Q. I was recently stuck in traffic and saw a cute little SUV called a Captiva. It appeared to be made by Chevrolet, but I can’t find out any information about it. What was it and where do I buy one?
A. The Captiva is a compact SUV made by Chevrolet for use in fleets only. The Captiva is built in Mexico and designed by GM Korea. The vehicle you saw may have been part of a rental fleet or purchased used from a rental company. Considering the popularity of fuel efficient crossovers, I wouldn’t be surprised if General Motors offers this vehicle under a different name in the near future.
Q. My 2004 Dodge Stratus has a clunking noise in the front end. We have had struts, ball-joints and tie-rods checked and everyone we have taken it to have told me they can’t find anything wrong. What could it be?
A. Have your repair shop reference technical service bulletin number 23-039-04. This bulletin describes a snapping noise that is repaired with a couple of large rivets. With an eight year old car, other possibilities include worn sway bar links and ill-fitting replacement wheel bearings.
Q. I have a 2002 Honda Civic. For a few months, as I’ve driven, the brake light on the dashboard goes on and right after that, all the lights on the dashboard go on, just as though I were turning on my engine. The lights stay on for a few seconds and then turn off as suddenly as they turned on. The engine is still running, and the lights do not appear to affect it. I recently had my brakes done, the mechanic has checked them twice since, and all appears well with the brakes. I do not know what is causing the brake light and all the other lights to go on as I drive. Since the car is now 10 years old, I don’t want to spend a ton of money but want it keep it safe. Can you offer any solutions?
A. Take a careful look at the ignition switch. It may have become worn and although it is not shutting off the car, it is shutting off the electrical system. With the engine running, wiggle the key and see if you can duplicate the flashing lights; if you can, replace the ignition switch. Some ignition switches can wear prematurely from having too many keys, pictures, and other doodads on your key ring.
Q. I was reading my local news paper and read an ad comparing the Kia Sportage to the Honda CRV. The ad led you to believe that if you compared the two vehicles the Sportage is a better value. I have a 2005 CRV and it is about time to consider a replacement. Is the Kia really as good as the Honda?
A. Honda continues to build some of the highest quality vehicles on the planet. That said, there are no bad vehicles anymore. Certainly some are designed better than others, and some hold their values better than others. The Kia Sportage is a very competitive vehicle with the CRV, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and other small SUV/crossovers. My only minor criticism of the Sportage is a rather firm ride that may not appeal to all drivers.
Q. It is my understanding that Toyota warranties the hybrid batteries on the Prius for eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. I also heard that some states require that they be warranted longer than that. Is that true?
A. The battery warranty on hybrid cars sold in “green” states is in fact longer. Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and several other "green" states require longer warranties, 15-year/150,000-mile hybrid-related component coverage. The hybrid battery is an exception, and is warranted for 10 years/150,000 miles.