Replace neutral safety switch

Many vehicles with electronically controlled transmissions and cruise control will automatically downshift in order to keep the car’s speed close to the selected setting. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Q: I have a 2018 Toyota Avalon with the six-speed automatic transmission. When descending grades, I usually downshift and coast downhill without using the brakes. Do you recommend this practice?

B.Z., Pittsfield, Mass.

A: There should be no problem. Many vehicles with electronically controlled transmissions and cruise control will automatically downshift in order to keep the car’s speed close to the selected setting.

Q: I’d appreciate your thoughts on an intermittent problem with my 2007 Ford Mustang GT. When I put my key in the ignition and turn it to start the car there is no noise and all normal indicator dash lights show but it won’t start. Then I turn the key back off, turn it back on again with my foot on the brake, push the button on the shifter and it allows me to move the shifter to neutral and then it will start in neutral, allowing me to change the gear to reverse or any other gear position. There are no problems till it does the same thing again every couple of days and I go through the same process.

Any idea what’s doing this?

L.M., Pompano Beach, Fla.

A: It sounds like the neutral safety switch on your Mustang may be failing. The switch is usually located on the side of the transmission and is not difficult to replace.

Q: I recently took my 2008 Chrysler Aspen in for a winter oil change and servicing. While the car was there, they called and informed me I needed my ball joints replaced as mine were loose. I have not been experiencing any signs associated with needing to have them replaced. We didn’t realize they even checked them when doing the oil change/servicing.

My husband is very concerned that they don’t need replacing and that the dealership is looking for extra money. I did ask on the phone about the cost and was quoted $500, but when arriving to pick up my car, they had $785 on my ticket. Should we get a second opinion and how do we go about it as we don’t want to suggest they need changing if they don’t? Another servicer might just say yes to get our business.

K.G., Albert Lea, Minn.

A: Indications that there are problems with ball joints include uneven tire wear, clunking or squeaking noises, drifting to the side and loose or shaky steering. Do you have any of these? If not, I suggest getting a second opinion. Ask for a demonstration. With the wheels off the ground, there should be no play when the free wheel is wiggled back and forth by hand.

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