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If the plugs were easily accessible, you could just loosen them and then tighten them back up — just to make sure you could remove them if you ever had to. But with the amount of work it takes to get to the rear plugs on your RAV4, you’d be crazy to do all that labor and not just replace those plugs for the additional $81.

So, as a responsible mechanic, and one with an IRA to fund, I have to recommend you go ahead and change them. Especially if you plan to keep this car for the long haul. But as a consumer, I can certainly see why you’d be tempted to take your chances, John.

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There’s some information on the web that can help you decode your specific VIN. If you’re willing to do some research, you may be able to tease out the information you want on your own.

But most of the online services that will decode your VIN for you will charge you something for it. And not all of them will even offer you a build sheet.

CarFax is the most famous of the companies that uses VINs to provide potential buyers with reports about the history of the car’s title. That’s not a bad idea when you’re buying a used car, but the sample reports we’ve seen from CarFax don’t provide a lot of build data. 

Everyone wants more. More time, more flexibility, more personalization. And when it comes to selling or trading in a car, people want more com…

The dealer may have just sensed that Mary was feeling financially vulnerable when she came in. He may have noticed the $400 worth of Bull Mastiff Chow she had just purchased in the backseat, and didn’t think she could stomach the estimate for a new sending unit the same day. Unfortunately, making that repair involves a fair amount of labor, because it requires removing the gas tank.

But unless she’s comfortable keeping track of her mileage, filling the tank based on how many miles she’s driven, always driving with a fully charged cell-phone and never lending the car to anybody, she probably should get it fixed.

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