Auto Doctor: Engine oil choices grew because of automakers

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, left, and

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage, left, and NASCAR driver Sam Hornish Jr. change oil for a customer at a promotional event in Grand Prairie, Texas. (March 21, 2009) (Credit: AP)

Dear Doctor: I have a Hyundai Elantra. Would it weaken my own battery or alternator to jump-start the dead battery on my father-in-law's 2000 Ford Windstar? How long would the Windstar's battery last after the jump start? -- Joan

Dear Joan: Before using a late model vehicle to jump-start another check your owner's manual. Always make sure the engine is off before connecting the jumper cables. The battery condition needs to be professionally checked to determine the problem, as well as how long the charge will last.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis with the 4.6-liter V-8 and only 46,000 miles. I'm getting terrible city mileage (8 to 9 mpg). Is it OK to use NGK Iridium spark plugs? My car maintenance is spot on. Other recommendations? -- Richard


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Dear Richard: You can use any brand spark plug of your choice, so long as it is correct for the application. An often overlooked maintenance item is the front oxygen sensor, which does affect gas mileage. They get lazy without setting a fault code.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Nissan Sentra with the manual transmission and 130,000 miles. It's has been stalling as it slows down. I've replaced the air filter, checked vacuum hoses for any leaks, had a complete tune-up and had an idle adjustment. Also, when this first started the "check engine" light came on and has stayed on ever since. Most of the time I pop the clutch to prevent a stall and I know that can't be good for the engine. What should I do? -- Jim

Dear Jim: The first thing to do is scan the computer for a trouble fault code. Dirty throttle bodies and/or a lazy, closing EGR valve can contribute to stalling.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2003 Viper SRT 10. A couple of the rims have bad curb rash and I'm looking for advice about repairing them. There are many companies that advertise the service, but my body shop guy tells me it's not a simple process to restore to original condition. These are OEM rims and I believe they are polished aluminum but not sure if they have a clearcoat. -- Ken

Dear Ken: Indeed, there are many companies that straighten rims. You can have your body shop check for recondition rims from the company that supplies his aftermarket auto body parts. We use a company called Keystone and we are very satisfied with their service.

Dear Doctor: I change my own oil and I was recently in the auto parts store looking in the oil department and was amazed at all the different oil types and weights. Why are there so many different oils? -- Jay

Dear Jay: Unlike the old days, today's cars and trucks need specific oils recommended by the manufacturer. Automakers design the engine for the specific type of oil required. The engine oiling system has many electronic/hydraulic actuators and sensors that can clog up -- and they do from the wrong oil and infrequent oil changes. Make sure the oil is OEM-recommended for your vehicle and use a quality filter. Never change the oil when the engine is cold; it should be warm (not hot).

Dear Doctor: What do you think about Kia? I might be considering purchase of the new Soul. -- Brandy

Dear Brandy: Kia has come a long way. I do not remember a Kia Soul with a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, and touchscreen navigation with multiple apps. I cannot believe how far this company has come in a short time. The four-cylinder delivers ample power via the 6-speed automatic. The car is quiet and has good handling under all conditions. Base price starts out at $14,700, plus $750.00 destination. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. Email questions for publication to info@motormatters.biz. Mail questions to: Motor Matters, PO Box 3305, Wilmington, DE 19804

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