Q. I have a 2005 Lexus ES 330 and it has 100,000 miles on it. My question is if the timing belt breaks will the engine become damaged? Should I replace the timing belt now? The car runs great and I only plan on keeping it through the winter.
A. The timing belt on your Lexus should be replaced at 90,000 miles or 108 months, whichever comes first. Based on the mileage, you should certainly consider replacing the timing belt. If the belt breaks, the engine won’t be damaged but you will be inconvenienced by your car breaking down and stranding you on the side of the road. If I needed to rely on the car I would have the timing belt replaced.
Q. After 25 years of driving the big old style clunky 4WD Chevy Suburban (and loving the feel of driving a passenger style truck), I was forced to bury my beloved vehicle because of rust. I am now the owner of a 2009 4WD Chevy Suburban and trying very hard to like it. Mileage is not much better, cargo capacity is less but most importantly, handling is horrible. I never had to move the transmission out of 2WD on the old Suburban when it rained but now, even when the pavement is just wet, I need to go to the AWD or the “truck” fishtails. After many conversations with the dealer, I’m told that “it is what it is and there is nothing wrong with the vehicle.” These are their exact words from more than one person (including an independent mechanic). My question is, I now have “all weather” tires on the “truck”. It was suggested that I put “all terrain” or “off road” tires on and perhaps that would improve the ability of the vehicle to hold the road. What do you think?
A. I don’t think switching to all terrain tires would help unless you drive off-road or in deep snow. You are correct that the heavier Suburban was better in the snow, not just because of its weight but how the truck was geared. If this was my truck, I would leave it in AWD unless the roads are completely dry and let the computer react to road conditions. I recently drove a 2014 Chevy Silverado and found the same result. In two-wheel drive on wet roads the rear wheels would spin if I was not careful; in AWD it was stable, easy to drive and one of the best full-sized pick-ups on the road.
Q. I am considering purchasing an extended warranty on a 2007 Infiniti G35X with 43,000 miles. We have actually met before; I am the Disney representative in the area that works the local AAA and you had me on your radio program when you were broadcasting from the AAA Travel Show. The extended warranty that is being offered by the dealer is with the Penn Warranty Company and the price is $1380 for a four year warranty. What do you think of this warranty company and is it worth purchasing an extended warranty in general?
A. The 2007 Infinity G35X is a great car with a good track record and is equipped with a good amount of “bells and whistles” that could potentially be expensive to repair. Considering the car is all-wheel-drive and almost seven years old I would consider the purchase of a warranty. Regarding the Penn Warranty Company, I’m not familiar with this company. If it were me, I would compare the Penn Warranty features with the extended warranty that AAA offers. AAA warranty is transferable, has an unlimited number of claims and only one deductible per visit, and has direct payment to repair facilities among other features.
Q. My daughter’s 2011 Honda Pilot with 55,000 miles surges like it is being starved for gas. This happens intermittently, hot or cold, on the highway or city driving; it doesn’t matter. There is no pattern to this issue. The car has been checked out by the Honda dealer and given a clean bill of health, any ideas?
A. If you are feeling this sensation when the “ECO” light is on this could be a normal characteristic of this vehicle. During ECO mode the engine is running on 3 or 4 cylinders and some drivers, perhaps due to driving style, are likely to notice the change in performance and engine operation. The other issue that affected older models was that the transmission torque convertor caused a shuddering. In some cases changing the fluid and performing a computer update solved the problem.
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.