Can the Dodge Charger handle a New England winter?

Q. I really like the look of the Dodge Charger, although living in New England I’m concerned about winter driving especially after our latest blizzard. The Charger has an all-wheel-drive option; do you think it can handle winter here in the North East?

A. I recently drove the Charger with all-wheel-drive during winter storm Nemo and was very pleased how well this good-sized car handled snowy roads. My feeling is that with four dedicated winter tires this car would be unstoppable. The version I drove had the six-cylinder engine which developed nearly 300 horsepower and provided plenty of performance.  The new transmission is very nicely matched to the engine. Fuel economy is also pretty good with mileage in the mid-twenties. My only complaint was the navigation/climate control/sound system was somewhat distracting to use.

Q. I own a 2004 Honda Odyssey with 67,000 miles and no major problems to speak of. The car is approaching its 10th birthday and my mechanic is advising me to think about changing the timing belt sooner rather than waiting till the 105,000 mile mark as stated in the vehicle owner's manual. I do trust my mechanic and value his advice since all his shop works on is Honda’s and Acura's. I’m wondering if I’m better off upgrading to a newer Odyssey or paying the big bill for the timing belt and considering it the equivalent of a couple of car payments.

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A. Regarding the timing belt, I use www.AllData.com as a technical database and the recommendation is to replace the timing belt at 105,000 miles or seven years, whichever comes first. Generally, it is always cheaper to fix an old car than buy a new one. If the car is in good condition and you are not looking for the latest technology, I would be tempted to complete any necessary repairs and enjoy life without a car payment.

Q. I am currently driving a 2002 Nissan Pathfinder LE.  It has given me relatively few problems, but after 11 years I only have 112,000 miles on it.  It should last for a few more years but I am worried about all the age related issues that may start cropping up.  That said, I visited the Boston Auto Show to look at the new 2013 Pathfinder that is now built on car chassis, as well as the Honda Pilot.  My first reaction was the $45,000 sticker shock of models comparable with my current vehicle. With three grandsons, one feature on the Pathfinder that impressed me was a system that allowed easier access to the third row of seats without having to remove any car seats mounted in the second row.  Safety and mileage appeared to be about the same. I am approaching retirement and do tow a small boat. Do you have any opinion about either of these SUVs?

A. Currently the Honda Pilot would be my choice. It can do everything you want it to do, hold its value and has a great track record for repairs. The latest Nissan Pathfinder is still a bit of an unknown, although I just drove a pre-production version of the Pathfinder and found it to be a winner (ride, handling and ergonomics were great). Previous models of the Pathfinder were generally solid performers.

Q. I was horrified when I popped the hood of my car (not something I do often) and discovered that the engine compartment of my 2010 Audi Q5 was filled with rat feces, and much of the insulation around hoses, wires, etc. had been chewed away. I live in the city and have little control over where I park. I have noticed that a rat will scurry away from the car when I start it up in the morning. (I suppose they've been sleeping under the hood for warmth in the winter months.) I'm bringing my car to the dealer for damage assessment. In the meantime, can you tell me how I can keep the rats away in the future?

A. There are many things you can try, all which have been rumored to work. Readers tell me they have had good luck with bags of oil of spearmint (found at hardware stores); Bounty drier sheets tied under the hood, Irish spring soap, and predator urine—one with good reviews is Shake-a-way and a product found on the internet that seems to fit the bill is Rataway. Of course, there are always traps and poison. Readers have you had a rat or mouse problem and what worked for you? Email me jpaul@aaasne.com