How Often Should You Rotate and Balance Tires?

tomtThis weekly feature for Warranty Direct about car repair and maintenance is written by Tom Torbjornsen, the popular host of America’s Car Show on satellite radio. Below are some recent Q&A from the America’s Car Show email bag.

Dear Tom,
I own a 2000 For Taurus with only 18,600 miles on it and it’s in excellent condition. I took it into my tire dealer to have the tires rotated for a third time and to have a four-wheel alignment for the second time. They tried to sell me a full four-wheel tire rebalancing. In all the years I have owned cars I have only once had a tire rebalanced because I felt a vibration. Am I right or should I have all four tires rebalanced more often?
George from Atlanta, GA

Rubber wears off the carcass as tires roll down the road. When the tires were originally balanced, they were balanced based on the rubber mass at the time the job was done. Now, 18,600 miles later, the overall rubber mass has changed and thus the trueness of the balance. Based on these facts, I recommend rotating and re-balancing tires every 6 months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first. A lot of tire shops offer lifetime rotation and balance service, so you only have to pay for the job one time. I know Goodyear offers this deal. Perhaps there is another shop in your area that does as well. It’s worth it.

Dear Tom,
How do I go about bleeding the clutch on my ‘97 Integra? I was told it is on the left side behind the radiator. I am not sure what I am looking for and how much fluid is required. It seems to have air in the line.
Jim from Osceola, FL

A question like this indicates that you are way over your head on this repair. You may want to consider that before proceeding, because it could cost you more in the long run. The clutch bleed screw for the clutch slave cylinder is located on the cylinder (on the bell housing where the clutch cable attaches to the clutch fork). Since this is a front wheel drive vehicle, the slave cylinder should be located towards the firewall. There was a TSB (Technical Service Bulletin) for clutch fluid leakage from the clutch master cylinder on this model vehicle, which would account for the air in the line. Check the brake pedal for brake fluid leakage. If it’s wet, the clutch master cylinder has to be replaced too. The clutch slave cylinder is bled just like brakes. Pump until the pedal gets hard again, hold it down and crack the bleeder screw, and bleed until clear fluid flows out of the cylinder and the pedal is hard. Good luck.

Dear Tom,
The horn on my ‘97 Dodge Caravan doesn’t work. Is there a fuse for this problem?
Louis from Lewiston, NY

The horn circuit on your vehicle consists of a switch, relay, wiring, horns, and a 20 AMP fuse in the fuse box. Start with the fuse; check your owner’s manual to find its location. Then check it to see if the fuse is blown. If it is, replace it and all should be well providing you don’t have a short in the system. If the fuse blows immediately, then there’s a short in the system that has to be traced. If the fuse is good, then the problem could be a faulty electrical component, wire, power or ground connection. In addition, a bad clock spring can cause loss of power to the horn. It’s an electrical connector with a metal spring design. The clock spring transfers electrical power from the bottom half of the column to the top half where the horn is located. Chrysler issued a recall on this because it also affects the air bag. Check to see if the recall has been done on your vehicle. If not, have it done and this should restore the horn.

Dear Tom,
My father owns a 2002 Lexus ES300 and he’s had the battery replace three times. I have had to jump the car multiple times throughout the year. During the winter the car often sits outside unused for days and weeks at a time. Is the dealer’s service department missing something? I’m under the impression that the battery goes dead because of lack of use. Is this accurate?
Marsha from Toronto, Canada

Yes, the dealer is missing something. It’s called a parasitic electrical draw that draws on the battery while the car sits. How do you check for this condition? Hook a voltmeter to the battery and monitor voltage while disconnecting one circuit at a time. When the voltage drops, you have found the faulty circuit. Next you have to trace the circuit until you find the shorted wire or component. Talk to the dealer service manager and ask him to run this test. Best to you.

Dear Tom,
Recently, I had a four-wheel alignment done on my ‘92 Lexus SC400. The car still doesn’t track well. The tech says that the car veers in the direction of the road pavement. When you over steer to correct it, the steering returns back to the veering direction. He thought that the suspension looked okay, and that there might be something wrong with the power steering. However, it seems that the power steering works fine, but the steering wheel will not hold steady no matter how flat and straight the roadway. Can you suggest a cheap fix?
Stan from Bordentown, NJ

Yes, I can suggest a fix albeit I don’t know how “cheap” it will be. The wandering could be a loose rack internally, loose rack mounts, loose tie rods, cradle mounts, low tire pressure, worn rag joint at the rack, or worn u-joint in the steering coupler between the rack and steering wheel. Someone is not doing his job to diagnose the problem. Find another shop that’s competent. They should be able find out why your vehicle has wanderlust whilst tooling down the road.

‘Til next time…Keep Rollin’

For more articles by Tom Torbjornsen, visit AMERICA’S CAR SHOW web site:

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Filed under: Americas Car Show, Driving Tips, Vehicle Maintenance, Vehicle repairs, Warranty Direct, Wear and Tear

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