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The Car Doctor

Racing shoes, master cylinder, Chevy Colorado reliability

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
April 3, 2008

Q. I have a 1997 Honda Civic with a five-speed transmission. At a red light or stopped in traffic with the clutch pedal all the way down, the clutch will begin to engage until the car stalls out. There are no problems for a while, then it does it again. I have checked the pedal cable free play and it seems adjusted properly. What would cause this?

A. Like many cars, your Honda uses a hydraulic clutch. When you push on the clutch pedal, you are moving fluid through a clutch master cylinder to a small cylinder on the transmission called a slave cylinder. More than likely, the clutch master cylinder has worn out. The cost to replace the master cylinder is about $120 for the part and about 1.5 hours labor.

Q. Does putting premium gas into my 2008 Toyota Tacoma truck benefit its performance? I have heard many opinions on this matter, and I need an answer from someone who knows. I filled up with premium for the first time yesterday, and I can feel that my car's response is much quicker. I have heard that premium gas contains an agent that cleans the engine components. Is it also true that the higher octane allows the engine to combust the fuel at a higher rate and thus lets the engine run at its highest capacity? Finally, the last thing I heard was that new cars have computers inside them that tell the car what type of gas is in it and "dumbs" the engine down when necessary. Any new information would be great!

A. The engine in your truck determines which grade of fuel you should use. If your truck has the four-cylinder engine, then 87 octane is all that is required. In fact, using higher octane fuel wastes money and can even cause carbon to build up in the engine. If your truck has the six-cylinder engine, then Toyota recommends premium fuel. The truck's computer will make the necessary adjustments if you use 87-octane fuel, but performance and fuel economy will suffer. All gasoline, regardless of octane, is required to have a minimum amount of fuel-system cleaner, although some manufacturers claim to use a higher concentration.

Q. Please offer your opinion on the quality/reliability of the Chevy Colorado pickup. I'd be purchasing a 2004 or 2005 model year with a 4x4, automatic, 3.5-liter, 5-cylinder engine and about 60,000 miles. Consumer Reports dumps all over this truck, but I've read some very positive owner reviews at edmunds.com. I'd be purchasing the vehicle from a known, local used car dealer with a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty. By the way, I enjoy your weekly Globe column.

A. I have found the newer model General Motors trucks to be pretty good. The five-cylinder engine provides adequate performance and decent fuel economy and, to my knowledge, has been trouble-free — with one exception. In some cases, the engine has had some rapid valve wear. General Motors has stepped up and will cover the repair for seven years or 100,000 miles. My biggest complaint with the truck is it has a wide turning circle for a compact truck, and the handling and steering are a bit vague.

Q. This isn't really a car question, but maybe you have an idea. I'm in my car up to 12 hours a day. With all that driving, I buy as many pairs of shoes as wiper blades. The heel on my right shoe rounds over. Then, when I need to walk my back starts to hurt. How do race-car drivers spend hours in a car?

A. Race-car drivers wear purpose-made shoes. They have a narrow heel and allow for quick response between the gas and brake pedals. I recently was sent information from www.autosportcatalog.com . This company sells, among other things, two brands of driving shoes. Perhaps one of these could work for you.

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