Q. I just had brakes put on my 2009 Pontiac Vibe which included new brake pads and resurfacing of the brake rotors. Now when I step on brake pedal, I get a shaking in the pedal and a noise that sounds like something is loose. I had a friend check, but we didn’t see anything wrong. What is up with this thing?
A. Since the noise wasn’t apparent before the brakes were replaced, I would have the brakes pads inspected and the brake rotors checked for “out-of-round”. When the brake rotors were reinstalled, rust on the hub could be causing the brake vibration.
Q. I have a 2005 VW Passat and have been told by the service people that I should always use high test premium fuel in my car. They say this helps it to last longer and have better performance. Friends I speak to say they have been told similar things but don't believe it and think it is unnecessary to use high test gasoline. I have been using high test all along, but now I wonder if I am wasting money. Could you give me an objective opinion on premium fuel and its benefits?
A. If you car’s owner’s manual states that premium fuel is required, you need to use it. If premium fuel is recommended, then you can use lower octane fuel, although it is possible that you will notice a drop in fuel economy and performance. If you are using premium fuel in a car that doesn’t require it, you are just wasting your money and not extending the life of your car’s engine.
Q. I am the original owner of a 1997 Honda Civic EX with 191,000 miles. The mechanic that performs the state inspections comments yearly that the car is in great shape. This is my secondary backup car that now travels less than 100 miles/week. My friends think I should drive the car into the ground and then replace the entire engine with one that has lower mileage (if the mechanic can find one). What are the pro and cons for choosing to replace the timing belt as opposed to replacing the entire engine in the future (I know it is apples versus oranges)?
A. If the car is due for a timing belt replacement, it should be done. With this car, if the timing belt fails, it will cause catastrophic engine damage that will require replacement of the engine. Regarding replacing the engine with a used engine, this is always a possibility if the body and other vital mechanical components are in good shape.
Q. I have the opportunity to stay at a friend’s condo in Florida until May. I would like to go to get away from the cold, but have a 10 year old car with 150,000 miles on it. Do you think it is safe to take a car this age on such a long trip? What should I take with me, if anything, for spare parts?
A. Almost any car that is reasonably well-maintained should be able to make it to Florida and back. Prior to the trip, have all the vital fluids checked and serviced as necessary. Have your repair shop check all the belts, hoses, cooling system, tires (including the spare tire), brakes and battery. Regarding supplies, extra oil, coolant, basic tools, and a cell phone are all worth bringing. I would also bring a jump start pack and portable air compressor. I have a unit that combines both and adds peace of mind when traveling. One of my co-workers just turned 300,000 miles on her Honda Pilot, keeps it well maintained, and would think nothing of driving it to Florida and back.
Q. I have a Honda Civic and need a bigger car. We are a Honda family with Civics, Accords and CR-V among family members. I need more room but I don’t really like the idea of a Pilot or minivan. I’m leaning towards the CR-V, what do you think?
A. The CR-V is a great compact SUV or crossover and will give you the room you want and decent mileage. One car you might want to look at is the Honda Crosstour; think of it as an Accord hatchback. The Crosstour offers distinctive style with additional storage, plenty of passenger room, and decent fuel economy. During my road test, I averaged a very reasonable 26 miles per gallon. If you are looking for a somewhat practical car that has a unique style, take a look at the Crosstour.