Q. I have a 2007 Toyota Solara with very bright headlights, and a 2004 Toyota Sienna with headlights that don’t come close to the 2007. Can I buy brighter bulbs for the 2004?
Grace and Jim
A. The two cars use a different style of light, but you can upgrade to a brighter bulb in the 2004 Sienna. Both Sylvania and GE make bulbs that are brighter, without causing glare. The only down side is bulb life. I have been using the GE Nighthawk bulbs in my car for about a year and my aging eyes have noticed a benefit of more light on the road.
Q. I’m wondering how often do I need to change the oil in my new Camaro if I use Mobil One synthetic oil? Do I have to change it every 3,000 miles, or can I prolong it since the oil is fully synthetic?
A. Synthetic oil has several advantages over conventional oil. It tends to lubricate better in cold weather, allow for easier starting, and may even increase fuel economy slightly. But despite these advantages, you still don’t want to exceed the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation for oil change interval. Although many people change the oil in their cars every 3000 miles, most vehicle manufacturers including GM, recommend oil changes closer to 7500 miles or in some case even longer. Consult your car’s owner’s manual. And, even given the superior quality of synthetic oil, don’t exceed the manufactures recommendation, and check the oil level every 1,000 miles.
Q. My 2007 Subaru Outback has required changing the serpentine belt four times. The belt tensioner was replaced last month. Now, just one month later, the serpentine belt is wearing again. This time I’m told the problem is the power steering pump, and replacement will cost about $800. Does this seem right?
A. The biggest problem with belt wear is when the pulleys are not in alignment with each other. This causes stress and wear on the serpentine belt and results in shorter than normal life. Now, it is possible the power steering pump is worn, allowing the pulley to “walk” in and out. The factory cost on a replacement pump is just about $500.00 plus labor. Before I spent $500 for a pump I would take a straight-edge ruler, and make sure all the pulleys are lined up properly. If they are not, I would add shims as necessary to line up the pulleys.
Q. My truck was upside down in a ditch filled with water-it’s a long story but I didn’t get hurt! The engine was not completely submerged, but it was upside over an hour until the wrecker flipped it back. It runs and smokes (and is in the shop) but hasn’t been run long. Will replacing fluids and oil be optimal, or should I be concerned with more serious long term damage?
A. Certainly changing all the fluids would be beneficial. My biggest concern is that the engine suffered some internal damage when it was first started. If there was water in the engine and the engine was started it could have easily bent a valve or connecting rod. I would drain and refill and fluids and perform a compression test to look for damage. Considering your luck and not getting hurt, I would buy a lottery ticket.
John Paul, the “Car Doctor,” is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England and a columnist for Boston.com. A certified master technician, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on 950 WROL in Boston (www.wrolradio.com) on Saturday mornings at 9. Need car advice? E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to www.boston.com/cardoctor for past columns, tips, and repair help.