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My Mazda Tribute 2003 is in good condition, with two previous owners and only 147,000 km. However, it suffers from a loss of power and a loud squealing noise when I accelerate...

Answered by CarsGuide · 16 May 2022

What you might find is that the loss of power and the squealing noise could be completely unrelated. In any case, a loss of power can be caused by any number of problems, so an electronic scan of the car would be the first move in diagnosing that problem.

You might be on the right track, meanwhile, in thinking that the squealing noise has something to do with the rubber drive-belts in the engine bay. These will often emit a high-pitched squeal if they get moisture on them. Typically, this will be coolant from a leaking water pump or a leaking radiator (both of which are located handily near the belts). Even though the belts may be perfectly tensioned, coolant leaking on to them is definitely capable of producing the noise you’re hearing.

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My manual Mitsubishi Triton 2004 V6 petrol 4WD is having trouble coming out of neutral and going into gear...

Answered by CarsGuide · 13 May 2022

In many cases like this, the clutch is the culprit. The problem appears as though it’s the gearbox at fault, but the reality is that it’s the clutch not releasing properly that is preventing you shifting gears cleanly and easily. When the clutch is either worn or out of adjustment, it can remain partly engaged even when your foot is fully on the clutch pedal. When that happens, the gears can be very difficult to select.

Try this: The next time a gear becomes hard to select, turn the engine off and try it again. If the gear suddenly slips into place easily, then you’re probably looking at a worn clutch or one that is out of adjustment. Poor adjustment can be the result of low clutch fluid levels (in a vehicle with a hydraulic clutch) or a cable or linkage that is poorly adjusted. Your vehicle has a hydraulic clutch, so a leak from either the master cylinder, slave cylinder or any of the plumbing could have allowed the fluid level to drop to the point where the clutch is no longer disengaging fully. This is precisely where I’d start looking in your case.

Remember, however, that while a worn clutch might be the most likely cause, that doesn’t rule out a problem with the transmission internally or a problem in the gear selector mechanism.

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I am considering both Volvo XC60 B5 Inscription or Lexus NX300h F-Sport. I am wondering which is more reliable and suitable for long-term value?

Answered by CarsGuide · 12 May 2022

Although both these cars are similar in many ways, there’s one area where they take difference philosophies. And that’s in the way their hybrid systems are configured and prioritised.

While the Lexus is more of a conventional hybrid with the electric motor doing a lot of the heavy lifting, the Volvo is what’s called a mild hybrid., As the name suggests, that means the electric power is limited to a 10kW boost when taking off or when the driver requires maximum acceleration.

A mild hybrid layout does still operate the stop-start function and can harvest energy when slowing down, so it’s still a worthwhile slice of tech, but it won’t affect fuel consumption as much as the Lexus’ full hybrid system.

Reliability is a bit of an unknown with any new car, but it’s fair to say that the Lexus’ reputation will count for something come trade-in time. Not to mention that, as the more hybrid-focussed of the pair, the Lexus might also be a little more future-proof.

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My vehicle was defected by police and I've decided to put it up for sale as an unregistered, defected car? Are there any issues here in terms of selling it?

Answered by CarsGuide · 11 May 2022

If you’re selling the car as an unregistered vehicle, you’d need to hand the number-plates in to Vicroads and cancel the registration. From there, the car’s roadworthiness is the responsibility of whoever buys it and attempts to register it.

The buyer will be required to fix whatever is wrong with the car (including the issues that got it defected) before it could be returned to the road legally, and that goes for any state or territory. An unregistered vehicle permit requires a declaration that the vehicle is safe to be driven, so that would rule out driving it before the issues have been fixed, too.

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My 2001 Ford Falcon is having trouble starting on a slope. Any idea why this could be happening?

Answered by CarsGuide · 10 May 2022

Presumably, you’re talking about a car that is having trouble getting moving from standstill while facing up a hill. This is the result of a lack of power but that lack could be down to a thousand things. You could be looking at an engine with a poor tune or even a transmission with a faulty torque converter that is not allowing the engine to rev up for take-off.

A lot of local cars of a similar age to yours also experience fuel pick-up problems. We’ve seen cases where a split fuel line inside the tank refuses to pick up fuel if the tank is about half full and parked on a hill. So try this experiment: Turn the car around 180 degrees and see if it’s just as reluctant to take off up the same hill in reverse. If the direction the car is facing is the key factor, you’re probably looking at a fuel pick-up issue.

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I have accidentally filled my fuel tank halfway with low grade petrol instead of high grade...

Answered by CarsGuide · 9 May 2022

It rather depends on the car in question, Lee. If the car is designed to run on high-octane ULP (95 RON or higher) then you risk damage by feeding it any other grade of fuel. If you wanted to be completely sure that no harm would come to your 98-RON burning engine, then draining the tank and refilling it with the appropriate fuel is the way to go.

In the real world, however, another vastly less messy and expensive option would be to fill the other half of the tank with the highest octane fuel you can find (preferably 98-RON) and then driving conservatively, avoiding high engine speeds or full-bore acceleration until you fill up completely with the right fuel next time. A modern car can often `sense’ what octane fuel is in it, and will adapt the engine to run on it without doing any damage. Some engines are designed to work most efficiently and make more power on a higher-octane fuel, but can cope with less octane if need be.

If your car is designed to run on 95 RON, but you’ve half filled it with 91 RON, filling the rest of the tank with 98 RON should just about take the overall octane rating back to where it needs to be. The required fuel octane should be listed on a sticker inside the filler flap or listed in the owner’s manual.

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My 2013 Ford Territory is currently in a Ford workshop as the command centre has failed and I need new parts...

Answered by CarsGuide · 6 May 2022

These units are well known for giving trouble including buttons not working right through to complete failure of the screen and unit. There are, however, companies that specialise in repairing these units and can replace the problem components to bring the unit back to life.

But even if you go with a second-hand unit from a wrecking yard, it should have been tested to ensure it’s working properly before it’s shipped to you. And if it doesn’t work, a reputable parts recycler will offer to replace it.

The problem you face of course, is what happens when the world’s supply of second-hand Territory commands centres dries up. Again, it shouldn’t be a problem as there are aftermarket units designed specifically to fit the Territory’s dashboard that are better quality, deliver better sound and often include features your car may not have such as Bluetooth and mobile-phone mirroring.

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I am looking for an auto transmission wagon or SUV, that tows at least 1500kg and does not have a CVT.

Answered by CarsGuide · 5 May 2022

While the CVT is enjoying a bit of a purple patch right now with many car-makers using it for its efficiency benefits, you’re not the only one, Gregg, that doesn’t want to own such a thing. The CVT’s history is littered with failures, although to be perfectly fair, they are a lot better now than they’ve ever been.

But even if you can accept their reliability track record, some owners will just never take to the CVT’s characteristics of allowing the engine to rev up and have the rest of the vehicle catch up. It can feel very alien and it’s hardly a sporty sensation, either.

With all that in mind, you probably should start looking at things like the two-wheel-drive versions of something like, say, the Toyota Kluger or Hyundai Santa Fe. Both are available in two-wheel-drive, both have conventional 8-speed automatic transmissions and both can haul a decent load (2000kg and 2500kg respectively). The Toyota even offers a hybrid driveline, but, sadly for buyers like you, that uses a CVT transmission.

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My water reservoir has engine oil globules in the coolant. Is this serious?

Answered by CarsGuide · 4 May 2022

Any time you have oil in the coolant (or vice-versa) you could be looking at an engine with a faulty cylinder-head gasket. Cross-contamination of the cooling and lubrication system suggests that the gasket has failed, allowing the two fluids to mix. Eventually, you’ll lose enough coolant (into the engine’s combustion chambers or oil system or both) to cause the engine to overheat. Or, you’ll have enough coolant find its way into the oil to dilute the oil and cause damage to the engine. Either way, it needs to be fixed and not allowed to deteriorate until the damage is irreversible.

Changing a head gasket is a fairly major job, particularly in modern engines with multiple overhead camshafts and all sorts of pollution controls fitted. But before you commit to this, there’s a workshop test called a TK Test that analyses the coolant for chemicals associated with the engine’s combustion process. If the test reveals these chemicals in the coolant, then you definitely have a gasket failure.

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With my 2019 LDV T60, I am getting very close to red in temperatures when towing a camper up any long hills. Do you think a different coolant or is a better fan needed?

Answered by CarsGuide · 3 May 2022

Coolants are pretty specific these days, and straying from the exact one the car’s manufacturer specifies can be asking for trouble. But the fact that the temperature settles a little when you travel more slowly and shift to a lower gear suggests that the whole cooling system is getting towards the limit of its capacity when you’re towing a big load uphill.

Going slower and using a lower gear all takes stress off the engine and, therefore, its cooling system. By using a lower gear, you’re effectively making the engine turn over a little faster which means both the coolant pump and the cooling fan (if it’s a belt-driven one) will both turn a little faster. That’s good for cooling. A lower gear also means you can maintain your speed with a little less throttle which means less fuel going into the engine and therefore less heat generated.

In the meantime, you can check things like the tension of the fan-belt and make sure that the coolant system doesn’t have any air trapped in it which can lead to overheating. Check, too, the condition of the coolant hoses, that the electric fan is cutting in when it should, there’s no debris blocking the radiator and that the radiator cap is holding pressure.

There’s another old-school trick that might make a difference next time: When the temperature starts to rise on the gauge, turn the car’s heater on full blast. This will make things a little toasty in the cabin, but it also means the coolant is now also passing through the heater core which, fundamentally, is an extra radiator.

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