Q. I am a long time weekly reader of your column and enjoy it and learn from it. Approximately a year ago you helped me solve a problem. I have another enigma I need your advice on. I have an outstanding 1998 Lexus 300 which I plan to keep as it is running flawlessly and has no rust of rot. I had a new timing belt put on about a year ago and when I picked it up the car the radio screen was foggy black but everything worked fine. When I told the mechanic the next day, he just said “its old”, I didn’t buy it! One hot summer day the screen came back on clear for a few minutes, and went black again. The radio works perfectly I just can’t view the screen to read what station I am on, any thoughts on this?
A. Thanks for the kind words. More than likely the radio LCD screen has failed. This could have happened during the repair for the timing belt when the battery was disconnected and re-connected. I don’t believe it was the fault of the repair shop, more of something that just can happen during normal service to a car that has 16 year old electronics. The LCD panel can be replaced without replacing the radio. Although in the end it may be cheaper to replace the radio with an aftermarket unit.
Q. I saw you wrote a car review on the Subaru WRX, and was wondering if you have driven the WRX STi? Is the extra performance worth the money?
A. The WRX STi is a great car, the handling is superb and the drivetrain is very well crafted but if it were me the WRX would be just fine. The performance of the STi when driven on the street is pretty similar to the WRX but I suspect on a track that all changes. The very stiff suspension of the STi, the more powerful engine and huge brakes in my opinion are wasted on a car that will never be driven to its limits. And maybe it is my age but the huge “fast and furious” rear spoiler is just too far over the top for my tastes.
Q. I have a 2009 Jeep Liberty and thinking about having installed an aftermarket speed control. Do these work as well as factory installed? Is there a down side to doing this?
A. Today the aftermarket cruise control systems work quite well. Back before computer controlled cars the aftermarket kits were not close to the operation of a factory unit. There are several companies that provide all the necessary parts and if you are doing it yourself installation videos. One that I found is www.cruisecontrolstore.com. I spoke with Mike Fox at Cruise Control Store (a division of M and R electronics) and he told me with the exception of the air bag removal the installation is “plug and Play”. Although he described the installation as although relatively easy it is better suited to a professional or an advanced DIY’er.
Q. I am considering buying a Dodge Charger, my question to you are, do I need the V-8 engine and what about all-wheel-drive?
A. I recently drove the 2014 Charger SXT with the 3.6 liter V-6 engine. This engine was plenty powerful developing nearly 300 horsepower and still returning an overall average of 21 miles per gallon. The model I drive was also the all-wheel-drive version. Although rear wheel drive cars with traction control and snow tires will get you through winter there is no substitute for all-wheel-drive. The latest Charger may be one of the best mid/full sized cars on the market today.
Q. My 2007 Honda Civic is due for 30,000 mile checkup. Is it ok to have one of the big tire stores perform this service and possible brake work or do it need to go to a Honda dealership?
A. There is no reason that you can’t go to an independent repair shop rather than the Honda dealer. Your car is a little unique because it has such low mileage for a seven year old car. The 30,000 mile service is a series of checkups and filter changes, if this were my car I would also look at all of the service that would normally be performed up to about 80,000 miles. These other service intervals will take into account the time as well as the mileage.
Q. I have 2001 Jeep Cherokee with 89,000 miles on it. At 66,000 miles my Jeep would not start. I had the crankshaft sensor replaced. At 86,000 miles I had a check engine light. The Dealership said I had two codes, one for the fuel cap and one for the crankcase sensor. They replaced the fuel cap, fuel filler hose and the valve cover gasket. They said the crankcase sensor could wait. After 3,000 miles, I have no problem starting my Jeep. Do I need to replace my crankcase sensor?
A. At this point I would wait to see if the check engine light comes back on. It is possible that the sensor had a poor connection that was remedied during the inspection and fuel system repairs. If the light comes back on and indicates a check crankshaft sensor issue then I would check the sensor and the associated wiring.
Reader Response: Chris Oxner from Sullivan Tire and Auto Service wanted to remind me that when trying to get emissions monitors to set on a car the instructions need to be followed exactly. In the case of a recently mentioned Toyota Corolla, one step states the key needs to be turned off and then you need to wait six hours before retesting. Failure to wait may cause the monitors not to set. Chris thanks for the tip!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.