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BAD CLUTCH BEARING MAY CAUSE THAT ANNOYING ENGINE WHISTLE

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Dear Tom and Ray:

You're not going to believe this, but I can actually play "Jingle Bells" by tapping my gas pedal! My gas pedal seems to control an annoying whistle coming from the engine of my '78 Toyota Land Cruiser. Speeding, climbing hills and idling stops it. Depressing the clutch stops it, too. It happens any time, engine hot or cold, and it can disappear for days at a time only to return. Should I be shopping for a new car as a belated Christmas present or what? - Maura

RAY: It's not that dire, Maura, although the news is hardly what I'd call cheery. I think your clutch release bearing is on the way out. That would make a very rapid chirping sound - like "eeek, eeek, eeek" - which could easily be described as a whistling.

TOM: A bad clutch release bearing would change pitch as you accelerated and decelerated, and would also go away when you stepped on the clutch. Depending on how the internal bearings happen to be situated, the noise could even disappear entirely at times.

RAY: And the reason it's going bad is that either the clutch has been out of adjustment for a long time or you sit at traffic lights with your foot resting against the clutch pedal. So now you know how to keep this from happening to your next clutch.

TOM: But what should you do about this one? I'd say do nothing, Maura. If our diagnosis is correct, the "whistling" will eventually turn into a really horrible grinding noise. And at that point, even my brother would be able to say for certain what it is. But since there's a chance that it could be something simpler, like an exhaust rattle, I wouldn't mess around with it right now.

RAY: Actually, there is one thing you could do while you're waiting. You could start practicing some Easter songs - you know, "Hippity, Hoppity, Easter's on Its Way."

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1988 Dodge Caravan with a four-cylinder turbocharged engine. I read in the owner's manual that the warranty is void if you tow using a turbocharged engine. Why is the warranty voided? - John

RAY: Because it is a virtual certainty, John, that you would fry the turbo if you were towing something. The reason is that a turbo is meant to be used only occasionally. When you need a little extra power, you stomp on the gas and the turbo kicks in. Then after you've caught up to the garbage truck that passed you and you let off the gas a bit, the turbo shuts off and cools down until you need it again.

TOM: But if you were towing a trailer, the extra weight would require that you be stomping on the gas all the time. So that means the turbo would be running when? Right. All the time!

RAY: And turbos just aren't designed to run all the time. When you run them all the time, they fry.

TOM: That's why the warranty is voided, John. And by the way, the only reason they don't void the warranty for the non-turbocharged four-cylinder engine is because they know you won't be able to tow anything with it. You hook the trailer on the back and the thing just sits there, so there was no need for a towing disclaimer.