Trading Engine Longevity for Fuel Economy?

Q. I am considering purchasing a new Hyundai Sante-Fe Sport with the 2.0 liter engine. I am concerned about how long this engine will last since it is a small engine in a mid-sized truck. My fear is that as these new engines are getting smaller and more powerful as older models they won’t last as long. I don’t want trade engine longevity for fuel economy.

A. In theory, a smaller engine will work harder to provide the same performance as a larger engine and consequently will have a shorter life. That said; how often do most drivers push their vehicles to the limit, in most cases almost never. In my opinion the latest wave of smaller engines should l easily last 200,000 miles with proper maintenance. As a side note I recently drove the 2014 Sante Fe Sport with the 2.0 turbo-charged engine and the performance is better than my Sante Fe powered by a V-6 engine and delivers four more miles per gallon. I would not hesitate to buy the latest Sante Fe.

Q. I have a brake problem with my car and the dealer as well as a few local repair shops can’t seem to find rear brake calipers. Do you have any suggestions?

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A. This is where I would let the power of the internet do some of the work for you. Although some shops don’t like to install customer purchased parts, I would think in this case if you can find the parts the shop would install them. I have had great luck with a website called rockauto.com. Recently a listener of my radio program was looking for a gas tank for a 1990 Honda Civic and had no success trying to find it locally. RockAuto had several brands of fuel tanks available and based on my experience could deliver the part in about a week.

Q. Do new tires loose a little air every month? I bought a Honda Insight in March of last year, every three months a light comes telling me my car has low tire pressure. It happened twice so far, all four tires were low by five pounds and had to be inflated by the dealer. When I asked about this the service manager said this is normal, is it?

A. All tires will lose air over time. In cooler weather tires can lose one or two pounds of pressure per month. In warmer weather it can be higher. This is why it is important to check your cars tire pressure at least once per month, using a quality tire gauge. Maintaining the correct pressure will maximize both fuel economy and tire life.

Q. The oil light came on in my car while driving, shortly after that the car shut off. It is a 1989 Honda Prelude, what do you think is wrong.

A. When the oil light or any other red light comes on you need to stop driving immediately. The oil light indicates there is/was dangerously low oil pressure. Driving with the oil light on could have seized and destroyed the engine. At this point take the car to a mechanic and have it checked out. Although considering its age it may have been near the end of its useful life.

Q. I have a 10 year old Volvo; my question is, what is the life expectancy of the airbag system? I want to give the car to my daughter this spring and just was wondering if the airbags wear out?

A. Most car manufacturers consider the airbag system to last the life of the car. Now of course if the airbag light is on, this would indicate one of the systems that support the airbag has failed and will needs to be repaired.

Q. I recently inherited my elderly aunt’s 2001 Dodge Intrepid with only 65,000 miles.  I have had no problems with this car until recently.  My right and left directional signal lights as well as the emergency lights are going on and off randomly while the car is turned off , causing the battery to die.  I took the car to my mechanic and he dismantled my automatic starting system, which worked for a while, however, the problem has returned.  Do you have any idea what would cause this?

A. The most common repair for this type of problem is a faulty body control computer. Before the computer is replaced, a technician should check all of the lighting circuits and switches for possible problems.