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What Would The Car Doctor Do?

Posted by John Paul  November 9, 2011 10:54 AM

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Q. I purchased an Acura in December 2003 and it has only 57,000 miles on it. At my last service visit to the dealership it was recommended that changing the timing belt would be advisable due to age not mileage. The manual recommends the belt change at 105,000 miles, what do you think of this recommendation and what would the Car Doctor do?

A. If this was my car and I planned to keep it for a while longer, I would consider changing the timing belt. On average if you were driving 12,500 miles per year, your mileage today would be about 100,000 miles and in that case the timing belt replacement would be due.

Q. I'm car shopping for a pre-owned all-wheel-drive or 4WD vehicle to replace my Toyota Matrix that was totaled recently. I live on the side of a mountain with gravel roads and have used studded snow tires on my cars for better traction. Now am looking at pre-owned Subaru Outback and Honda CRV. Recently I was also looking at the new Hyundai Tucson and was quite impressed (but then again it was new). I do a lot of long distance driving on weekends so gas mileage is an important factor in my decision. I wasn't planning on a car purchase at this time and I’m looking for any advice you can offer. By the way I enjoy reading your column.

A. Both the Subaru Outback and the Honda CRV are good cars and should be able to handle the type of driving that your lifestyle demands. Prior to buying any used car, have a thorough used car inspection performed, as good as these cars are, they can have problems. Regarding the Hyundai Tucson, this in my opinion may be the best choice. The Tucson handles well, has a great warranty and gets decent mileage. Currently used car prices are at an all time high, making the Hyundai more attractive. Websites such as KBB.com or Nadaguides.com can help you estimate used car prices and www.truecar.com is a great place to check on new car pricing and hassle-free buying.

Q. I took my 2002 Hyundai Elantra to a quick lube to get an oil change and they informed me that I need to replace my radiator and transmission fluids. Is this something I can do myself, should I take it to the dealer and is it actually necessary?

A. It is certainly important to change some of the vital fluids in the car as they age and breakdown. The coolant is certainly one of the most important and should be changed in your car every two years or 30,000 miles. The transmission fluid unless it shows signs of wear, has a much longer life and can stay in the car for 100,000 miles.

Q. I have a question regarding the center bearing on my 2001 Subaru Forester. I have a “clunking” noise that’s right under my shifter when I start out and shift from first to second gear. My mechanic said it was the center-bearing between the front and rear drive shafts. He also said the whole drive shaft needed to be replaced not just the center bearing. Is this correct? He also said it must be done buy a Subaru dealer and said that the part cannot be purchased anywhere else. Is this true as well?

A. The center bearing is not a serviceable item and it appears that it is only available from a Subaru dealer. Now certainly your repair shop could purchase the part from the dealer and install it.

Q. What do you think of the website RockAuto? I have looked their prices and they seem in some cases almost too good to be true. Mom said if it was too good to be true it usually is.

A. I have recently used RockAuto for a replacement cooling fan module for my wife’s car. The dealer price was $375.00, the local “big-box” parts store was $175.00 and RockAuto was $85.00. I ordered a brand-name part on Sunday evening and it showed up at my house on Wednesday.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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