PT Cruiser's brake light may be set off by fluid shift

Whenever I accelerate, except very slowly, the emergency brake light on the instrument panel comes on.

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Q I have a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser GT, with a 2.4-litre, 220 hp turbo four.

Whenever I accelerate, except very slowly, the emergency brake light on the instrument panel comes on.

It goes off when I ease off on the gas.

This situation also happens when I go in reverse.

The chime indicator will sound if I am especially heavy-footed.

The problem first appeared at about 60,000 km; the PT now has 87,000 km.

The emergency brake works fine.


Bill Restivo, Port Perry



A Technician Tom Zekveld replies:


Your problem may be as simple as a low brake fluid level in the brake master cylinder.

The master cylinder has a level sensor. When you accelerate briskly, the brake fluid will move, causing the sensor to fluctuate.

If the level is low, but just above the threshold, the low fluid light may come on momentarily, due to fluid moving in the reservoir from brisk acceleration.

As for the chime, your owner’s manual should specify what conditions will activate it. Correcting the brake fluid level may be the remedy.

A word of caution: brake warning lights come on for a reason and should not be ignored.

Have your Cruiser’s brake system inspected as soon as possible.

A rule of thumb to follow: if an instrument panel warning light is red, have the system checked immediately.

If the light is orange, amber or yellow, a slight delay for the sake of convenience is generally okay.

Q My 1999 Honda Civic SE sedan, with a 1.6-litre four (179,000 km), runs fine for short distances.

But if I drive for more than 30 minutes, a crushing sort of noise occurs in stop-and-go conditions.

The noise is only apparent when I press the gas pedal. It disappears when the Honda is moving.

I’ve had engine mount replaced and the transmission oil changed (the transmission mount is okay).

A mechanic said a rebuilt transmission might solve the problem. What do you think?


Dannis Auyeung, Scarborough



A Technician Tony Prochilo replies:

Have your Civic inspected at a repair facility with a drive-on vehicle lift before any major repairs are performed.

This will allow a technician to inspect the car’s underside with a helper in the driver’s seat trying to duplicate the noise.

The helper can carefully push the accelerator, with the brakes applied, until the noise occurs.

This crushing sound may be as simple as a loose or damaged heat shield or may be as serious as engine detonation.

In either case, be certain the technician verifies your complaint under the conditions you have described. This will ensure a correct diagnosis and prevent needless repairs.

Q I had the gas lines of my 1988 Porsche 994S (136,000 km) pressure-checked because of a gas smell behind the car.

Fuel consumption is normal. The technician found no leaks, but suggested that the “gas canister” perhaps was defective. I had the canister changed.

But now when I open my garage door in the morning, I detect a faint smell of burned gas, which quickly dissipates.

Should I be worried?


Roshan Hanief, Shelburne



A Technician David Gerson replies:

It doesn’t take much of a gas leak to be noticeable, especially when a car is parked in a garage.

As the inspection turned up no visible leaks, the most likely cause of the smell is one or more of the fuel injectors leaking externally when the engine is switched off.

It’s worth looking into before a potential fire and/or health hazard looms.

This fault may only occur at a specific engine temperature, so a thorough inspection simulating all conditions is required.

Nuts and Bolts


INTO THE SUNSET: Ted Nemoy of Thornhill wants information on the fate of Chevrolet’s innovative SSR roadster-pickup, which arrived for model year 2003 and met its end last spring.

The big, retro-styled two-seater started life with a 300-horse, 5.3-litre V8 driving the rear wheels.

For 2005, the SSR moved up to a 390 hp 6.0-litre V8. Base price at its demise had fallen to $49,995 from $69,995.

See: Chev SSR roadster-pickup killed; Retro rod never met sales hopes (AutoNews, March 25, 2006, page G4).

Any library stocking the Star can provide the story.

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