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you & your car

Mechanic with a wrenchAndreas Rodriguez/Getty Images/iStockphoto

There's a knocking noise in my 2003 Chevy Impala, and it got worse on a recent out-of-town trip. The engine starts right up and continues idling but the knocking is louder than before. I parked it and have started it a couple times but have not driven it back home yet. What could be the issue? Can it be an easy fix, at least enough to get the car back home? Courtney

That knocking noise could indeed be a terminal illness if it is a bearing, rod or piston-ring issue. After the engine has been off for a few minutes, check the oil level. If it is extremely low or does not even show on the stick, that may be your problem. Add oil to see if the knock goes away. If it does, the damage might have already been done. Without further knowledge of the exact sound or where it is coming from, the safe bet would be to have it towed to a reputable shop.

Pull points

My 2010 Corolla includes a handy ring-shaped pull point (it's perfect for those built-for-purpose tow ropes with the clip-on hooks) under the engine compartment that has been used a few times to pull the car out frontwards when stuck in the snow. I've cursed Toyota a few times though for not putting a pull point in the back. There's a plastic shield behind the front bumper that might get "scooped" off on a rearward pull, but I don't see why it isn't contoured to prevent that. Where are the best places to hook on to a vehicle if the manufacturer's build does not include a pull point? - Edward, Leduc, Alta.

It's been a tough winter for most Canadians, many having experienced the need to be pulled from a ditch or snowbank. However, hooks are not on any priority list for manufacturers. They add weight, cost and interrupt airflow and thus detract from all that time in the wind tunnel making the car slide through the air as effortlessly as possible. Vehicles that are imported often have tie-down hooks hidden behind access panels. Used to secure the vehicle on the carrier as they cross oceans, these can also be used for your purpose. But the biggest reason we don't have the hooks is because not enough people want or use them. Most people simply call a tow service.

Natural gas conversion

Is it possible to convert a Honda Civic natural-gas car from natural gas to gasoline? If so, what would the cost to be? - Martin

It can be done but the cost would be prohibitive. The biggest problem would be the need for a fuel tank to hold the gasoline and the necessary lines, fittings and electronic components.

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