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Ask the Auto Doctor: Forester can handle light towing chores

The 2014 Subaru Forester.

The 2014 Subaru Forester. Credit: Subaru

Dear Doctor: I own a 2015 Subaru Forester (2.5L) and I want to install a hitch to support my Stowaway cargo carrier. The weight of box is 53 pounds with a swing away frame (supporting the box), so the total weight of both is 99 pounds. The towing capacity of the Forester is 1,500 pounds. But since I am not technically towing the cargo box and I intend to use it once a year on my annual trip to Florida and back, can I attach the cargo box without damage to the drivetrain?

Dear Mike: There is no reason for concern. Today's small cars, such as yours, are much better than the previous models. The engines, transmissions, brakes and suspension can handle this type of weight.


Dear Doctor: My "VSC," "Trac off" and "Check Engine" light are simultaneously illuminated on my 2004 Toyota Avalon. My mechanic hooked up his scan tool to see what code(s) were causing this. Over a 100 different possibilities came up. Because he was not sure what it could be, he simply reset it. It has happened again. Service records kept by the previous owner show that this issue happened in April 2012 at 98,000 miles. There was a stored DTC P0301 code. According to the service record, a check was done and everything was functioning normally so the dealer reset the dash lights. What should I do next?

Dear David: Computer fault codes indicate the computer received a signal that is out of its parameters. In your case, code P0301 indicates a #1 cylinder misfire. Your Avalon has the V-6 engine and a common failure is an ignition coil. For it to be a gas cap or EVAP problem the codes would be P0440 to P0456. You should bring the car to a shop that can read the fault code in freeze-frame memory so that they can see when the fault actually happened. Make sure they use the correct spark plug and Toyota factory or Denso ignition coil.


Dear Doctor: Why would someone buy a car with a timing belt, when a timing chain would be more practical? A timing belt has to be changed after a set amount of miles -- and it's very expensive to replace.

Dear Jim: In the past, the majority of imported vehicle engines had timing belts, and even today there are still some engines with timing belts. However, most manufacturers today are designing engines with timing chains. Timing belts were utilized, for the most part, because of a vehicle's compact design and cramped space under the hood.


Dear Doctor: My wife and I are senior citizens and we own a Buick Lucerne. Our problem is that the car is so low we are now finding very difficult to get into and out of it. We are thinking of buying a leftover 2015 Buick Enclave. Any thoughts?

Dear Bob: The Buick Enclave is easy to enter and exit. There is also plenty of room, and all of the controls are within reach. Take the Enclave for an extended test drive to make sure this is the vehicle for you and your wife. The Enclave I had for a week had the 3.6-liter V-6 with 288 horsepower. You can get it equipped in either FWD or AWD. A fully loaded AWD is under $50,000 and the base model FWD is at $39,050, plus $925.00 destination.


Dear Doctor: I have a 1983 Datsun 280ZX (not turbo) that needs an ignition. It can't be an aftermarket product (I have tried a few of them and have had no success). My mechanic suggested I try to locate a used original. I have tried many online resources and came up short. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Maria: I suggest you also go online with forums on this car. You could also check with local salvage yards for a used original. I have had good luck finding parts at There are some good quality aftermarket parts on the market today. An ignition upgrade is another option.


Dear Doctor: I have a problem with the radio in a 1994 Buick Park Avenue. The stations wander one to another and from AM to FM. The power antenna is functional. Do I need a new radio?

Dear James: It could be an internal radio fault and you would be able to find a replacement at a salvage yards. The radio removal is a simple job. You could even upgrade for an aftermarket radio; you can get an adapter to simply plug it into the original wire harness. The aftermarket is smaller and has all of the conveniences of the factory radio.

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