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For phantom car issues, check the ‘pending codes’
transmission fluid. What do you
think? — Mark

Dear Car Talk: I have a 2004
Saturn Vue with a Honda V-6
engine and 150,000 miles. I
bought the car with 54,000
miles on it. I have no significant
problems with it except that
when going uphill at about
1,700 to 1,900 rpm, there is a
slight “stutter” in the engine. My
mechanic, who is a great, honest
guy, cannot get the engine to do
this despite several test drives. A
friend advised me to change the

Changing the transmission fluid
is like chicken soup, Mark. It can’t
hurt. But I think it’s much more
likely you have what we call a
“miss.” Not to be confused with
the Saturn Vue, a vehicle that was
widely considered to be a “miss”
for Saturn. A miss is an engine
misfire. It’s most likely to be
noticed when the engine is under
load, like when you’re climbing a
hill. It’s often electrical in nature
and usually easy to fix — once you
can find and identify the cause.
Normally, an engine miss will
turn on your car’s “check engine”
light and store a fault code in the
computer. Your mechanic would
then use his scan tool to check the

code, which will tell him what part equity line of credit level stuff.
has malfunctioned.
If there are no pending codes,
you can wait until the problem
But if a problem is intermittent
gets worse, at which point it will
and of short duration, the
turn on your check engine light.
computer might consider it a
Or, if they’re due to be changed
phantom event, and not store a
anyway — and, at 150,000 miles
code or turn on the check engine
probably are — you can take
light. In that case, it may store
and replace the plugs and
the information as a “pending
see what happens. Good
code.” That’s information about
something that went wrong,

but it hasn’t happened regularly
enough to become a pattern yet.
So ask your mechanic to check for
pending codes.

Got a question about cars? Write
to Ray in care of King Features,
628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL
32803, or email by visiting the Car
Talk website at

Misfires are most often caused by
bad spark plugs, bad plug wires
or bad ignition coils. Those all are
part of what we call the secondary © 2021 by Ray Magliozzi and
Doug Berman Distributed by King
ignition system. And you’ll be
glad to know none of that is home Features Syndicate, Inc.