Q. I bought a new Subaru Legacy two years ago. This is my first car with AWD; my other vehicles had front wheel drive. After two winters, I do think there is a difference driving without snow tires. I always had dedicated snow tires on my vehicles. When there is a snow storm, I usually do not have to drive (I’m a teacher), but that doesn’t mean there is never any snow on the road. My family says I do not need snow tires with a Subaru. What do you think?
A. Snow tires will give any car, all-wheel drive included, better traction for both starting and stopping. That said most Subaru owners find that the all-season tires will generally be sufficient in the winter.
Q. My wife has a 2003 Toyota Avalon XL with a hard to remove gas cap. I have rented a Ford Fusion that does not use a gas cap. Is it possible to have one of these new types of caps installed on her Avalon? It only has 50,000 miles on it so we will be keeping it for a while.
A. You can’t retrofit the gas tank on your car to a cap-less system but there are some tools that might make gas cap removal easier. There are several websites that offer such tools. One tool looks like a wrench with a handle; it is made out of plastic and costs about $20.
Q. I have a 2006 Jeep Wrangler unlimited, purchased new, with 53,000 miles on it. About three months ago, the heater would only blow air on the highest of the four settings on the switch. Should I replace the switch or is there something else, perhaps a relay or some electronic sensor?
A. The most likely problem is a faulty blower motor resistor. This part can be checked with sample tools and, if faulty, can easily be replaced. The cost of the resistor is about $35 and it takes roughly 15 minutes to replace.
Q. I had to reconnect the battery cable on a GMC Canyon pick-up truck. How long do I have to drive it for the computer to reset the sensors? I will need a state inspection soon.
A. It typically takes about 75-100 miles of driving for all of the various monitors to set. There is also a procedure to set the monitors quickly that involves some very specific vehicle operation. Any qualified repair shop should be able to help you with this procedure.
Q. I am interested in purchasing a 2004 Toyota Corolla with 26,000 miles. The car dealer claims that it is a “Florida” car and had one owner who was 70 years old. Are there any concerns with a ten year old car that has low mileage?
A. Purchasing a ten year old car can have its challenges, and one with low mileage has its own special challenges. As with any used car, a series of tests should be performed of all the major systems. This should include the engine, transmission, brakes, steering, suspension and electrical system. Cars with very low mileage can suffer from a “lack of exercise”, and this lack of use can sometimes be as bad as abuse. A qualified technician should be able to determine if this low mileage car is in fact a good deal.
Q. I recently got my car back from the body shop after a repair due to a winter accident outside of Boston. I am due for inspection at the end of the month and the car failed inspection because the system was not ready. I am extremely worried that I will be pulled over due to a reject sticker on my car. It’s a 2004 Toyota Corolla and now has 62,977 miles.
A. In Massachusetts, a rejection sticker for emission related issues will be good for 60 days. Safety related items need to be fixed immediately. Regarding the computer monitors not being ready, over normal driving the readiness monitor should set before the inspection sticker expires. If you are concerned that you will run out of time, a good repair shop should be able to quickly set the monitors using a very specific driving protocol. This procedure requires a series of driving exercises to set the monitors. In many cases this reset can be performed in less than 30 minutes.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 email@example.com or go to www.boston.com/cardoctor for past columns, tips, and repair help.