Cars

Does driving in neutral save on gas?

Q. We drive a 2011 Honda CRV, it has automatic transmission, but my husband shifts into neutral whenever there is an opportunity to coast, claiming it saves on gas. This is his standard driving mode. To give you an example, we frequently take a trip over semi rural roads where there are no major intersections or steep hills, but many slight to moderate changes in elevation. During this nine mile trip he will shift more than 50 times, never taking his hand off the lever. Is there a detriment to driving this way, and how much do you think we are saving?

A. In my opinion any slight savings in fuel economy would be lost in wear and tear to the transmission. In fact some state such as Michigan, Texas and New Jersey have laws that state an operator moving on a downgrade may not coast with the gears or transmission of the vehicle in neutral.

Q. My 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee transmission will sometimes stay in third gear and engine light will come on. When this happens I can’t paddle shift up or down. If I stop and restart the car everything will be fine. Any idea why this happens?

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A. It sounds like the transmission is going into “limp-in” mode. The common problem with this transmission is solenoid failure. A transmission shop should be able to help diagnose the problem and provide you with an estimate for the repair.

Q. I have a Hyundai Elantra GLS 2013, which I bought in May, 2013. The original wipers were not clearing water from the driver’s side windshield during rainy wet weather. The problem was so severe that I had to leave the route I was driving on for another less traveled road. We replaced the original wiper blades on December 13, with winter style blades. During a long rainy return trip from Pennsylvania back home to Massachusetts, on Sunday, December 28, I could barely see out of the driver’s side window. A big streak was occurring at the attachment point right in the center of my vision and there were other places continuously streaking. My husband said the passenger side was better but not great. At this point we are thinking something is wrong with the wiper arm and it is supplying too much pressure on the wiper blade. We will have our Hyundai dealer replace it. According to the dealer there are no recall notices or technical Bulletins on this problem. Have you heard from anyone else who is also dealing with this issue?

A. I have not heard of any problems with this model but it is certainly possible that the wiper arms or the angle of the blade is part of the problem. I would switch back to the original equipment style blade and check the angle of the blade to insure it is perpendicular to the windshield. Finally completely clean the windshield I have seen wax and road grime cause all kinds of windshield wiper problems.

Q. My Toyota master key fell off my key chain, and I cannot find it anywhere. Toyota tells me I can replace it but it will cost me over $300. They say they have to match the new one to the computer in the car and that they have to replace the computer to do this. I am using my spare key to operate the car for the time being, and wondering if this information is correct. If I can buy a tablet computer that can access the internet for about the same amount of money, isn’t this rather expensive? What information can you give me?

A. Keys on today’s cars are getting more and more expensive all the time. If fact in some cases I have seen keys/fobs costing $1000 or more. In some cases when the master key is lost the car’s computer will need to be replaced when new keys are programmed. This is due to Toyota and other automakers anti-theft systems. Three hundred dollars is expensive for a key but reasonable if the cars computer needs replacing. The best advice I can give to car owners if your car has a smart key and you are prone to losing your keys, make a copy now and keep it somewhere safe.

Phillip from N. Reading comments: In a recent column you cited an Infiniti M60 when I’m sure you meant an Infiniti Q60. In my opinion Infiniti seriously messed up with their rebranding of their cars if even car journalists can’t keep the names straight. Phillip, you are correct I did mean a Q60 not a M60. It isn’t getting any easier as the car companies are changing model designations. One recent example is the BMW 1 series becoming a 2 series and 3 series becoming a 4 series and as you pointed out the 2014 Infiniti changes. I fondly look back to the old days of actual names, such as Marauder, Falcon and Diplomat.

Readers, what do you prefer, alpha numeric designations or actual names? Email me at—jpaul@aaasne.com.

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