Q: The antilock brakes (ABS) on my 2003 Camry sometimes pulsate when I'm slowing to a stop on dry pavement. It happens when I'm just short of stopping, never when going the speed limit. The Toyota mechanic test drove it, and of course, it did not malfunction then. He said they could not diagnose the problem unless the ABS light is lit, but not to worry. The brakes are hydraulic, and the ABS is electronic, so the brakes will continue to stop the car even if the ABS isn't working properly. Is it OK not to be concerned?
A: There is no need for concern. All cars have hydraulic brakes that have been essentially the same for decades. The antilock brake system is an adjunct. If it fails, the regular brakes continue to function normally. If the ABS kicks in just before coming to a stop, it usually is caused by a weak signal from one or more sensors. This doesn't always trigger a warning light. Replacing the sensor — or sensors — will not bankrupt you.
Less is more
Q: With the prevalence of catalytic converter theft, it occurred to me that if the thieves can't sell a catalytic converter, stealing the whole car is the next option.
A: While I see the logic behind your argument, these catalytic converter burglars are only after a quick buck, not a whole car.
Oil pressure issue
Q: I have a 2004 Mercury Sable with a 3.0-liter V-6 engine and about 140,000 miles. In the past, I have used Motorcraft SAE 5W-20 synthetic blend oil. Over the summer I had problems with the engine shutting off when driven for 20 or 30 miles. The low oil pressure warning came on. After the engine had cooled for several minutes, it could be restarted. The Ford dealer found the oil pressure was only about 8 psi and said the engine might need to be replaced or rebuilt. One mechanic suggested using a motor oil with a higher viscosity. Do you have any suggestions how to correct it without replacing or rebuilding the engine?
A: It's worth a try to use a heavier-weight traditional motor oil, but the issue might be caused by wear inside the engine. Another possibility is a worn oil pump or restricted pickup tube screen. A rebuilt short block might be in your future.
You're daft to draft
Q: The reader who wrote about drafting behind vehicles on the road must be about two bricks short of a load. Not only is that very dangerous, as you pointed out, but following too close is illegal. I just hope that moron isn't a resident of Orlando, because that's where I live, and we have enough nuts driving around here as it is.
A: A loose nut is never good, but there's nothing quite as dangerous as when that loose nut is behind the wheel.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to email@example.com.