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Ask a Mechanic: Engine may not be the reason your car stalls

In today’s column we learn more about what could cause your vehicle to make a creaking noise and what a blinking dashboard dot means.
Nida Zafar

Every week, we take your questions about what is going on under the hood of your vehicle and pose them to a knowledgeable mechanic in the Greater Toronto Area. In today’s column we learn more about what could cause your vehicle to make a creaking noise and what a blinking dashboard dot means.

Dear Ask a Mechanic, 

I drive a 2012 Toyota Camry. When I turn the wheel, a creaking noise comes from the front passenger side. It sounds like stepping on a squeaky wooden floor. I’ve been looking for cause but have been unable to get a professional opinion. What are your thoughts? – Squeak crazy  

Zafar Habib, co-owner of Humble Autohaus in Scarborough, said it’s likely one of two things: the outer tie rod or the seizing of one of the ball joints. These parts are lubricated with grease and if “they get dried out (inside) they make the noise,” he said. Both are part of the front suspension and steering system in your vehicle and can be found between the front wheels. Habib said this is a very common problem and can happen in any vehicle. Given these parts come as a complete unit, the solution is for them to be replaced.

Dear Ask a Mechanic, 

I own a 2008 Ford Focus that I’ve recently been unable to drive. It was perfectly fine before, but what I suspect is my engine started having some problems. The car will no longer start. There’s a red blinking dot on the dashboard next to the fuel icon. What steps can I take to resolve the issue? – Blinking problems

Habib said more details are needed to make a proper diagnosis, but given the blinking dot, he believes the situation may involve a security issue and not a problem with the engine. “If this is the case, it means you have to reprogram the security system,” he said.

Security issues will prevent the car from starting because it’s stopping a signal being sent through the car’s computer system that allows the engine to turn on. This may happen if the system believes the car is being stolen. The system can prevent the car from starting by disabling the fuel injection and/or starter: it may or may not crank without ever starting, or in some cases may start and immediately stall. Habib recommended allowing someone at your car dealership or a mechanic with knowledge of the computer system to reprogram it. However, there can be other reasons for an anti-theft system to act up, so it is also recommended to get a proper diagnosis before asking for it to be reprogramed.

 Ask a Mechanic is written by Nida Zafar, a reporter at The Pointer who grew up in a house full of mechanics in Scarborough, and occasionally poses your questions to her dad or brother. You can send your questions to These answers are for informational purposes only. Please consult a certified mechanic before having any work done to your vehicle. 

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