Skip to main contentSkip to main content
Updating results

click And Clack

Here’s the answer: You can use either “2WD” or “Auto” all the time. If you don’t have any need for extra traction, using “2WD” may save a tiny bit of money on fuel and possibly some wear and tear on the four-wheel-drive components.

“Auto” in your truck operates in two-wheel drive by default. And, when it senses a loss of traction, it automatically adds power to the other wheels. So, “Auto” is safe to use all the time, and that would be my default mode.

“4WD Low” and “4WD High” are not safe to use on dry roads. They’re only for while you’re actually driving on slippery terrain. Those two modes lock your center differential to give you maximum traction for when you’re stuck or in snow, sand or mud.

The problem is that when the center differential is locked, the wheels aren’t able to turn at different speeds.

Honda says the best thing to do is to contact your Honda dealer and ask them to let you know when a fix is available.

You should also contact Honda Customer Service and have them create a case for you. By asking both entities to notify you when there’s a fix, you’ll double your chances that one of them will remember to do it.

You can create a case with Honda by going to automobiles.honda.com/information/customer-relations and clicking on “How Do I Contact Honda.” Or “Help, I’m Stuck in a Honda-Induced Space-Time Warp, and I Can’t Get Out.”

There are also other headlight improvements you can look for in a new car, like adaptive headlights. Adaptive headlights swivel (or in the case of some LEDs, use additional lights) to “bend” and light up the curve you’re steering into. Those cut down on accidents, too.

And more cars now have automatic high beams. That feature switches on the high beams in low light situations when there’s no oncoming car and then switches them off when it detects oncoming headlights.

So go to IIHS.org, and check out the ratings of some of the cars you’re interested in, Melissa. Look for a car with a “Top Safety Pick +” rating (the “+” is important) for overall safety, and a “good” rating for headlights in particular. And, make sure the inside of your windshield is always clean.

I don’t think it’s a bad throw out bearing. That would make more of a clicking or flapping noise when you step on the clutch. Your noise does the opposite. It stops when you step on the clutch.

It sounds to me more like a bad differential. That’s the classic source of a siren-like whining noise while accelerating.

When my late brother Tom’s differential started going bad in his 1967 Suburban, he hid in the basement for two weeks. He was convinced the cops were following him everywhere.

A differential noise will stop when you let off the accelerator — or when you depress the clutch. Try leaving the clutch alone and lifting off the gas. If that makes the whining noise stop — or sound significantly different — then the gears in one of your differentials could be worn out, or a differential may have run out of oil.

If you want to start the engine, you step on the brake pedal and push the start button. If you want to go into accessory mode, you don’t step on the brake pedal and push the start button. That’s all there is to it.

Some cars have two accessory modes: one which operates low-power items like the radio and a second one that allows you to use higher-powered items like the window motors and the fan. In that case, you push the start button once for the first mode and twice for the second mode, both without touching the brake pedal.

Drive more slowly. Wind resistance is what kills your highway mileage. Wind resistance increases by the square of your speed. So, it more than doubles between 55 mph and 80 mph. So, driving at 55 or 60 — or even 65 instead of 75 — will save you fuel.

Accelerate gently. Accelerating takes much more fuel than maintaining your speed. And accelerating hard is the most fuel guzzling activity of all. What’s the rush? Accelerate gently and smoothly, and you’ll save fuel.

Finally, be sure your tires are properly inflated. Underinflated tires increase drag, and you have to use more fuel to overcome that drag. So check your recommended tire pressure (not to be confused with maximum allowable tire pressure on the sidewall). Keep your tires inflated to at least the recommended tire pressure.

                                                   * * *

With the average new car payment now well over $500 a month, you can do the math, Chris, and see that even at the high end — with a couple of thousand dollars a year in repairs — you’re still coming out way head.

And with a seven-mile round-trip commute, reliability isn’t a life-or-death matter for your daughter. If she commuted through Death Valley five days a week, it’d be a different story.

So, with only 53,000 miles on the odometer, I don’t see any urgency in dumping this VW.

My father did something similar, Holly. But instead of building out the back wall of the garage to accommodate his Chrysler, one day he just accidentally drove right through it.

Gramps should have built a second extension on the driver’s side of the garage, just big enough for the Olds’ driver’s side door. Then your grandmother could have gotten out without doing the hoochie coochie across the bench seat. Or maybe, grandpa liked watching her do that?

With a side extension, the garage would have looked even weirder, but who knows, maybe Architectural Digest would have given him a few modern design awards.

After that, you’ll need a subscription to Hemmings Motors News (“the bible of the old car hobby”). That’ll be your bathroom reading for the next 20 or 30 years.

Finally, you’ll need a support group. Fortunately, most areas have old car clubs, where nuts and aspiring nuts like you get together and enjoy themselves.

These will be your new people, Kunal. They’ll recommend mechanics to you, give you tips on where to get parts that are no longer made, and share their knowledge. They’ll also provide emotional support, giving you a shoulder to cry on when you spend two months of weekends replacing the transmission in your ‘66 Mustang, and on the first test drive, it won’t shift out of second gear.

In fact, joining a club like that in advance will help you get advice on what year, make and model to seek out, and, even more importantly, what cars to avoid.

And if all that doesn’t dissuade you, Kunal, you’ll have a wonderful time with your classic car, and you’ll make lots of new friends. Especially tow truck drivers and mechanics. Enjoy!

I’ve never heard of a bowed axle. I’ve heard of bowed legs. But I don’t think your LeSabre has those. It’s also interesting that your name is Carlene. Because a car lean is exactly what you get when one of your tires goes flat.

I’m going to assume that when you had the tire replaced, they also replaced the valve stem. If not, I’d recommend trying that. That’s a part that can fail and allow air to leak. It used to be standard practice to replace the valve stem when you replaced a tire, but in modern cars, the tire pressure monitor is embedded in the valve stem, making the part more expensive. That’s why it’s no longer done routinely.

If the valve stem was replaced or if you replace it and still have the leak, then I’m going to suggest that it’s the rim.

I know you had the rim cleaned. And most likely, after cleaning rust off the rim and mounting the new tire, the tire shop would have submerged the tire/wheel combination in water to check for leaks. And they obviously didn’t see a leak. But sometimes a leak won’t show up unless the weight of the car is on the tire. All that weight deforms the tire and can expose a spot on the rim that allows air to escape.

I’m going to assume that when you had the tire replaced, they also replaced the valve stem. If not, I’d recommend trying that. That’s a part that can fail and allow air to leak. It used to be standard practice to replace the valve stem when you replaced a tire, but in modern cars, the tire pressure monitor is embedded in the valve stem, making the part more expensive. That’s why it’s no longer done routinely.

If the valve stem was replaced or if you replace it and still have the leak, then I’m going to suggest that it’s the rim.

I know you had the rim cleaned. And most likely, after cleaning rust off the rim and mounting the new tire, the tire shop would have submerged the tire/wheel combination in water to check for leaks. And they obviously didn’t see a leak. But sometimes a leak won’t show up unless the weight of the car is on the tire. All that weight deforms the tire and can expose a spot on the rim that allows air to escape.

The rim could be bent, or it could just have 18 years’ worth of built-up corrosion on it that prevents a tight seal with the tire, despite some cleaning and sanding.

The reason there are so many different filters is because engines are all different. And space is at a premium. Most engine compartments I work on these days have no room to spare.

So when designing an engine, all the immovable parts are designed first. Then later in the process, they find a place for the filter, preferably right on the engine block.

In order to fit oil filters into the nooks and crannies manufacturers ultimately allot for them, filters have to come in all different shapes and sizes.

Generally speaking, more expensive filters are better than cheap ones, because they use better filtration materials. Instead of plain old Charmin, filters now use materials like synthetic glass microfibers, which do a better job of filtering the oil. That’s also why smaller filters can be used. With better filtration materials, they can provide all the filtration the engine needs in a smaller volume.

We tend to stick with OEM filters — the filters made by the car’s manufacturer. You can never go wrong with those. Modern filters also have check valves, which explains why the oil doesn’t drain out of your Subaru filter, even though it’s mounted upside-down.

Without a check valve, the oil would drain out, and that would be a problem. If the oil drained out, every time you started your car, your oil pump first would have to fill the oil filter, leaving other parts underlubricated for those first few crucial seconds that the engine is running. But the check valve keeps the filter full and completely solves that problem.

The dealer is right that the best way to install a trailer hitch is to remove the bumper and the bumper beam and install the hitch between the bumper beam and the frame (or unibody) of the car.

Subaru’s own trailer hitch is designed to be installed that way. But not all hitches are. There are good aftermarket hitches that just bolt into the frame on the underside of the car. Those are a lot easier and faster to install. And they might be fine for what you need. You can check the maximum capacity of any hitch and see if it covers your needs.

For instance, if you’re just putting a bike rack back there that requires 300 pounds of tongue weight when loaded, an aftermarket hitch might be fine. But if you’re towing your house or your cabin cruiser around, you’d probably want a more heavy-duty installation.

Anyway, after enough of these accidents, the federal government stepped in to require that all cars be in park or neutral in order to be allowed to start.

Introducing ... the neutral safety switch, a little electronic switch that prevents the car from starting unless the transmission is in park or neutral.

When a neutral safety switch gets old and wears out, it can get finicky. That’s why jiggling the shifter eventually works. You find just the right spot where contact is made, the circuit closes and — voila — the car starts.

If you want to test my theory, try putting the car in neutral the next time it won’t start. You may have better luck there. But regardless, you’re right that this will eventually leave you stranded. So I would strongly advise you to replace the switch.

It’s a $50 part, and it screws right into the side of the transmission on this car. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, it’s something you can probably handle.

The answer to your question is yes, James. If you put a front-wheel-drive car on a lift and put it in drive, the front wheels will turn and — since the odometer measures the movement of the front wheels — the odometer will roll forward.

But it won’t move fast. Let’s do the math. Say that at idle speed, the suspended wheels turn at 10 mph. That would mean the odometer would add 10 miles for every hour the car was on the lift.

So to add 300 miles, he’d had to have left it up there — in drive — for a day and a half.

                                        * * *

Yes. I like the Mustang Mach E. Nice car. Good room inside. Good electric range. And, most importantly, you’ll look great in it, Paul.

By the way, I get letters all the time from people who say “I plan to buy one last car.” Then they write again five or 10 years later asking what to buy next. So be optimistic, Paul. You may have many more years of car payments left in you. I’m sure Ford joins me in hoping so.

If you had left the truck parked outside during the summer when it was 75 degrees out for a couple of days, that would have been no different, as far as the engine is concerned.

So, what was the fluid that came off the engine? It’s not oil. It’s not transmission fluid. It’s not differential fluid. Those petroleum-based fluids would never evaporate in a few days. If it had rained or snowed, maybe they’d get diluted a bit. But there’s a reason they call them “oil stains,” Troy. They’re really hard to get rid of.

So I’m guessing it was either a small amount of coolant, which — because it’s water soluble — could disappear over time, or it was water from some ice that melted when you warmed up the engine compartment.

And it’s entirely possible that your small puddle has nothing to do with your block heater. You could have a loose hose clamp or a dripping water pump. You came out the other day looking for trouble. Maybe something’s been leaking slowly for months and you just haven’t noticed it?

But I don’t recommend it. For one thing, you really have to do it regularly. And in reality, most people don’t. I’m a mechanic, and even I didn’t check my tire pressure regularly in the old days.

I rarely even looked at the passenger side of my car. The tires could have been missing for all I knew.

And even if you are diligent and check the pressure once a week, or once a day, you’ll miss one of the real safety features of the tire pressure monitoring system: getting warned if your tire is losing pressure while you’re driving.

Let’s say you run over a screw, and your tire starts slowly leaking air. Then you’re on the highway. The tire pressure warning light will come on once your pressure drops about 10% below recommended pressure.

If your friction brakes are being used lightly, or hardly at all, there’s almost no chance they’ll overheat your brake fluid and cause brake failure — which is the danger when you brake constantly while descending, say, Pike’s Peak. Now, if the regenerative braking is insufficient to slow the car and you step harder on the brake pedal, your car will add in friction braking. But those friction brakes will still be doing a lot less than they would if they were your only brakes. And there’s really no danger of overheating or wearing out the regenerative braking system.

It’s true that once your battery is full, you won’t be able to use regenerative braking, because, simply put, there’s nowhere to put the electricity you’re making. But in a hybrid, your battery won’t be completely full when you’re coming down a hill. How do we know that? Because you just went up the hill and used the battery.

I suppose in a fully electric car, if you stopped at the top of a mountain and then charged the battery, you might then need to use friction braking on your way down. So keep that in mind, ski-chalet-owning Tesla drivers. But in the real world, that’s not going to be a problem.

My second answer for you is from the point of view of a scientist, Jeff. You have set the stage for a perfect experiment. Same car, same age, same maintenance program — except for the differential fluid change.

The scientist in me would tell you — by all means — don’t change your fluid. Instead, take the $150 and treat your spouse to a nice dinner out. And then keep driving and see what happens.

Let me know which runs longer, your differential or his marriage.

We’ll have a hybrid in for an oil change, and one of the mechanics will put it up on the lift and drain out the oil. Then, all off a sudden, the engine will start up. Usually, the guy’s eyeballs will pop out of his head, like in an old Saturday-morning cartoon. Then, he’ll climb up the lift like a guy who’s escaping from prison, in order to shut off the ignition.

Fortunately, in your case, Xavier, the car would have turned itself off. If a Toyota hybrid is stopped and the transmission is in park, the car will shut itself off after about an hour — figuring another numbskull did what you did, Xavier. It’s also smart enough to know that if someone taps the brake, there’s a human in the car, so it’ll reset the timer.

The underbody cover is kind of like BVDs for your car. It’s there so the wind and stones don’t “chafe” the underside of the vehicle.

One function it serves is aerodynamic. It smooths out the underside of your car, so the wind passes underneath without creating a lot of turbulence. That improves your gas mileage a little bit.

Its other function is protective. It can stop some road debris from kicking up into the belts and pulleys of the engine compartment. In fact, some manufacturers call the part a stone guard.

It is fun to drive a stick shift, Marion. It also offers many underappreciated benefits these days. It prevents you from texting while driving, unless you have three hands. And it gives you a built-in anti-theft device, since most car thieves have no idea how to drive them either.

We haven’t resurfaced a rotor in 10 years.

It’s just not worth it anymore. Rotors are fairly inexpensive, and for the $50 difference in price, you can have new rotors rather than thinner, resurfaced rotors.

If it were my car, I’d go to guy No. 3 and just do everything at once and be done with it. But based on the number of opinions you sought out, Al, including mine, I’m guessing you’re of a frugal nature. In which case, you can certainly use guy No. 2, and just do the rear pads.

If he’s checked the rear rotors and is sure they’ve got some life left, and they’re not warped, he can deglaze them for you with a sanding disc when he changes the pads. In fact, that may be all the dealer intended to do.

Your mechanic should make sure he uses all the correct hardware and puts the anti-squeal paste on the back of the pads when he installs them. And you may be fine.

And the worst thing that will happen? Your rear brakes may make some noise. If they do, and it bothers you enough, you can always go back and have the guy put in new rear rotors then.

Put simply, paint is mixture of pigment (color) and a solvent that keeps it liquified until it’s been applied to a surface. Once it’s applied, that solvent evaporates and leaves the color.

Compared to older, oil paints, water-based paints replace an enormous percentage of that solvent material with water. Water also evaporates to leave the pigment, but it’s not bad for your health. Unless you mix it with an excessive quantity of bathtub whiskey.

Which I’ve tried.

So, what’s the cost? Well, there was a cost involved in the switchover, as manufacturers and body shops had to invest in new equipment, and had to work out the kinks of using the new products.

And water-based paints do tend to cost a bit more than less-desirable oil-based paints.

But there are also savings, because shops need fewer pollution controls to meet air quality regulations and fewer hazmat suits and respirators for employees.

In the end, most auto paint experts think that water-based paint with a clear coat results in a better metallic finish. Look at a new car from 40 years ago and a new car today. Today’s paint job looks much better.

So, why don’t manufacturers just set the car in eco permanently? Because they’re afraid nobody would buy it.

While some people take great pleasure in saving fuel and money, there are apparently more people who take greater pleasure in beating the Nissan Sentra in the next lane when the light turns green.

And if a car is only modestly powered to begin with, it will often seem underpowered in eco mode. At least to an important fraction of drivers.

But you can use it to your heart’s content, Don. You’re doing good things for your car, the environment and your wallet. Not to mention your index finger strength — from having to push the eco button every time you drive.

The Fit is not a bad idea. I leaned toward a minivan, because the sliding doors open so wide, and the back seats can come out completely, leaving a big, flat floor. The Fit’s doors are much smaller, by comparison. But the Fit might be worth a look.

The Fit is not a bad idea. I leaned toward a minivan, because the sliding doors open so wide, and the back seats can come out completely, leaving a big, flat floor. The Fit’s doors are much smaller, by comparison. But the Fit might be worth a look.

* * *

But if there’s a perfect vehicle for her, I’d say it’s a Ford Transit Connect Cargo Van. It’s a great, small, easy-to-handle vehicle that’s very low to the ground. The back is all flat, with a nonslip rubber type floor, and no seats to remove. And it gets good mileage with regular 87 octane.

One downside is that it just seats two people, but I would guess a woman or man in their late 70s isn’t hauling groups of people very often.

You can start by calling a few local yards. But if your rubber gaskets are rotting, that may be due to your local climate (hot and dry?). And any gaskets that are sitting out in their yard may be in equally bad shape. So, you’re probably better off doing a nationwide search for the parts you need.

And thanks to the internet, that’s easier than ever. Gone are the days when I had to trudge over to Nissen-Baum’s Bone Yard in the rain and climb over piles of AMC Gremlin skeletons to find a choke pull off.

If you search “How to find parts at junkyards,” you’ll discover several online options. And since the gaskets are lightweight, shipping them from anywhere in the country won’t be a hindrance.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

Breaking News