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Below is a collection of Jim Grant's Tech Tips sorted by Vehicle Make. These Tech Tips were answers to questions submitted to Jim by ALLDATAdiy.com users over the course of many years.
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  Jim Grant's Tech Tips

'98 Mercury Sable, Loss of Power in Wet Weather

Q: I am a 60-year-old widow with a ‘98 Mercury Sable. If the weather is raining or wet, I am afraid to drive the car. I will start the car, pull from the driveway, and go down the wet road. I can be going straight or attempt to turn. The steering begins to lock up, the car almost goes dead, the engine light comes on and something squeals. The steering is so tight I can hardly steer (engine dying I guess). The brakes make noise also. I thought maybe it was the brakes. Now I think maybe the transmission. All I know is that it is a very dangerous situation. I have had the Mercury dealership look at it, plus two other places. Of course, it doesn't show up for them. I'm a prisoner in my home on rainy days.

- Annette B.

A: I would first suggest an inspection of the automatic belt tensioner and here’s my reasoning. The squeal you mentioned along with a loss of power steering may indicate that the serpentine/fan belt is slipping. It is not uncommon for the automatic belt tensioner to stick due to corrosion and rust. When this happens the tension on the belt is not held correctly. Why would rainy days be a factor? The rain/moisture can get on the belt and pulleys and cause the belt to slip. When the belt slips the power steering will become stiff and hard to turn, a belt squeal could occur as well as the belt tries to drive the power steering pump, alternator, A/C compressor, etc.. If the belt slips enough it can cause the alternator to stop charging resulting in a dash warning light being illuminated. Also beware of the human factor. Serpentine belts come in many sizes. If the belt has been replaced it is possible that it is the wrong size. It only takes a belt that is a little larger/longer to cause the automatic tensioner to be out of its range of control, resulting in slippage.

 
     
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