Q. I followed my wife as she drove down the highway to Maine in her 2017 Toyota Camry last week. When she first hit the freeway, a gallon of water must have come out of the tailpipe. is this serious
A. When an internal combustion engine burns a gallon of gasoline, it makes almost a gallon of water. Generally, this water gets so hot that it disappears as steam. If your wife’s car is mainly driven short distances, the water collects in the silencer. As she accelerated on the freeway, the collected water was pushed out of the exhaust system. This is perfectly normal and also explains why muffler systems rust from the inside out.
Q. I have a 2002 Hyundai Elantra with a leaking crankshaft seal. The mechanic suspects that the engine has a problem. Right now he’s saying I might consider up to $2500 to fix the oil leak. Can you give me an advice?
A. There have been issues with thrust bearing wear on some Hyundai 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engines. When these bearings wear, or in some cases fail altogether, the crankshaft “walks” in the engine block, causing crankshaft seal leakage. Replacing the bearings is a big job and takes almost 13 hours. At the age of 20, it may make more sense to simply live with the oil leak.
Q. My check engine light came on and I had a diagnostic check and nothing was wrong. Since then, the light has come on once every two weeks. What should I do?
A. If the check engine light comes on, there is some problem. If the light is on, go back to the shop and have the car checked for a fault/error code. This code does not indicate the exact cause of the problem, but will guide the technician to the correct repair.
Q. EVs are always in the news and in fact now I don’t go a day without seeing an EV. But my question is when will we see real self-driving cars?
A. Self-driving cars are classified into different levels of autonomy from 0 to 5. At level 0 you have full control, level 1 is typically intelligent cruise control, level 2 has some steering assistance and at level 3 the car drives itself until it can’t and then the driver has to step in and take over. Level 4 is fully self-driving on certain roads and finally level 5 is fully self-driving on all roads and in fact the car may not have a steering wheel. Mercedes Benz is currently offering some Stage 3 vehicles in Europe and may be offering them in their new line of EQ electric vehicles here sometime next year.
Q. My car coolant and transmission fluid started to mix, causing my transmission to fill up with a yogurt-like substance. I think the head gaskets are blown, what is the best fix for this?
A. If it was a head gasket, there would be coolant in the oil and oil in the radiator. Your car has oil in the coolant and coolant in the transmission oil, which indicates that the transmission oil cooler has failed. The transmission cooler is part of the radiator. Depending on how long the fluids have been mixed together, the transmission may need to be overhauled and the cooling system completely flushed, hoses and thermostat replaced. Sometimes you get lucky and flush out the cooling system and transmission and everything works as intended.
Q. I always read your column, but now I would like your honest opinion. I have a 2003 Mazda Miata that I bought new. It has 115,000 miles and is well maintained and I love this car. However, I just paid $1200 to have a new brake line replaced, an axle seal leak repaired, and some other maintenance done. I’ve spent an average of $1000 a year on repairs for a few years, sometimes a little more. Friends say throw it away, it’s too small, it’s too old, I’m too old and it’s a money pit. The problem is about to buy a new Miata, there is nothing I like better. I like the simplicity of this car and how fun it is to drive. is that crazy My other car is a 2015 Lexus LS what do you think?
A. Repairing an old car is always cheaper than buying a new car. If the Miata is structurally sound (some Miatas can get very rusty), fairly reliable, and satisfies your needs, spending $1000 a year isn’t crazy. For many cars today, $1,000 would be two and three months of car payments. Although you’ll eventually have to consider a replacement if reliability becomes a bigger issue. Since you also own a very reliable Lexus, I’m voting to keep and fix the Miata. By the way, who says you’re too old to drive a Miata, certainly not me.
Q. Do you really send a personal repeat of every question you receive? I think you once wrote that there are no stupid questions. I have a few questions I want to send and I feel like they are too trivial.
A. Yes, I will try to answer every question. Readers, if you don’t hear from me in a few days, email me again. And like my fourth grade teacher said, the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask. Although just to prove the point, I think the original source of this statement is Confucius who said, “The man who asks a stupid question is a fool for a minute, the man who doesn’t ask a stupid question is a fool for life.” So reader, was it Confucius?
If you have a question about the car, email The Car Doctor for a personalized response. firstname.lastname@example.org