Auto Doctor: Maintenance on lightly used cars
Dear Doctor: I have a 2005 Infiniti G35X sedan with just under 20,000 miles. Obviously, I don't do much driving. I went to my dealership for routine service and they suggested a brake fluid flush ($150) and throttle body service ($165). I declined both services. I maintain my car, but don't want pricey "suggested" extras if the car doesn't really need it. Should I have had both these items done on the car? -- Dee
Dear Dee: There is no question that proper maintenance is the key to keeping the car running for many years. The issue is how much and what is needed. At such low mileage, I do not think you need to have these "suggested" services performed. The cost of fluid changes varies from shop to shop.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2010 Chevy HHR that needs new tires. I would like to get wide whites as I like the "retro" look, which is one of the reasons I got this car. The company that sells the ones I want (215/60R16) describes the height as 26.1 inches, which I assume is the diameter. My current tire height is 24.5 inches. There appears to plenty of clearance in the wheel wells. Will I be okay with this larger diameter tire and/or will it affect the car's computer, odometer/speedometer readings and gas mileage? -- Jim
Dear Jim: First, you need to check the mileage rating on the tires. Second, the tires you mention are 1.5 inches taller. This will cause a speedometer error of 5 to 7 mph at 60 mph. The actual speedometer reading at 60 mph will be 65-67 mph. You will also notice a softer ride and the handling will be less crisp. If you are thinking about towing with this car, then the tow rating will drop to a lesser weight.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2007 Honda Fit Sport. The horn is dismal. The idea of having to wire in a relay and dual horns is not appealing, but neither is living with the weak original horn. Should I buy a louder replacement horn? -- Nick
Dear Nick: I hear this complaint often and the fix is simple. I install a lot of aftermarket dual horns -- both high and low note -- without the need of a relay or additional wiring. The current draw is so low there is no need to add a relay. The cost of a pair of horns (installed average) is $125.
Dear Doctor: I have a Nissan Maxima and have noticed that three lights came on my dashboard and will not go off. I also noticed clicking noises coming from the speakers. How can I stop this? -- Gia
Dear Gia: Take the car to a shop qualified to diagnose why the lights are on the dash. The noise coming from the radio speakers indicates an electrical issue (possible alternator). A faulty alternator will set on various dash lights while still charging the battery. A quick test is to unplug the alternator and see if the noise is gone. I have also seen poor engines and chassis issues cause multiple electronic problems.
Dear Doctor: I see that the Subaru Forester performed the best in government crash testing of compact crossover vehicles. What can you tell me about its driving performance? -- Ted
Dear Ted: For 2014 the Forester has grown in size, comfort, power and personality. Subaru engines have never been a powerhouse, with the exception of the WRX models. Our Forester with the 2.0 turbo with 250 horsepower and CVT transmission delivers power at the touch of the gas pedal accelerator at any speed. The XT Touring model I drove was fully loaded with a base price of $32,995, and as tested $36,220 included big tires with alloy wheels, panorama roof, performance drive modes, 6.1-inch touch screen navigation packing 440-watts of audio power. This is rated as a 5-passenger crossover SUV that handles more like a sports car. I am glad to see so much effort put into this multi-use vehicle. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters
Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail questions to: Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347