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Here’s how it all works. When you shut off the engine, your carburetor stores a bunch of fuel in the float chamber. That’s the fuel that’s used next time you start the car. In fact, if you severed the fuel line that comes from the tank, your car would still run for a good minute or more just on the fuel stored in the carburetor. But then you’d have to write me about how to replace a fuel line, so don’t do that.

Anyway, it takes the fuel pump many seconds — all while you’re cranking and cranking the starter — to get enough new fuel to the carburetor to run the engine.

Normally, that would be no problem, because, as I said, you’ve got plenty of fuel sitting in the carburetor until the fuel pump catches up.

But in your case, during those few weeks that the car sits, fuel is leaking out of your carburetor, perhaps into the intake manifold, and evaporating. So, when you go to start the car, the float chamber is dry.

Now, you could, I suppose, install an electric fuel pump with a switch on the dashboard. And you could turn on the switch a few seconds before you want to start the car. And that would fill up the carburetor.

There is a gauge that measures the thickness of your remaining brake pads. And generally speaking, if they’re down to an eighth of an inch of pad left, it’s time to replace them. And when the pads get replaced, the rotors should be replaced, too. Since you can’t measure them yourself, you’re going to have to trust a mechanic.

If you really believe the dealer is trying to push unnecessary repairs because he doesn’t have enough cars to sell, you can always go to a shop that doesn’t sell cars and get a second opinion.

But by any measure, you’ve done well to get 74,000 miles out of a set of brakes. So, even if you don’t need new ones right now, it’s not too early to start shopping around for a set of brake pads in a color you like.

All he had to do at that point was to replace the spark plug, charge you $850 for the diagnostics and send you on your way. Now, it’s possible that something is fouling that spark plug, but I’m assuming your mechanic checked for that and ruled it out. It’s more likely that your spark plugs just haven’t been replaced since 1996, and the ceramic insulation on one of them cracked.

If that’s the case, I would recommend replacing all of them at this point. Replacing all six will probably cost you in the neighborhood of $300 at the dealer. The plugs are about $25 each and, since there’s an air hose and a few plastic covers in the way of the rearmost plugs, they’ll charge you an hour’s labor for the job. But that ought to fix it, Mary.

Now the vapors get pushed into a charcoal canister, where they’re stored until you start the engine and they can be combusted. But if the vapors can’t get into the evaporative canister, for whatever reason, they push back up the filler neck, and signal to the fuel nozzle that the tank is full and it’s time to “stop pumping.”

How do evaporative emissions systems malfunction? If you overfill your tank regularly — if you keep squeezing in 94 cents more gas so you can get to a nice, round “$50.00” on the readout — liquid gasoline can get forced into the charcoal canister and plug it up.

So that’s one possibility. There’s also a solenoid that controls the valve to the canister; that could be bad. And finally, there could be something mechanical, like a kink in the tubing that runs from the gas tank to the canister. So, you need a good mechanic who’s willing to do some diagnostic work for you, Freddy. And depending on what he finds, the cost could be anywhere from $100 to $500.

So, when a car gets “crash tested,” they have to test it with both a dummy that’s wearing its seat belt, and a complete dummy that’s not wearing its seat belt. And in order to pass both of those tests, automotive engineers have to make compromises.

In the case of knee air bags, engineers figured out that an air bag at the knees could help keep an unbelted dummy in a more upright position during a crash, so he wouldn’t slide under the steering wheel and get crushed to death.

Unfortunately, that probably required a larger and more powerful knee bag than was necessary just to protect the lower legs of the belted majority of drivers.

So it seems knee air bags aren’t optimized for people like you and me, who take two seconds to put on our seat belts. And as a result, they can be problematic. A 2019 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety demonstrates that.

IIHS studied real-world crash data from 14 states. And they found that for drivers and passengers wearing their seat belts, knee air bags barely helped prevent injuries (they decreased the overall injury risk by about half a percent), and in some types of accidents, they increased the risk of lower-leg injuries.

— John

Uh-oh, looks like Frank in the paint department forgot to buff out another one. It’s most commonly called a “matte” finish, John. BMW calls it “frozen,” because it looks like a bag of peas that just came out of the freezer with a coat of frost on it. And it is a very cool-looking finish. Who says cars have to be shiny?

It’s prepared the same way as any other paint job. The primer and paint are applied and then a clear coat is added on top of the paint. But instead of buffing the clear coat to a smooth finish, the clear coat is left unpolished. That’s what creates the nonshiny, matte appearance.

Because it’s created the same way, it’s just as durable as any other paint job. But maintenance isn’t quite as easy. Most manufacturers recommend that you hand-wash a car with a matte finish, as the fast-spinning brushes of some automatic car washes can shine up individual spots — making the car look like the face of a teenager with greasy splotches.

You also can’t fix scratches very easily. On most cars, if you get a modest scratch that only goes into the clearcoat, you buff the clearcoat and make the scratch disappear. If you buff a spot on a matte finish, you’ll shine up that spot and ruin the look. If you don’t remove a stain in time, and it etches into the clearcoat, you’ve got the same problem.

I don’t know how hard it is for a body shop to match an individual door or fender, should you need to replace one after an accident. But I’m guessing it’s harder to match than a traditional, shiny finish. And, of course, you can’t use a normal car wax on it. You’ll need a specialty product, lest you accidentally shine up the finish you spent an extra $3,000 to special order.

I’m afraid your dealer is looking for what we call A.D.P. — Additional Dealer Profit. So I would go to Google Maps, get him directions to the nearest lake and suggest he drive there and jump in it.

Several decades ago, fuel injectors would get dirty after some tens of thousands of miles. And we had a big machine at the garage that we called the Wallet Vac. It was actually called the MotorVac.

The MotorVac would run a solution through the fuel system and clean out the dirty injectors and valves. And at one time, we probably used that machine three times a week.

But in recent decades — to address that problem — carmakers have worked closely with the gasoline companies to make what they call “top tier” fuel, which is super clean. It includes detergents, too. And we hardly ever see dirty fuel injectors on modern cars anymore.

The recirculate button reuses all but 5% to 10% of the air inside your car. It’s useful when you want to cool the car quickly, because you’re not continually introducing new, hot, humid air from outside.

The fresh air setting will introduce much more new air, and that’s what you want. I’m guessing you want to minimize the amount of passenger air you’re breathing. And to be fair, your passengers probably want to do the same since for all they know, you just got back from the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and Group Hug.

So even better — regardless of the AC settings — open at least two windows. Open your driver’s window and the window diagonally opposite that, on the passenger side in back. You don’t have to open them all the way, but even by opening them a quarter of the way, you’ll usually create a cross current and move air through the car. Even better, crack all of the windows a quarter of the way, if your passengers are amenable.

That doesn’t mean you have to forgo the air conditioning (or heat). You can run those anyway, even with the windows open, and make the

in-car temperature more comfortable.

In your case, I think your mechanic has a point. Normally, timing belts need to be replaced at around 90,000 miles. But age is also a factor with rubber products — like belts and tires. So even though this Corolla is far short of 90,000 miles, the timing belt has been sitting there, drying out and degrading, for as long as 26 years now.

When it breaks, it will prevent the car from running. And if it breaks while she’s on the road, she’ll be at the mercy of whatever shop she can find, and will be stranded for a day, or more.

So even though it’s hundreds of dollars to replace — you replace the water pump, pulley, seals and tensioner at the same time — I’d do it. It won’t cost you any more to do now than it will to wire her the money in Bone Gap, Oklahoma, on a rainy Sunday.

Keep in mind that there are lots of things that can go wrong with a car that was built in 1995: fuel pumps, alternators, starters, power steering pumps. And you won’t be able to predict or fix them all for her. If you did, that would be called a 2022 Corolla.

My first guess would be something called the crank angle sensor. The crank angle sensor does a lot of things, including directing the spark to the right cylinder at the right time. And we’ve seen bad crank angle sensors in a lot of older Jeeps. They tend to act up when the engine is hot.

It could also be a wiring problem, a bad coil, bad rotor or a bad distributor pickup. But I’d start with a crank angle sensor. That’ll cost you a hundred bucks or so, including installation. But not including your next muffler. Good luck, John.

So it works exactly like a gas cap does, except you never have to remove it, replace it, tighten it or go back to the gas station because you accidentally left it on top of the pump and drove away. A week ago.

These capless filler necks have been around for years now, and they seem to work great.

The only downside is that if you need to add emergency fuel — from a can with a flexible hose, for instance — you can damage the cap mechanism. So, several companies, like Ford and Honda, include a little plastic spout to use just for that purpose. You can check your owner’s manual to see if your car has one, and where it’s stored.

Cleaning out that goop is a messy, unpleasant job. It’s the tire shop equivalent of changing a diaper after your kid’s been playing in a bouncy house for four hours. And that’s why your repair shop said “no thanks.”

Some shops will do it but will charge you extra for it. Others may just refuse. Another disadvantage of Fix-a-Flat, and its ilk, is that they often don’t work on larger punctures, larger than, say, 2-3 millimeters — or a fat screw.

The best solution, of course, is a full-size spare tire. That allows you to keep driving indefinitely. But fewer cars provide full size spares these days.

The next best option is a mini-spare, which will let you drive 50 miles and does no further damage to your flat tire.

Next on my list is a tow truck. If you have a car club membership or roadside assistance, you can get towed to a repair shop and possibly have your old tire fixed.

If you’re stranded and none of those options are available to you, we prefer flat-tire “kits” that include a liquid sealant combined with a small air compressor that plugs into your car’s power port. Kits, like the Airman ResQ Pro+, tend to do a better job on larger punctures, up to 5-6 millimeters, and allow you to fill the tire with enough air to protect it while you find a repair shop.

Sound energy doubles for every 10 mph or so of speed. So road noise from traffic at 70 mph is going to be a lot louder than road noise from 30 mph traffic. As you and your family can attest.

Electric cars are more likely to help with noise on slower and residential streets, where acceleration can make as much noise as tires. And they’ll be particularly helpful in reducing noise when large trucks go electric. That’ll help your situation, Larry. But electric drivetrains, on their own, won’t solve your highway noise problem.

The good news is there are other technologies that may help. Lots of places are using rubberized asphalt to pave roads now. That’s asphalt mixed with bits of old tires. Kind of a homeopathic approach. Tire vs. tire. Those roads are a lot quieter. And there are experimental road surfaces being developed that might reduce noise even more.

But for not much more, you can buy a brand-new set of after-market wheels. If you Google “original steel wheels for 2005 Honda CR-V,” you’ll find perfect replicas of your original wheels for prices ranging from about $75 to $100 per wheel.

We found a good selection at CARiD.com, and all you have to do is pick the ones that match the size and style of your current wheels. I’m sure your mechanic would help you pick the right ones if you ask him. When you factor in shipping and tire mounting, you’re probably talking about $500, give or take.

There’s no reason to buy them from Honda, if Honda even sells these wheels anymore. As you know, the wheel was invented some time ago, so other companies have had plenty of time to perfect it.

The other stuff, you can avoid. GPS, power seats, power mirrors, seat warmers ... those are all options on lower-priced vehicles. But even the most basic car or truck you buy these days is still going to have 30, 40 or 50 microprocessors to handle everything from the lights to safety systems to engine and transmission management.

That’s led to great improvements. Cars are far more reliable than ever. And the safety advances from computers alone have been nearly miraculous. And that’s probably the best reason we can give you to “go out with a bang” and get a new car: So you won’t “go out with a bang!”

You’ll be exponentially safer in a 2022 Ford Maverick, 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz or even a 2-year-old Honda Fit than you’ll be in an ’86 Toyota HiLux.

If you really want a very simple truck, something pre-computer age, with manually operated everything, you’re going to have to look for a 1980s or earlier vintage compact truck that’s lived its life in a place where they don’t salt the roads. But if you can afford it, I’d encourage you to at least consider a new car for safety. The power windows might even grow on you.

By the way, “seating” means that the piston rings that go up and down inside the cylinders “conform” to the exact shape of their cylinder walls. When rings are properly seated and perfectly matched up with their cylinder walls, very little oil gets by them and burns up.

Conversely, rings that don’t seat properly, or are worn out, let lots of oil past them and result in you burning lots of oil and getting calls from local officials who want to use your vehicle for mosquito control.

Unfortunately, I fear that your rebuild was done inadequately. Your mechanic is, understandably, doing everything he can to avoid having to redo it. It’s time-consuming and expensive. But I think that’s where you’re heading.

You might as well humor him for now, Edward. Tell him you’ll drive it for another 500 miles and see what happens. But if the oil burning doesn’t drop pre-cipitously by then, he’s going to have to go back in and try again.

When you rebuild an engine, you usually have two choices. You can either just hone (rough up) the insides of the cylinder walls and replace the rings. Or you can bore out (increase the size of) the cylinders and then put in new, oversized pistons with new rings. That’s probably what he should have done, even though it costs more.

So the coupes on the market now fall into two categories. They’re either small sports cars (Toyota Supra, Porsche Cayman, Mazda Miata) or luxury coupes for orthodontists who just ran off with their hygienists (Audi A5, BMW 4-Series, Infiniti Q60 coupe).

The mildly good news for you, Tom, is that you’re not the only one who likes the look of coupes. So the latest trend in sedans is “four-door-coupe” styling. Yeah, the name makes no sense, but the idea is to build a four-door car that has the silhouette and raked rear roofline of a coupe. Modern manufacturing has made it a little easier to disguise the rear doors by using thinner and blacked out B-pillars.

If you go online and look at, say, the VW Arteon, Audi A5 Sportback or the BMW 4-Series Grand Coupe, or even the current Honda Accord, and squint, you’ll see what I mean. Maybe you can find one of those you like and can afford. And then duct tape the rear doors closed so you don’t accidentally convenience your-self. Good luck, Tom.

A real car will be much safer and more comfortable. Oh, and drier in the rain. I don’t think I’d hesitate to buy an actual electric car (EV) if I were you, Michelle. I’m not aware of any issues with EV battery life diminishing from lack of use. Like most vehicles, they get worn out through use. So, generally speaking, the less you use it, the longer it should last.

And if your maximum trip is really 50 miles, you’re a candidate for the least expensive EVs; the ones that have limited range. For instance, Mini makes a Cooper that only goes about 100 miles on a charge. That’s a nonstarter for most people. But for you, that’s more than enough. And it’s not only fun to drive (and cute!), but it’s reasonably priced. It starts at about $30,000, before the $7,500 federal rebate and any state rebates you’re entitled to.

Or you can look at a Kia Niro, Chevy Bolt, a Nissan Leaf or VW ID4 — all very nice, compact EVs that have more range than you’ll typically need. And don’t forget the best part of owning an electric vehicle. You can always plug it into your neighbor’s outdoor outlet.

Idling doesn’t harm the car at all, Annette. If your sister starts idling near the mall, that’s another issue. But idling is no problem for your engine.

As long as your cooling system is working (and you’d know if it wasn’t because you’d see a “HOT” warning light on the dashboard), cars can idle indefinitely. Or until they run out of gas.

Idling is actually easier on the car than driving. The engine is doing very little work. I guess that’s why they call it idling.

But there are two concerns, and they’re related. One is pollution. When you sit there idling, the engine is still putting out carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, unburned hydrocarbons and nitrous oxide compounds.

And because of that pollution, the second concern is that many towns and cities now have anti-idling ordinances. Those limit the amount of time you can legally let a vehicle idle without shutting it off. So check your local regulations.

Something inside of you is rebelling. Something inside of you wants to have an unplanned encounter on a dark, lonely road with a mysterious tow truck driver. And your chances of that increase exponentially in a Jeep.

I think you need to buy the Jeep, Kathleen. Maybe it’ll be a revelation to you, and you’ll wonder why you didn’t embrace your riskier side sooner? Maybe you’ll be inspired by your Jeep to do more adventurous things, meet new people and explore new places?

Or maybe you’ll drive it for a couple of years, get tired of cracking your teeth every time you go over a pothole and go back to a Prius?

But there’s only one way to find out. And to be honest, in the big picture of life, this is a relatively low-risk experiment. In the worst-case scenario, if you drive it for a year or two and decide you’ve had enough, you can always sell it. Like I said, there are lots of people who want these things.

You’ll lose a little bit of money, but that’s all you’ll lose. And that’s not so bad. It’s not like you’re abandoning your family, cashing out your IRA and moving to Peru with your pool boy.

And if you buy a Jeep, you’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll find out if people who drive Jeeps really are having more fun. Or, if the grass is just less reliable on the other side of the fence. Enjoy, Kathleen.

But given how little you drive this Ridgeline, I would fix only what’s actually broken right now. While it’s fairly common to replace the axle along with a torn boot, it’s not necessary. The reason we do it is because we make more money that way.

No, actually the reason we do it is because the extra labor involved in replacing the axle, once you have the boot off, is trivial. And for people who drive 15,000 miles a year, it makes sense to preemptively replace the axle rather than have to duplicate the labor six, 12 or 18 months later. But since you’re driving 4,000 miles a year, you might not need an axle for five years. Or ever.

What you want a mechanic to do is remove that outer CV joint whose boot has torn open. You want him to soak that CV joint in parts cleaner and get all the gunk out of it that he can. Then he can examine it. It’s possible that the joint is damaged now, due to driving it with the damaged boot. But if it’s not making a clackety noise on turns, it’s probably just fine.

They found the fuel economy loss is as low as 2% and as high as 19%, depending on the type of car and type of equipment carrier.

Sedans are naturally more fuel efficient than SUVs, due to their shape and lower stance. And when CR put just a roof rack on a Nissan Altima traveling at 65 mph, it cost the Altima an 11% fuel economy penalty. When CR added a cargo carrier to the roof rack, mileage dropped 19%!

They also tested a 2019 Toyota RAV4. Since SUVs are already shaped like refrigerators, fuel economy is worse to start out with but dropped less during testing. The RAV4 saw only a 2% drop from the roof rack alone and a 13% drop when the cargo pod was added. The bike rack that attaches to a tow hook behind the car did less damage to the car’s fuel economy, averaging a 2%-3% loss when not carrying bikes.

While they didn’t test the corresponding increase in pollution these rack and carriers cause, you can assume that pollution is roughly proportional to fuel use. So, for the purposes of shaming your Sierra Club member neighbor, I think you can use those same numbers.

And while they cost more, they not only perform better and offer better protection to your engine, they also last longer, so you change your oil less often. So if you’re interested in such things, you’ll also be disposing of less waste oil, which is better for the environment.

If you had asked the Quick Lane guy to tell you how much synthetic oil is in the blend they use, he’d probably have no idea. “Don’t worry about it, little lady” is your clue that he doesn’t know.

Oils are not required to list their ingredients on the side of the container like salad dressings. So you’re right to suspect that a low price probably means less of the good stuff.

So unless the Quick Lane offers a genuine, full synthetic oil as an extra cost option, I’d go back to your old guy and keep using the synthetic. That’ll give you the best chance of keeping your Expedition running well into old age — its old age and yours.

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