Saturday, March 1, 2008

Skidding into the Taillight Zone:

When you are in your car, do you hear noises that nobody else hears? If so, you might be stuck in an alternate automotive dimension, known as the Taillight Zone, where noises are not what they seem to be.

It’s been a long day at work. The only thing on your mind as you put your car keys in the ignition is getting home, eating dinner and relaxing. You turn the key, just like you have done hundreds of times in the past, yet today is different. A loud high pitched squealing sound jars you back to the reality of you and your vehicle sitting in the company parking lot. You immediately shut the motor off and look around hoping that horrid noise was coming from somebody else’s car. You gingerly turn the key and the motor literally starts screaming at you. You shut the car off and call for a tow truck. An hour goes by before the tow truck pulls into the parking lot and out hops a rather large man with the name ‘Bubba’ on his shirt. Your vehicle is hooked up to the tow truck and you two are off to the auto repair shop. You get to the auto shop just as the technician is about to leave for the evening. You tell him your story as Bubba unloads the car. The technician wanders over to the vehicle and turns the key. The motor starts right up without that horrid sound. What the heck is going on? After several tries the car is still starting up normally. The tow truck driver is looking at you as if you’re crazy, while you’re paying him. “Really, it was making a loud noise,” you exclaim. You decide to drive the car home. By the time you arrive home your dinner is cold and you are too up-tight to relax, so it’s off to bed.

It’s a beautiful day as you walk out to your car. The drama of last night has been all but forgotten as you turn the ignition key. Screeching comes from somewhere under the hood. The towing company is called again, and the car is headed back to the auto shop. You call your boss and explain why you’re going to be late to work. Upon arrival at the auto shop, last nights scene is re-played as the technician starts up the vehicle with no problems. Argh! Either your car is trying to push you over the edge, or you have entered that dreaded parallel universe, known as the Taillight Zone. Two days later, the auto repair shop calls you with the news that, after many tries, the technician was finally able to duplicate the noise. It turns out that the water pump bearings make a loud noise only on very cold start-ups, after the vehicle has not been used for over 8 hours. The technician replaces the water pump and the noise is gone.
Congratulations! You have successfully accelerated out of the Taillight Zone.

To be able to properly diagnose a noise from a vehicle, it is important to duplicate the exact conditions under which the noise occurs. If the noise is usually heard after the vehicle has been sitting all day or night, or when left outside in the cold, the same condition needs to be replicated by the technician. If perhaps it only happens when driving 65 mph on the freeway, the technician will have to take a test drive on the freeway to be able to duplicate the noise. Sometimes, there is more than one noise coming from a vehicle. To avoid having the technician spend a lot of time tracking down and repairing a different noise, it is best to either show the technician or take him for a test drive to make sure he hears the same noise you do.
Noises can be tricky to hear and isolate. Be prepared to leave you vehicle for a couple of days.

We have a special edition coming your way with Lightning McQueen and the whole gang from Radiator Springs.

I hope this article helps you. I am Ken Levine the owner of Ken’s Quality Auto Repair in Thousand Oaks, where we specialize in Lexus and Toyota vehicles. If you have any car questions, please e-mail me at, visit or call 805-494-4344

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