Q. I recently inherited my parent’s minivan and transferred it from Illinois to Massachusetts. The minivan has dark tinting on the side windows. The van passed the Massachusetts inspection but the technician said that I had to have the side windows down when I exited his establishment. Will the window tinting on this vehicle be a problem in the future? Are there any Massachusetts laws I should be aware of?
A. There are specific window tint laws in many states including Massachusetts. For most vehicles, aftermarket tinting that registers at least 35% on a tint meter on side windows immediately adjacent to the driver and front passenger seats, is acceptable. More information about window tinting can be found on www.massrmv.com. As a side note although the inspection station was being nice, they should have put a rejection sticker on your minivan.
Q. I spend too much time with two of four tires on my 1999 Toyota Sienna as they leak 7—10 psi every 10 days. These are new tires and I was told the problem is oxidation on aluminum rims. Replacing the rims will solve the problem but this is a pricey option. I recall having a problem leaky tire on my lawn tractor that was solved by using an aerosol flat sealer. My question is will this work on my van and what about the tire pressure sensors?
A. Oxidation on wheels today has become a very real problem. Over time the aluminum wheel corrodes where the tire bead seals against the wheel. Sometimes a shop can remove the tire and clean, polish and seal the wheel with a dedicated tire bead sealer. As for trying a flat tire sealer I would recommend a product called Slime, they have a version that is TPMS safe.
Q. I own a 2002 Cadillac Deville with only 20,500 miles on it. This car has never given me any trouble until a few weeks ago. It now stalls after driving less than one eighth mile and there are no check engine lights on. I can immediately restart and it will not stall again. I have tried letting it idle in the driveway for 10 minutes and once I drive it, the car will still stall. I brought it to a local mechanic and he cleaned the throttle body and reset the idle. He kept it overnight to road test it and in the morning only to find the same problem for which he had no answer. Any advice that you can offer will be appreciated.
A. These cars have been plagued with crankshaft position sensor problems. There are two sensors and they both should be replaced if the technician finds a problem.
Q. We are just starting to consider a purchase of a used car for our 18 and 19 year old kids. We are hoping to maybe find something in the $6,000 range and were wondering if you could make any recommendations of small, safe cars that would handle well in snow. My daughter will be taking it to Maine next fall, so the snow piece if very important to us.
A. The best vehicle for this type of travel would be a small SUV. In this price range you are very limited in what is available. One vehicle that comes to mind is the Saturn Vue; although Saturn stopped making vehicles many parts are still readily available. A used Subaru is a possibility but it will be at least 10 years old and before purchasing it have it fully checked out. As good as Subaru models are they can be prone to head-gaskets, structural rust and catalytic convertor problems. Short of that a later model front wheel drive car equipped with four snow tires will perform pretty well in the snow.
Q. I have a small car and want to bring home a Christmas tree is there an easy was to transport a Christmas tree or other long items with a small car?
A. I have found a piece of foam rubber (an old mattress pad works great) cut to the appropriate size works great. The pad doesn’t slip, protects the paint and cradles the objects you are moving. A couple of ratchet straps run around the cargo and the roof will hold everything securely. If you are traveling any distance check the cargo periodically. Now of course this is great for light bulky items, if you need to carry something heavy, find a friend with a truck.
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.