Q: I have a 2006 Dodge Dakota that has a whirring nose that appears to be coming from the gas tank area. One mechanic diagnosed the problem as a bearing in the differential. He replaced all parts but the noise was still there. A very reputable transmission company diagnosed the problem as trouble in the overdrive and totally rebuilt the transmission with all new parts. After I spent $4,000, the noise is still there. A mechanic friend said that it was something in the fuel pump. He had that same type of noise in his Dodge Dakota. He replaced the fuel pump in his truck. Problem solved. Do you think that the fuel pump is the problem? The transmission company volunteered to install a new fuel pump for free, but I would have to pay for the pump. I am OK with that, but I felt that I need one more person to help me out.

A: I always cringe when I read questions like this. It appears a dartboard approach failed — at great expense! Since the noise doesn't affect drivability or reliability at this point, I would have suggested you apply the "KISS" principle — diagnose and confirm the problem before spending any money.

The noise could very well be coming from the fuel pump. In most cases, you can hear this by just turning on the key in a quiet environment and listening to the pump run for a few seconds. And with the vehicle running and in park, a mechanic's stethoscope should be able to pick up the whine from the pump inside the fuel tank. Another symptom is the fuel pump drawing significantly more amperage than it should.

The key here is that a loud fuel pump should be audible with the vehicle stationary, while most transmission noises are heard while driving. I'm sorry for the expenses you've incurred, but if the noise is coming from the fuel pump, take the shop's offer of free labor.


I recently received this wonderful letter from Harold Swanson.

"I have a 1997 Saturn SL with 240,000 miles. I get 34 mpg and about 175 miles to a quart of oil. I can't find a new car that has the things that I want and have grown accustomed to. Here is a list of my wants.

— Glass headlights — why should I polish plastic?

—Be able to see, touch and change spark plugs and wires in less than two hours.

—See and fill engine fluids.

—A radiator cap.

—A large horn button in the middle of the steering wheel.

—A door sill in which I can knock the snow off of my shoes without damaging the soft plastic body.

Does a new car exist that has the things I want? Is this too much to ask? I saw a 1971 Maverick for sale with 6,014 miles — it probably has the features I want. I've had a used '48 Plymouth for almost 46 years, a new '97 Saturn for 17 years and a used '06 Pontiac for eight years — and you thought YOU were frugal."

I am "snug," which means frugal with speed, style and durability! I've owned and driven my '70 Corvette for 43 years and I have a '47 Willys CJ2A and a '52 Willys M38 military Jeep.

A: I've found the perfect new vehicle for you, Harold. It has all the features you're looking for, plus more — huge glass greenhouse for great visibility, massive towing capacity, diesel engine for good mileage (and no spark plugs), incredible durability and on-board sleeping quarters!

Yep, a new semi-tractor from International, Kenworth, Peterbilt, Freightliner, Mack or Volvo. Not the easiest to parallel-park, but then again big enough to create its own parking spot if necessary.

Do any readers have suggestions for new vehicles that meet Harold's requirements?



Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., 55488 or via email at paulbrand@startribune.com. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.


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