Feel free to tip me­chanic who did great work

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Smarter Living - By Ray Magliozzi King Fea­tures Syn­di­cate

Dear Car Talk: Here’s a ques­tion you haven’t an­swered yet. I re­cently used a mo­bile me­chanic — a guy who came to me where my car was, rather than me bring­ing my car to him at his shop. How much of a tip should I give to a mo­bile me­chanic?

— Mark

Good ques­tion, Mark. I would say that, un­like a server at a restau­rant, who gets paid 75 cents an hour and counts on tips to af­ford his or her daily gruel, tips for me­chan­ics re­ally are op­tional. They’re a “thank you” for par­tic­u­larly good ser­vice. So if you call a mo­bile me­chanic, and he goes above and be­yond what he has to do, that’s when you would say “thanks” with a tip.

For in­stance, if he ar­rives right away, is friendly, fixes your car in the rain, takes the time to give you some good ad­vice about how to avoid prob­lems in the fu­ture, charges a very fair price and doesn’t break any­thing else or clean out the change in your cup holder, those all can be rea­sons to tip him.

I would of­fer be­tween $5 and $20, de­pend­ing on just how grate­ful you feel. Giv­ing a me­chanic an ex­tra $5 is a nice way to say, “Thank you for get­ting here on time and fix­ing the prob­lem.” Giv­ing a me­chanic an ex­tra $20 is an un­mis­tak­able way of say­ing, “Wow, this was great ser­vice, and I am very thank­ful for your ex­tra ef­fort.”

Of course, noth­ing beats a pan of fresh, warm brown­ies, but not ev­ery­body drives around with one of those just in case, Mark. That’s why the $20 bill was in­vented.

Dear Car Talk: I’ve never had any prob­lems with my 2012 Hyundai Elantra, un­til now. It has a 1.8-liter en­gine, au­to­matic trans­mis­sion and 156,000 miles. At speeds be­tween 35 and 45 mph, it some­times will hes­i­tate and clunk. I in­stalled new spark plugs and had a mo­tor mount re­placed. Also, the idle is run­ning re­ally high. And there’s a growl un­der the hood. My mileage has gone from 33.5 mpg to un­der 20. I changed out the cat­alytic con­verter, re­placed the ser­pen­tine belt, and cleaned the throt­tle body. Noth­ing has helped. Is the tim­ing too rich? The check en­gine light is not on, and I don’t have any fault codes stored in the com­puter. Any ideas?

— Bill

This sounds like a real sweet­heart, Bill. The most in­ter­est­ing clue you gave me is that the idle is run­ning high.

There’s ac­tu­ally no way to ad­just the idle on mod­ern cars, like you could by turn­ing a screw on your father’s Chevy. It’s all com­puter-con­trolled now. So if the idle is con­sis­tently high, that means some­thing’s wrong. The fact that the check en­gine light has not come on tells me it’s not likely to be an en­gine sen­sor, or any­thing in the com­put­er­ized en­gine man­age­ment sys­tem. So it’s got to be some­thing that’s fool­ing the com­puter into think­ing you’re step­ping on the gas.

And while it could be a vac­uum leak, my first guess would be a bad in­jec­tor or two. Or four. If one or more of your in­jec­tors were send­ing too much gaso­line into the cylin­ders, that could ex­plain ev­ery­thing. With ex­tra gaso­line in the mix­ture, the down­stream oxy­gen sen­sor would tell the com­puter to send in more air, to pro­tect the cat­alytic con­verter from be­ing dam­aged. That would boost up your idle, lower your mileage and — wait for it — cause the en­gine to stum­ble or hes­i­tate some­times.

When a cylin­der is flooded with too much fuel, that ex­tra fuel can ex­tin­guish the spark. That cre­ates an en­gine mis­fire, and causes that hes­i­ta­tion you feel. So you’ll need to take this car into a me­chanic and ask him to look at your in­jec­tors. As for the growl­ing noise, I’d look for a miss­ing neigh­bor­hood dog. What­ever’s caus­ing the growl­ing (and it could be some­thing like a bad wa­ter pump, idler pul­ley or al­ter­na­tor), I sus­pect it’s un­re­lated to the other is­sues.

Re­plac­ing in­jec­tors is not go­ing to be cheap. But nei­ther is fill­ing up twice as of­ten, and join­ing the Cat­alytic Con­verter of the Month club. Got a ques­tion about cars? Write to Ray in care of

King Fea­tures, 628 Vir­ginia Drive, Or­lando, FL 32803, or email by vis­it­ing www .cartalk.com.

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