Figuring out oil filters

The Filter Manufacturers Council says many aftermarket oil filters exceed standards (Volkswagen of America photo / October 16, 2013)

Q: The check engine light came on in my 2009 Ford Explorer with 51,000 miles and the local dealer diagnosed it as a cam position sensor problem. The engine would randomly begin to sound like a diesel and begin to miss and shudder then almost stall out. After just a few minutes it would run perfectly. The technician suggested one potential cause was result of using third-party (Jiffy Lube) aftermarket oil filters. He said (these) filters restrict oil flow, which possibly can affect the cam sensors, etc. He noted that if using Motorcraft brand, this would not happen. What is your opinion of these aftermarket oil filters, specifically the brand that Jiffy Lube uses for the oil changes?

— E.B., Lincolnshire, Ill.

A: I posed your question to the Filter Manufacturers Council (FMC) which is comprised of just about every company making automotive filters. The Council issued this comment: "While the FMC cannot comment directly on the filter in question without inspecting and testing it, the Council can state that a filter which meets original equipment specifications is a valid filter. ... many automotive aftermarket replacement filters not only meet, but exceed OEM standards." For information about replacement filters, visit filtercouncil.org.

Q: I purchased a 2011 Chevy Equinox with the 4-cylinder engine. There is no way I can change the oil going by the oil monitor. At 35 percent of the oil life, 5,000 miles, the motor is hammering like a diesel. Once the oil is changed, the motor is so quiet that it's hard to hear it running. I use 5W-30 Mobil 1. My service adviser told me to change the oil using the mileage and not the oil monitor.

— J.H., Bangor, Pa.

A: Whatever floats your boat, er SUV. Frequent oil changes are certainly not a bad thing. But we would remind you to keep an eye, or an ear, on the noise and try to tell where it is coming from. Chevy has had some issue with camshaft actuators. Mention it to your dealer the next time you take it in.

Q: I recently purchased four new tires and new front struts for my 2010 Camry. Now every time I go up or down a curb or other small change in elevation (railroad tracks, street depressions at intersections, etc.), I hear what appears to be squeaky rubber sounds from both front axles. I have had the sounds checked by both the original installer (NTB) and an independent mechanic and neither could find any issue with the strut installation. Any thoughts?

— N.F., Chicago

A: The noise may, or may not, be related to the new struts. Two diagnostic techniques come to mind. The high-tech solution is to attach a device called Chassis Ears under the car to home in on the source of the noise. The low-tech method is to spray the various rubber bushings and spring seats with silicone — never oil — to see if the noise goes away. Worn bushings are the most common cause.

Q: I have a black 2013 Nissan Murano SL. My issue is the clear coat on this vehicle scratches so easily and shows swirl marks and water spots. I can take my fingernail across it and it scratches. I have to wax it each time to make it look decent. Scratch remover dulls the finish. The car is under warranty but doubt Nissan would do anything about it.

— R.R. Grayslake, Ill.

A: Black is beautiful, but it shows every scratch no matter how minor. Regular waxing, as you have discovered, is about all you can do to keep it looking good. If you have not tried any of the newer synthetic waxes, we urge you to give them a shot. We suggest you try Mequiare's Scratch-X to remove minor scratches. Then protect the paint with a synthetic such as 3M Performance Finish Synthetic Wax, Turtle Wax Ice or Meguiar's Ultimate Synthetic Polymer Liquid Wax.

Q: I own a 2007 Toyota RAV-4, 2.4-liter automatic. It's using what I would call an exorbitant amount of engine oil, about a quart every 1,200 miles. I have seen a service bulletin on certain RAV-4 engines (my engine serial number is within this group) addressing this issue. It seems the problem stems from manufacturing the engine with oil ring grooves on the pistons that were too tight. My Toyota has 90,000 plus miles on it and has been serviced exclusively by Toyota dealerships. Right now the vehicle is on an "oil usage watch." They say I might have to pay "something" for repairs. Does Toyota have a history of going beyond the warranty limit in this area? My 2001 Tundra got a new frame by Toyota after 156,000 miles after a hole was discovered in the frame's cross member. I'm very happy with that! I hope they do the same with the RAV-4.

— D.R., New Britain, Conn.

A: We can't speak for Toyota, but we have seen instances where the company will make "good will" repairs on vehicles out of warranty. This could be the case on your RAV-4 since you were diligent in servicing it and it is on the watch list. Discuss it with your dealer service manager or general manager.

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