Is there any harm in switching between conventional and synthetic oil?

Q. I have a 2005 four-cylinder Toyota Camry.  I receive random oil change coupons offering services with synthetic oil. Is there any harm in switching back and forth between conventional/petroleum based and synthetic oils? I have heard storing about oil leaks in even newer engines, is this true?

A. Years ago there were concerns about switching from conventional to synthetic oil and back again. Over time any concerns about switching from conventional to synthetic oil and back has proved unfounded. The only concern you should have is, if you have not been diligent about oil changes synthetic oil is a very good cleaner and can wash away any accumulated sludge. If the only thing keeping your car’s engine from leaking oil is sludge, the synthetic oil could find any weak gaskets or seals. 

Q. My wife and I moved here from another state a few months ago, and went to have the cars we moved with inspected. The service station inspector of the location we chose immediately pointed out that in Massachusetts "you can't have those blue headlights," and immediately removed the aftermarket HID lights, replacing them with Sylvania Silverstars bulbs. Having just arrived here, we didn't know any better, and so took him at his word. Since then, we've seen literally countless cars on the road with HID lights, from brand-new models to cars older than ours, which means that their lights are aftermarket as well. So what's the real story are HID lights legal in MA or not?

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A. Factory installed HID or xenon headlights meet specific federal motor vehicle safety standards. Aftermarket lights usually won’t meet this specification generally because they lack the automatic aiming feature of factory installed xenon headlights. Although expensive, the shop did the right thing. 

Q. I recently purchased a used Honda CRV; I like this little SUV a lot but have trouble backing it up. I have seen some other vehicle with back-up camera, is it possible to add one to a used car?

A. You can certainly improve your ability to back up and park your SUV. You could take to low tech approach and add a static cling wide angle Fresnel lens. These PVC lens cling to the inside of the rear window and give a wide view when backing up. Or you could go more hi-tech with an add-on back up camera. I recently looked at one unit from Pyle Audio that uses a camera that mounts over the license plate and a seven inch monitor that can be permanently installed on the dash or mounted on the windshield with a suction cup mount. The installation is simple and the cost is just over $100. In addition the same company has systems that utilize the rear view mirror as a monitor for the camera, giving more of a factory installed look. Although this mirror system certainly requires a little more installation skill.

Q. I thought I had a bad front wheel bearing on the right side of my car. This was based on the fact when I would turn to the left the noise would go away. Driving straight or turning right the noise is there all the time. So my mechanic said it was the left wheel bearing he replaced it with a new one and the noise is still the same as before, what should I do?

A. If the repair shop diagnosed the problem, then the shop needs to refund your money or fix the problem. Now a competent shop should have verified your concern before they did repair and notified you if there was a concern about the diagnosis or pending repair.

Q. I have a 2012 Kia Optima that I really like but the seat feels like it is loose and makes a noise. I went to the dealer and they told me this was normal, but is it?

A. Some seat movement is normal within reason; there is a technical service bulletin that may address this issue. Have your dealer address TSB Number: BOD092, titled: Interior—Driver's Seat Popping Noise and or Shifting Feeling.