Storm-damaged mid-life crisis car?, rough idling SRX, Check Engine Light, aftermarket sensor?

Q. I just recently saw a 2015 Porsche Boxster at a really really good price. When I inquired about it and why it was priced so low, the salesman told me the car had “storm” damage and had a salvage title. This is the third car in our family and sort of a mid-life crisis car. Would you buy this car?

A. The problem is “storm-damage” can mean just about anything. If it was just dented from a hailstorm and it was repaired properly then it is hardly a problem. My concern is storm damage may mean the car was involved in a flood. If this is the case then unless repaired thoroughly you will be faced with mold and mildew issues, corroded connections and ongoing electrical problems. Years back I know someone who purchased a Porsche 911 with a similar history and he chased electrical gremlins for the entire time he owned the car. The other issue is the salvage title will follow the car forever and will certainly affect the value when you decide to sell it. I would only buy this car if I had it thoroughly inspected and with the reality that it will be a poor investment.

Q. I just purchased a used Cadillac SRX and I love the vehicle but when I first start it there is a bit of a rough idle. After it runs for a couple of minutes it is fine. When I asked the dealer about it, they just said, they all do that. Is this really normal?

A. I’m not sure this is normal, but more of a characteristic of some direct fuel injection systems. A test should be performed on the fuel system just to verify that everything is correct. General Motors also recommends using “Top-Tier gasoline, to minimize fuel system deposits which keep the engine running smooth.” If you can’t use Top-Tier gasoline, use a quality fuel system additive periodically. I have had noticeable positive results with Techron, BG 44K, and Lucas fuel system cleaners.

Q. I had a problem with my car, the battery was going dead even though I replaced it about a year ago. I had the car looked at and the shop told me the alternator was not performing properly. I replaced the alternator myself but still have the same problem. My brother-in-law told me to start the car and disconnect the battery and if the car stalls the alternator if bad if it keeps running there is another problem. What should I do?

A. I would start by not taking automotive advice from your brother-in-law. Disconnecting the battery on a car with an alternator will cause high voltage spikes and can damage the alternator and other sensitive electronics. It is time to stop guessing and bring the car to a good repair shop for diagnosis and repair. If you don’t have a good repair shop you can find one at www.aaa.com\autorepair. Once you have found a shop, have a complete electrical system test performed including a test of parasitic drain. It is possible the alternator is working properly but there is an electrical drain causing the battery to become discharged.

Q. I have a 2009 Hyundai with 90,000 miles on it.  The car has been great but recently the check engine light came on, indicating it needed an oxygen sensor. I purchased a new oxygen sensor from the local parts store and installed it. The light has been out for a month, there are no codes, but there is an occasional hesitation. This hesitation only happens when the engine is cold and getting up to normal temperature.  This did not happen until I replaced the oxygen sensor. Could the new part be defective?

A. It is possible that the aftermarket oxygen sensor isn’t performing correctly. A technician with a quality scan tool may be able to watch the oxygen sensor voltage as the engine is warming up and see something out of the ordinary. I have seen many aftermarket sensors that just don’t perform as well as the factory part. I have also seen many aftermarket parts outperform the factory part. Since the issue didn’t happen until the sensor was replaced, logic indicates it could be a faulty sensor.

John Paul is AAA’s Car Doctor. He is an automotive expert who has been writing and talking about cars for more than 30 years. He also hosts the Car Doctor radio program on WROL radio in Boston. Email John at jpaul [at] aaanortheast.com.

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