Mel of Hudson Oaks, TX, writes:
The last two times my 1997 Ford Explorer has been in for service I've asked that a noise (rattle) be checked out. This noise was coming from the catalytic converter area. It has got to the point that the vehicle sounds like a diesel.

Took it in yesterday and now I'm told it is the front two timing belts or chains (not sure what they called them). Cost will be $785. The vehicle has 72k on it, BUT it has been maintained very well. I'm told if this is not repaired then I will shortly be buying a new engine.

This doesn't sound very reliable to me. I've had MANY vehicles and never had a timing chain problem. And most didn't cost what this Explorer cost. It's time to change manufacturers I believe.

Automan replies:
I will put it politely, I think the dealer got your truck mixed up with somebody else's. I have never seen or heard any timing chain noise on any '95 or newer Ford products -- period. However, I have had tons of bad noisy catalytic converters.

Go under the truck with a ball peen hammer, and give a few smart taps to the exhaust system. Start up at the engine and work your way back to the muffler. if anything is loose inside the muffler or converters you will hear is rattle after you strike it with the hammer.

Lastly, get a second opinion on the timing chain before you have it done. If it is exhaust, it is relatively minor. If it is the convert, it will be under an emissions warranty.