LCT’s resident car doctor, Bryan Baker, has been working on vehicles for most of his life. As a young boy, he started working on cars with his father. Baker has been a professional mechanic for almost 17 years, including three years as a mechanic for the United States Marine Corps.
In 1996, Baker started working on limousines for a local limo service in Huntsville, Ala. It wasn’t long before word got out that there was a local mechanic who was proficient with all types of limousines. Baker currently owns Classic Automotive & Limousine Service Center in Huntsville, Ala., and repairs limousines for at least seven local operators, including Starlight Limousine Service, the 2005 Operator of the Year Award winner for 1-10 Vehicles.
Baker receives numerous e-mail inquiries from LCT readers regarding mechanical problems. He volunteers his time to respond to each and every one of them. Here are a few recent Q-and-A’s:
Q: I have a 2003 Town Car that I purchased brand new from the dealer. It has been serviced to the “nines” from the day we brought it home. At 30,000 miles, the dealer did the recommended transmission service. At about 70,000 miles, our mechanic did a full service on the transmission, including dropping the pan, replacing the filter and replacing the fluid with Mercon V. I know he used the correct fluid because I brought it with me and I asked to see the pan when it was dropped. It had some shavings around the magnet in the pan, which I was told is normal.
Not long after the service, the transmission tended to shift a bit harder than usual. I brought this up to the mechanic and he said the transmission was probably shifting soft prior to the change and that I shouldn’t worry. About a week ago, the car jerked as if losing all power. I immediately let off the gas and the transmission felt as if it went back into gear smoothly. When I hit the gas it would speed up to about 35 mph and then the motor would rev up as in neutral and the car goes nowhere. I can drive it up to 70 mph when I accelerate slowly but if I hit the gas hard, it is non-responsive. I am wondering if the service was done incorrectly.
A: I would have the pan removed and check to see if the filter was installed correctly with the correct parts. It sounds like it is slipping due to low-line pressure caused by a filter leaking air into the pump. It is unusual for these transmissions to fail before reaching 150,000 miles. They are very good units, especially if they are serviced regularly.
Q: The hazard warning lights do not come on, but I can hear them when I press the brake pedal. The transmission lever will not engage (move from the parked position) unless the hazard button is activated. It then engages easier if you take your foot off the brake. What could be the problem?
A: It sounds as if you have a bad connection on the rear of the turn signal switch. I have seen many of these switches melt the connectors due to heat from a bad connection. If this is the case with yours, you will have to get a new connector from a salvage yard and solder it on as the replacement is not available from Ford. If you remove the shroud around the steering column and remove the switch, you should be able to see any damage.
Q: I have a 1994 six-passenger Lincoln limousine. Occasionally, after the car sits in heavy rain, a wet spot appears in the ceiling just behind the divider. The vehicle has a full vinyl top and a sunroof. I can’t find any problems with the vinyl, and I have even sealed up the sunroof with a high-grade silicone. What am I missing?
A: Anytime there is a hole in the roof, you have the chance of water getting in. I bet the water source is from the sunroof. Remove the silicone and open the roof. You will find drain tubes on either side that you can blow out with air. They are probably just clogged. When you reclose the sunroof, and are not planning on opening it again, I would use a windshield urethane product to seal the rubber around the roof. Silicone doesn’t stick to rubber very well and it will actually help water intrude.
Q: I have a problem with a 2003 limousine. The battery light comes on right after I start the car. I have changed the alternator and it made no difference. The car has a secondary alternator and battery but I am sure these are not linked to the problem.
A: You didn’t say what type of car it is, but the dual alternators are a help. I have seen coachbuilders tie the indicator light on the dash to both alternators, so either one can turn the light on. The way to check this is to run the car with the light on, disconnect the plug from each alternator (one, then the other, then both) and see when the light goes off. It is possible that the secondary alternator is bad and making the light come on. I have also seen loose pins on the alternator field connector make intermittent contact and make the light come on and off.