Car Doctor: High-pitched noise, ABS and automatic gearbox

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Indy Lifestyle Online

My 1995 Rover 416i makes a high-pitched noise when starting from cold. It slowly increases and decreases in volume before disappearing. The noise only returns when the engine has cooled down. It is difficult to trace where the noise is coming from. My garage replaced the belt tensioner on the power-steering pump; this cost more than £100 and did not cure the noise.

My 1995 Rover 416i makes a high-pitched noise when starting from cold. It slowly increases and decreases in volume before disappearing. The noise only returns when the engine has cooled down. It is difficult to trace where the noise is coming from. My garage replaced the belt tensioner on the power-steering pump; this cost more than £100 and did not cure the noise.

Maurice Doe, by e-mail

Without hearing the noise, it is difficult to know what the problem is. It is good that the noise goes away when the engine heats up. Noise from the top of the engine is usually related to the camshaft or valves. The suggestion is that oil is not circulating well initially, so the camshaft could be worn. Depending on how the car has been maintained, at 10 years old it may need a top-end overhaul.

The ABS warning light on my S-reg VW Passat is permanently on. I have had the car fully serviced and worn brake parts replaced. I have been told that a new ABS ECU will cost more than £800 and this may not solve the problem. I have been told that the car may fail its MOT because of this.

Peter Crossley, by e-mail

According to the official MOT instructions, ABS systems are only checked to see if the warning light is fitted, lights when needed, shows the correct sequence (using a wall chart/data book for the particular manufacturer) and does not indicate a fault at the time of test. So it is only the operation of the light that is tested and this seems fine. Often we hear that it is electrical connections that need checking and cleaning and this could help. Ultimately though, and after consulting with Volkswagen about this, you will have to visit a main dealer to take a proper fault code reading. There is no way around this, unfortunately.

When I engage "drive" on my 1997 Ford Escort automatic and the engine is cold the car leaps forward and can only be controlled by keeping the brake fully depressed until it has calmed down. Ford dealers and gearbox specialists have told me this is a design fault.

Mrs S Williams, Bournemouth

The Ford Escort handbook does say that drivers should apply the foot brake before engaging gear. Indeed you should do that with any automatic transmission car. It should also be noted that a cold engine will run at higher revs and so engaging any gear will make the car jerk.

* Write to Car Doctor, Features, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, or e-mail cardoctor@independent.co.uk

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