Q. I read your column and find it interesting. I’m considering a new car. I have a 2007 Volvo XC 70 with all-wheel-drive. I like everything about this car but it is approaching 150,000 miles and I’m thinking it’s time for a new one. I have maintained it well and have not had any problems, but I worry about reliability with so much mileage. Replacing this Volvo with the same car is out of my budget. I am confused with all the different makes and models to choose from. I like the configuration of the wagon or small SUV or maybe even a hatchback. My budget is $30,000 and I want all-wheel-drive, prefer leather seats, a safe car, and would like a six-cylinder engine. Do you have any suggestions?
A. My first suggestion is don’t overlook today’s four-cylinder engines. They are smooth and in some cases more powerful than older six-cylinder engines. If a four-cylinder engine isn’t a deal breaker, the Subaru Forester may be a good economical replacement for your Volvo and it will give you the security of all-wheel-drive that you have become use to.
Q. I own a 2006 Honda Element EX AWD with approximately 96,000 miles. My little SUV needs four new tires, which I estimate will cost about $800. I’m undecided as to whether I should invest this amount of money in a six-year old vehicle or trade it in.
A. Today we see cars routinely lasting 200,000 miles or more. If the Element still meets your needs and you are prepared to spend more money on additional maintenance such as brakes, suspension, drive belts and fluid changes, I can’t see any reason not to keep your car.
Q. When my previous car had the front pads replaced, the mechanic used ceramic pads. They appeared to work as well as the factory pads with one difference, there was no brake dust on the wheels. Why don’t the cars come with ceramic pads when new? I see so many vehicles with the wheels ruined by the brake dust.
A. I have used ceramic pads as well and appreciate the lack of brake dust. Different brake pads have different braking characteristics and then of course there is cost. When I purchased the ceramic pads for my car they were nearly twice the cost of a premium conventional brake pad. For a vehicle manufacturer to add ceramic brake pads this could translate into millions of dollars of additional costs.
Q. With the warmer weather here, I have discovered that my car’s air conditioner doesn’t work. The repair shop says it needs a new evaporator core and in addition to the $100 parts it will take about eight hours labor to replace it. The total job in close to $1000, is there are additives that will seal this leak?
A. Kits such as those made by Ac/Pro work pretty well to fix leaking seals, but won’t fix a leaky aluminum evaporator. If the evaporator needs replacement, you might want to shop around. Some shops that do this work all the time sometimes have found short cuts to save the shop time and the customer money.
Q. When will my car need a new battery? My car is seven years old and the battery is original.
A. The average life of a battery is just about five years so you may be pushing your luck. That said the battery is in my car is seven years old and when tested still looks okay. My people think the real test o f a battery is cold weather when in fact it is that heat is the number one cause of battery failure and shortened battery life. My suggestion is have your car’s battery tested and replace it if questionable.