Car Care with Mechanic Ralph


In a new monthly feature, Ralph the Mechanic will be sharing his vehicular expertise with St. John Tradewinds readers. Please send any car or car maintenance related questions to and Ralph will take time to share his educated advice.

Mechanic Ralph:
Every time I start my car, it makes a loud squealing noise. It eventually goes away, but it’s really annoying and embarrassing whenever I start my car. I think it might be a belt, but how do I check which one it is and how difficult are they to replace?

Ralph responds:
The squealing is normally caused by a worn or loose alternator belt on vehicles with individual belts. On vehicles with one belt, it could be a worn or a bad belt tensioner. The repair is very simple and new belts are not expensive.

Mechanic Ralph:
The inside of my tires always wear out faster than the outside. It can be deceiving because the tires will look fine but won’t have the tread and a closer look reveals the inside rim with wires exposed. Why does this happen and how can I avoid it?

Ralph responds:
Worn tires can be caused by different conditions. These are just a few: improper tire pressure; worn wheel bearings; worn suspension parts; and improper alignment. It would be best to take your car for a front suspension inspection at your local repair shop.

Tip of the Week:
It is always good to check your fluid levels weekly. This includes checking the tire pressure. Proper inflation is important in preventing tire blow-out and premature wear. Something as simple as a tire pressure gauge could save money on tires and gasoline.

Note: All advice given is to the best of Ralph’s ability and he is not liable for any damages incurred as a result of  tips or answers in this column.