Q. I am looking for a small SUV and I want to know whether the Subaru Forester is a better choice than the Honda CRV. Recently the Subaru has been receiving many accolades for its reliability. I just want to make sure that it is the best buy for the money.
A. I have driven both vehicles and they either would be a good choice. The CR-V is a great small SUV; fuel economy is quite good, the interior design blends comfort and functionality. Personally I like the CR-V’s size because it is easy to get in and out of and quite maneuverable. The Subaru Forester continues to improve, perform better, return good fuel economy all at a good price. In my opinion, out of the two vehicles, I’d rate the CR-V first and the Forester second-but both are very good.
Q. I have a general question on the timing belt versus the timing chain when buying a car. I recently was told that my Subaru needs new belts including the timing belt. Should I have purchased a car with a timing chain? Replacing the timing belt is going to be expensive! A critical function, like engine timing, should have a more robust system. What do you think?
A. There was a time when most domestic cars had timing chains and imported cars with overhead camshaft engines had timing belts. Timing belts work well but they do require regular maintenance with replacement between 60,000-120,000 miles. Now we are seeing a switch back over to timing chains. This latest generation of timing chains is quiet and can provide accurate and quiet valve timing that was only possible with rubber timing belts.
Q. My current 2011 RX 350 is coming off of lease this summer. I have been told the 2015 will have major changes as compared to the 2014, which is currently available. Im wondering if you know if the 2015 is going to be a major change vehicle from Lexus or will it be 2016? I do not want to buy the last year of a car model before undergoing major change. I appreciate any help you might provide.
A. Based on some of the information that has been released so far it appears that there will be some changes in the 2015 RX. Although it will still be based on the Camry/Avalon platform, there may be some new engine choices including an upgraded hybrid powerplant. Overall, styling will change but like all Toyota/Lexus products, I wouldn’t expect a radical departure from what we are seeing today.
Q. My 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee has been having some hesitation when starting. The battery is only one year old. Today when I tried to start the car, there was some loud clicking. I went to the garage to have the battery, alternator and starter checked, and after the check the guy said everything was fine. When I tried to start my car, it would not turn-over. It was as though there was no life in the battery. This was immediately after his check with some type of device he hooked up to the battery. He tried to jump it and after four tries of me turning the key, some smoke came out of the engine as though something had burnt. It was towed by AAA to the Jeep dealership. Any idea what happened? Did the guy at first garage, with their battery/alternator check and resulting jumpstart, do something that caused this additional damage?
A. If the testing equipment and the jumpstart pack were used correctly, the battery and associated components shouldn’t have been damaged. I suspect that since you had an issue that prompted you to have the battery tested, your Jeep was suffering from some sort of electrical issue prior to this testing. It could have been electrical corrosion casing a voltage drop between the battery and the starter. My concern is that during testing you mentioned you saw smoke in the engine compartment. This smoke indicates either a poor electrical connection or a short circuit and possible additional repairs.
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.