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2005 Tribute: Multiple problems- may not be related

I have a 2005 Mazda Tribute, V6, automatic, with approximately 90000 miles. It is the family workhorse and I also use it to drive 60 miles roundtrip daily to and from work.

During the last year, I have had one of the coils go bad (replaced), and at the same time also the on-board computer (replaced), and a bad fuel sensor (replaced) which cut off power to the engine on the freeway!

After all this, now when I start the car and put it in gear in the mornings or when I leave work to go home, the engine(?) makes a very loud god-awful moaning and creaking noise, during which it is harder to turn the steering wheel. It persists for a minute or two and then goes away. I took it to the dealer who could not get it to occur because the car was already warmed up. My local mechanic claims that it may be the power steering fluid pump, although he cannot see any obvious leaks or low fluid levels. He had once drained and flushed it and that had seemed to fix the problem for a bit of time (initally happened in the winter but has now resurfaced in the summer).

The other thing is that on most mornings in the winter, the transmission would lock in P, and not allow me to shift until almost 10 minutes of the engine idling.

Are any/all of these related?

Any help is greatly appreciated. The common gripe I get is that the dealer or the mechanic cannot replcate these problems. I know I can leave it at thre dealership overnight as the final soution, but surely running a complete diagnostic on the transmission and the engine should be able to locate the probable cause, no?

Thanks in advance. I know this is a bit long, but better to let you guys have the entire stroy in one shot than in dribbles.

No. A complete “computer” diagnostic is not going to reveal all possible problems - especially if they are intermittent. There are a lot of things that the various control modules on the car look at, monitor, use & control - but it isn’t everything & the info is limited to what sensors exist. It is also heavily oriented only toward monitoring things that interfere with the vehicle’s emissions controls. There isn’t a sensor, for example, for finding out whether or not your power steering pump is mechanically healthy (if such a thing is even possible).

You also have no reason to use a dealership unless you’re dealing with recall or warranty work. Any good, local, independent mechanic can deal with this car just as well and normally for less.

The problem with shifting out of park most likely has to do with your shift interlock switch. Basically, there is a little lock that won’t allow you to shift out of park unless your foot is on the brake. So, you push the brake, the brake light switch allows a little motor (probably) to unlock the shifter. These often get old or tired or gummed up and a lot of the time the first sign of a problem is with a cold car. The problem might lie in your brake switch but is probably with the shift interlock mechanism. (The computer does not monitor this to find out if it the whole thing works).

As for the steering/noise - well it likely has something to do w/ the power steering pump and/or some part of the serpentine belt system (including maybe the belt). Did you ever open the hood to look and listen yourself? The best way to sort that out is to have someone with experience look & listen when this happens. So if its all you can do then I’d say find a local mechanic and leave the car with him/her overnight.

Thanks cigroller!This is indeed very helpful.

I usually do not like to take it to the dealership but I made the one exception this time hoping that they would have the gizmos to diagnose the problem.

My local mechanic did in fact suggest that the problem could be with my power steering pump and said that it may have to be changed but was not very sure of the diagnosis himself. I will ask him to consider some of the other things you mention.

Also thanks for the heads up on the shift interlock switch. What I remembered later after my post was that I hear a discernible click when the system finally decides to let me shift out of P.

Thanks again.