Dear Doctor: My daughter bought a used 2010 Ford Fusion SE. She complains that her low beam headlights don't seem as bright as her sister's 2009 Ford Fusion SLE. When we compared the headlights on these two vehicles we found that the 2009 has a silver reflective area around the low-beam bulb. On the 2010, it looks like the bulb is behind a frosted area. Can we get a brighter low-beam bulb for the 2010 that won't be too hot for the wiring and/or negate the warranty? Is it possible that the low beam on the 2010 can be adjusted higher to compensate for this? Jean
Dear Jean: We replace a lot of headlight bulbs on a variety of vehicles. We use the Silver Star brand of ultra bright lights. These bulbs do make a big difference and will not void the warranty and/or cause any wiring issues. As for adjusting the light height, you need to use a headlight board or wall with the vehicle on a level surface and follow the manufacturer's height adjustment. I think the brighter bulb replacement will make your daughter happy.
Dear Doctor: I have a 2002 Saturn SL that has served me well and has 110,000 miles. The battery indicator light is coming on occasionally and stays on for about 1 mile of driving. This started two months after I had an oil change. When I went back to the shop they said everything checked out OK and no problems were found with the battery or its power. It's intermittent as to when the light comes on, but usually it is when I first start it. After I drive about 1 mile, the light goes off and does not light up again. Several days may go by before it happens again. Is this a cause for concern in any way, like suddenly one day the car will not start or it will just stop running while I am driving? Frank
Dear Frank: The alternator light is illuminating because there is a feedback from the alternator, which is most likely a weak diode. The alternator can charge normally for many years to come or could fail at any time. You can have the technician perform a full load test and check the ripple lines of the alternator with a professional charging system tester -- not just a small hand held tester.
Dear Doctor: I own a 2004 Chevy Silverado 1500 4x4 with 75,000 miles. I would like to change the tranny fluid now. The linkage is blocking one of the pan bolts. I can't seem to locate where the bolts are that hold that linkage. Also, do you recommend a complete fluid change, or just the fluid and filter from dropping the pan? Mike
Dear Mike: Removal of the transmission pan is straightforward. Sometimes a pan bolt is blocked by the rear transmission mount or cross member. Some of the GM truck transmission pans have a drain plug that can be hard to remove because the 15mm bolt head is very weak and shallow. An option is to have the fluid changed at a shop with a fluid exchange machine that hooks up to the transmission cooler lines. Removing the transmission pan, or just a drain, will get out about 6 quarts vs. a complete fluid change, which averages 13 quarts, the total fluid in the transmission. As for the filter change, most of the transmission filters today are a plastic screen type and the transmission pan gasket is reusable.
Dear Doctor: I have been contemplating a hybrid car and looked at the Chevrolet Volt. The Volt looks more like a regular car than the others. Have you driven the Volt and if so what are your thoughts? Donna
Dear Donna: The Chevy Volt extended range vehicle (gas and electric) is very normal to drive in many ways. If there were any concern it would be the price tag. Our test car's base price was $39,995, before any discounts and tax credits. After an overnight charge, the range indicated 32 miles of electric driving. I kept an eye on the mileage remaining on the battery power while traveling at speeds of 65 mph. Naturally, the driving range kept getting lower, but on my 17-mile trip the gas engine kept the battery powered up. I would recommend you ask the dealer if you could take the Volt overnight to really get the full experience of charging and testing it.
Dear Doctor: I am interested in the new 2012 BMW 650i Convertible. What can you tell me about it? Marvin
Dear Marvin: Over the Christmas holiday I had the new 650i. The car was amazing. Our tester had a base price of $90,500. The 4.4-liter V-8 twin turbo coupled to the 8-speed super fast and firm-shifting transmission makes you a driver -- not just someone riding in this car. The BMW looks like it's speeding while parked. On the road we got over the estimated 24 miles per gallon. Unlike BMWs of the past with a confusing iDrive, the latest version is a joy to operate.
Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. E-mail questions to email@example.com Mail questions to: Auto Doctor, 3 Court Circle, Lakeville, MA 02347 Listen to Junior online at www.1460wxbr.com Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. eastern time. Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009