Jim Grant's Tech Tips
'98 Mercury Sable, Loss of Power in Wet Weather
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.
first suggest an inspection of the automatic belt tensioner and heres
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.