Q: I drive an '89 Toyota pickup with the 22RE engine and manual transmission. The truck has many more than 100,000 miles on it, but the odometer was broken when I bought it, so I don't know the exact mileage. The thing that's bothering me is the engine makes a lot of ticking noises and it's starting to get on my nerves. I'm also worried that the ticking is a warning of future engine trouble.
The ticking gets louder and softer, depending on how fast I'm going. The engine definitely isn't knocking. It doesn't continue to run after I shut it off. It doesn't matter if I use regular or premium gas, and going up or down hills doesn't seem to matter, either.
Is this ticking noise something I should be worried about, and if so, what can I do about it? Thank you.
Jon Greivell, via e-mail
A: It seems to us that many car and truck enthusiasts are handicapped by their attention to sounds and smells emanating from their vehicles. People who think of vehicles as appliances are more apt to go on driving while obsessing over unusual sounds. We rationalize our paranoia by thinking we can spot problems before they become full-blown disasters.
Ticking noises can be caused by a variety of engine components. It can be difficult to isolate noises because they can travel. And noises aren't always the same when the truck is stationary compared with when it's moving.
As for your truck, it sounds likely that the problem is with the electronic fuel injection system. The opening and closing of injectors can make a ticking noise in any engine, and your truck has a reputation for noisy injectors. A common description of injector noise is that it's similar to tapping the point of a lead pencil on a desktop.
Given your truck's high mileage, it wouldn't hurt to have the injectors professionally cleaned. Ask the guys at the shop if they think the ticking is coming from the injectors.
Q: I'm having trouble with the heater on my '86 Ford F-250 pickup. The trouble is that it doesn't work well when it's cold out. I haven't tried it during hot weather, since I don't usually require heat then.
Whenever it's cold enough for the heater to not work, chances are excellent that the turn signals don't work or barely work, too. Is there any reason these two problems could be connected? Or is it just a coincidence?
I've checked out things such as fuses and light bulbs, and they've all been fine. I've replaced fuses anyway, and the problems still exist. I've checked for loose wires and corrosion in the light bulb sockets. I installed a new thermostat. I looked for leaves or other debris that might be blocking part of the heater and fan, but everything was OK. The blower will occasionally work, so I don't think that's the whole problem, but maybe there is some intermittent problem with the blower.
I don't want to remove and replace the heater, but I'd like some heat. Are there other things I can check? Do you think the heater and turn signals are separate problems? Your advice would be most appreciated.
John Ellis, Fargo, North Dakota
A: We think your problem is most likely a poor or faulty ground connection. A bad electrical ground can cause the problems you describe, and the heater and turn signals share a common ground on your truck.
Besides a common ground, the common factor with cold weather is increased resistance. Cold weather has a negative effect on resistance levels in an electrical system.
Check a shop manual to identify the ground location, although it should be under the dashboard on your truck. When you find the ground, we're willing to bet that you'll find corrosion or a loose wire. Clean the terminal (or splice in a new one if necessary) and the area where it contacts metal. A new screw is always good.
If the common ground doesn't cure both problems, then there are most likely two separate problems. Again, we'd suspect wiring problems, so trace the circuits and look for problems such as frayed or broken wires, loose connections, or missing insulation. When checking for damaged wires, remember to pay close attention to the undersides and any areas that might rub against metal or sharp objects.