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January 3, 2008

Email|Print| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
January 3, 2008

Q. I have a 2002 VW Passat 1.8T with an automatic transmission. When I stop at a traffic light (the engine is warmed up), upon pressing the pedal, the car accelerates slowly for a second, surges forward for a second and then almost stalls for a second before accelerating normally. The only way to stop this surging and stalling motion is to very carefully press the accelerator lightly and let up slowly, which sometimes works. I love the car otherwise, but the "bucking" action takes the fun out of driving it. Is this a common problem with the VW 1.8T?

A. The most common problem with some Volkswagen vehicles is a faulty mass air flow sensor. Still, there are some other possibilities that should be checked. These include vacuum leaks and the possibility of an ignition coil failure.

Q. My 2002 Chevrolet Monte Carlo has a "low tire" light on. I was always able to reset the light using the radio, but now that doesn't seem to be an option. Is there some other method to reset the "low tire" warning light?

A. In most cases, the light should reset once the tires are properly inflated. It may take up to a mile for the light to go out. There is another option other than using the radio. Adjust all the tires to the correct pressure, and turn on the ignition with the engine off. Now cycle the exterior lamp switch for off to parking lamps three times within five seconds. This should clear the "low tire" warning light. If this doesn't work, you may have a problem with the tire pressure monitoring system.

Q. I was reading your December Boston.com chat and saw your e-mail. I have a question about my 2003 VW Passat. I want to have a remote starter installed, but the dealer said they don't do it and don't recommend it. Any idea why, and should I get it out of my head about getting one installed by a local shop?

A. I checked with a several mobile electronic shops and they all had the same answer. It is possible, although the installation will be a bit pricey. Your car, like many, has a fairly sophisticated anti-theft feature that uses specially encoded keys. One of the keys will need to be used to allow the remote starter to operate. Depending on the remote starter system used, the factory anti-theft system will need to be bypassed. If you have a concern about vehicle theft, a higher priced remote starter system incorporates its own alarm system. The more inexpensive systems do not.

Q. I saw an advertisement for a capsule ("Fuel Cap") made be a company in Florida that you add to the gas in your car. They claim it reduces vehicle emissions and improves fuel economy by 10 to 20 percent. It costs about $2.50 per capsule and raises the octane of the gasoline so you don't have to buy premium. What do you think?

A. If I believed everything I saw advertised in the back of a magazine I would be rich and good-looking and I am not. It has been my experience that these additives and devices don't work. In fact, some fuel saving devices actually cause problems and reduce fuel economy. I did find this product's Web site and there seems to be more information about how to become a "Fuel Cap" distributor than how the product actually works. It has always been my experience that preventive maintenance and careful driving habits are the best ways to maximize your vehicle fuel economy.

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