Q. I like driving a manual shift car and really need a four-door vehicle. I’m looking for a mid-sized car and have a budget in the $24,000-$28,000 range. I can find compact cars but nothing in the mid-size range. Do you have any suggestions?
A. There was a time many years ago that all cars came with a manual transmission, today the choices are somewhat limited. One car that I have driven recently and really enjoyed was the Mazda 6. The latest Mazda 6 has a smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission, very good handling and a quiet ride. The interior comfortable seats five and there is plenty of storage. In my opinion the Mazda 6 is one of the best although most underpublicized vehicles on the market today.
Q. We own a 1992 Saturn 4-door sedan that seems to shudder and slip lately when I accelerate. It acts like the gas is shutting off, but it only does this under hard acceleration. What do you think it could be?
A. There are many problems that match your description. It could be the transmission slipping, an ignition miss-fire, faulty sensor or something else. At this point I would bring the car to a qualified technician for a road test and diagnosis. Considering the age of the car and the fact Saturn vehicles aren’t made today, I would carefully consider any expensive repairs.
Q. I own a “vintage” 2001 Dodge Ram 1500 truck. The check engine light comes on and then off and it is now back on. I had a test that showed a code of PO138 which indicates a problem with the oxygen sensor. I contacted the mechanic that services my vehicle and was told a new oxygen sensor may not correct the problem and it could be a computer issue. What do you think?
A. Computer fault codes can sometimes be misleading, even to the best technician. There is a specific trouble shooting procedure that needs to be followed for correct diagnosis and repair. The wiring, connections, and the sensor itself need to be checked before the computer should be considered. I have seen many cases that the heater circuit in the oxygen sensor fails. In these cases replacing the sensor or repairing the wiring solves the problem.
Q. I am only 4’10 tall and need some advice with a new car. I want a car that steers, rides and handles well. I also need a car that has good visibility all around and easy to park, since I live in the city. The cars that I have been looking at are all too big for me. This car should have an adjustable driver’s seat that can help with my bad back. Finally, I can only spend about $20,000. Do you have any suggestions?
A. A few cars to look at are the Scion xA, Mazda 3, Ford Focus/Fiesta and Honda FIT. Of these cars the 2015 Honda FIT as well as the Fiesta-5 door offer good handling, maneuverability and a functional, usable cabin. But it really comes down to personal choice, vehicles are not one-size-fits all. Readers if you have a suggestion, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. My daughter is going to school in Utah this year and she is taking our 2005 Subaru Forester. Since they get more snow than we do, what do you think of the idea of using snow tires on this car; are there any negatives?
A. The Subaru Forester is a competent vehicle in the winter that can only improve with the use of four snow tires. The snow tires will improve traction which will help with both starting and stopping. As with any snow tire, you may notice a slight decline in fuel economy. To save wear and tear, as well as the expense of changing the tires every winter season, you might want to consider mounting the snow tires on four steel wheels. This way she can change the tires more easily saving the considerable cost of mounting and balancing.