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Auto Doctor: Store cars better by moving them monthly

Saturn Sky Red Line is introduced at GM

Saturn Sky Red Line is introduced at GM Style event in Detroit. (Jan. 12, 2008) Credit: AP

Dear Doctor: I have a 2008 Saturn Sky Redline (Turbo). This car is rarely used and garaged since its purchase. I don't think it has ever seen a drop of rain. There are 7,000 miles on it and the synthetic oil has been changed four times and tires rotated. What else should I be doing during winter months when the car is garaged? I start it up at least once a month. I've only ever filled it with 93 octane and added fuel stabilizer twice. Should I be flushing fluids, lowering tire pressure (or putting the car on stands) to prevent flat spots? -- Mike

Dear Mike: I like the idea of a battery maintainer, raising the tire air pressure and having the tires sit on soft wood or carpeting with a pad, this will help prevent tire flat spotting. You can also move the car 1 foot either way monthly. This is what I do with my own stored cars.

Dear Doctor: Two of the digital display readouts in the instrument cluster of my 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid are "Avg MPG & Avg MPH." The one I have a problem with is the "Avg MPH" I do a majority of my driving on the highway, averaging speeds of 55-75 mph. In city driving my speed is average is 0-40 mph. The display says my average speed is 20.6. The dealer said the display is operating properly. I'd expect the average MPH readout to be around 40. Also of note, is that I rarely see any or only modest readout changes for the Avg MPH. -- Keith

Dear Keith: The digital information system on some earlier hybrid cars, such as yours, have a slower baud update rate than the cars of today and hybrid systems are continually updated. Hybrid vehicles prefer city driving more so than highway. To get the most accurate readout you will need to start with a full tank of gas and go for a long drive -- 100 miles or so -- on the highway. You may also want to take the car in and have the battery checked for its condition.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2003 Dodge 2500 cargo maxi van with 55,000 miles. As it sits and idles in the driveway, I smell gas from the exhaust pipe and the van starts to die out or putter and stall. But it starts back up fine. As I drive and get it up to 40-60 mph, the van hesitates and bucks and I hear a loud popping sound. Then the van kicks in and drives fine. I need advice. -- Phil

Dear Phil: The first step is to connect a professional scan tool and fuel pressure gauge and go on a road-test. If there is a sensor failure, then it should set a "check engine" light. If there is a sensor that is on the just on edge of failure, then it may not set an engine light. I have seen some rust buildup inside fuel rails, causing lean and other cases rich conditions due to rust passing through the fuel injector screen. There could also be a sticking EVAP valve, again causing a rich fuel condition. Checking the oxygen sensor operation and fuel trims will also give the technician needed information.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo with the 3.8-liter V-6 with 110,000 miles. The problem is the "check engine" light comes on and sets a code P1404 for the EGR valve. I have replaced all the components in the EGR system, including the EGR valve. I have also cleaned the EGR passageway. The light still comes on. Can you please help? -- Mack

Dear Mack: I have personally had many of these vehicles with this code. It's an easy fix. We simply reprogram the computer with our GM factory Tech2 scan tool.

Dear Doctor: Have you heard about "Car Hacking"? Is it true that someone can hack into your car's systems by remote control, be able to take over drivability, resulting in traffic jams, accidents, even death to the car occupants. Is there any way you can be confident your car is not being taken over by bad people? -- Taya

Dear Taya: The small key fob sends a signal to the computer receiver once the key fob is in range. Yes, hackers can in some cases take control of the starting/stopping of the engine if they can break into the system. Car companies are always working on security and most of the time are ahead of the bad guys. -- Junior Damato, Motor Matters

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

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