oil changes Add to ...

I have a 2011 Ford Fusion and received a Ford service bulletin informing me that there is a potential throttle body problem that can cause the vehicle to suddenly and unexpectedly lose power. Instead of issuing a recall, Ford has instituted Customer Satisfaction Program 13N03 which extends the warranty on the throttle body. How likely is this problem to occur? – Patrick

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Ford says “the issue will not prevent the vehicle from operating, and the potential for it recurring is very low.” It says if it occurs again, a warning light will activate – at which point you are encouraged to have it repaired as soon as possible. Ford says it has provided extended coverage for this issue to 10 years or 240,000 kilometres, “whichever comes first.” The reason there has not been a recall is that it is not deemed to be safety related. The problem is believed to be caused by tiny deposits in the throttle body caused by lower quality fuel. Of course, this gets into another entire legal area involving not only Ford, but a myriad of fuel suppliers, most of which are blameless. If the problem occurs, the engine goes into what is known in the industry as “limp home” mode by which it operates under sharply reduced power. This occurs when sensors detect an engine problem and enables the driver to get the vehicle safely off the road while preventing further engine damage. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Association investigated the issue but did not order a recall. I would recommend avoiding bargain fuel outlets and instead use top tier gasoline from name brands, known to contain additives that attack deposits of this nature. Ford says another source of the deposits may be “the progressive build-up of deposits from the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system.” It issued an updated powertrain control calibration to address this issue.

BLOWN ENGINE

I purchased a 2013 Ford Escape and have put 35,000 km on it since December, 2012. I’m 23 years old, and not being mechanically inclined, I figured a new vehicle would be best, with everything under warranty and computer warnings for little reminders. I regularly check to make sure that it still has oil in it and, as long as it is close to full, I consider that I’m doing my due diligence. I do a lot of highway driving, not a lot of stops and starts, so I believed I could hold out longer for oil changes. On Feb. 4, my truck broke down and when I got it towed in I learned that my engine was shot. The cam shaft seized and caused what they called “catastrophic damage” to my engine. Since I did not get any “regular scheduled maintenance” performed, it was not covered under warranty and would cost $13,000 to get a new engine. I usually get oil changes annually and never had issues with my previous vehicle, a 1996 Ford Ranger. Is it not odd for such a new vehicle to have such severe engine problems this early? – Mike

Lubrication is the single most important issue with the internal combustion engine. Not only does the oil provide a smooth interaction between metal surfaces, it provides a cooling function as well. Manufacturers set oil change interval recommendations based on extensive testing. Failure to follow those recommendations – for whatever reason – is a common cause of engine failure. You do not say how often or by how much you missed the change interval, but I am afraid you don’t have a leg to stand on. Mileage or age has little to do with it, lack of lubrication could cause failure at any point.

TREACHEROUS DRIVING

We drove for three hours on the highway during a snowstorm, and our 2013 Crosstrek handled admirably. We stopped off in Montreal, picked up our children – two young adults – and headed back for another two-and-a-half hour trek on the highway. After 45 minutes, the car became barely controllable. It floated, as if driving on black ice, all the way to our destination. At first, I could drive up to 90 km/h, but then had to slow down to 80 and, even at that speed, it was a struggle. I had to constantly counter-steer to keep going straight. Then, 90 minutes into the drive, the problem disappeared. – Luis

I am not aware of any proven (verified by a qualified independent testing organization) incidence of this problem. There are a number of factors that could be involved, including tires (improper, wrong pressure), alignment, amount of weight in cargo area and/or distribution of weight, snow build-up of some sort, mileage and condition of suspension components like shocks and springs.

OIL ISSUE

I just bought a 1996 BMW 318si and I don’t know whether there is synthetic or conventional oil in there. I’m overdue for an oil change. I just bought five litres of 10w30 conventional for $16. Synthetic is going for $50. What do you recommend? – Brett

What does your owner’s manual/manufacturer advise? BMW knows what works best. Synthetic is probably best but with an older engine that has been run on conventional oil. There may be some leakage issues as the “slippier” oil sneaks past some gaskets and seals. This is not a place to save money.

If you have questions about driving or car maintenance, please contact our experts at globedrive@globeandmail.com.

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