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The Car Doctor

Honda ignition switches, booster seats, upcoming diesels

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
April 10, 2008

Q. When I turn the key in my 1999 Honda Accord LX, nothing happens. My lights are bright so I don't think it's the battery. The solenoid is not clicking. How do I go about removing it? I can't get to it from underneath. Help!

A. Don't be so quick to write off the battery and the connections as being OK. You should have the battery tested and all the electrical connections to the starter inspected. If the battery is fine, then look for a problem with the starter or starter relay. The other possibility is the ignition switch. Many Honda models in the late '90s had problems with the ignition switch.

Q. We are thinking about changing from a five-strap car seat to a high-back booster seat for our son Tyler, and we are looking for your expert advice. We are unsure if this is legal at this point. While he meets the height and weight requirements easily he will only be four years old as of April 3. Could you let us know the law as well as any potential changes in the law?

A. The current law in Massachusetts requires kids to be in car seats up to age five. This can mean a conventional car seat or a booster seat if the child fits properly. In my opinion, the law needs to be amended (and it may be soon - a bill is pending) to require kids to be in a booster seat up until age eight. The problem is younger kids can be seriously hurt or killed if they are in adult seat belts. A high-back booster seat will meet any new law and protect Tyler until he is eight years old or reaches 4 feet, 9 inches.

Q. I have learned I need a radiator for my 1993 Toyota Camry. My understanding is that a new radiator will cost me about $500. First, if the car is about 15 years old with closed to 100,000 miles, is it time for new radiator? Is $500 reasonable?

A. It is not unusual to replace a radiator much earlier than the one that is on your car. A combination of rust and vibration causes radiators to fail. The labor to install the radiator is about two hours. The cost of replacement radiators can vary quite a bit. The retail price from a Toyota dealer is about $580 and the consumer cost from NAPA auto parts stores is $149.99. AAA members save an additional 7 percent from NAPA.

Q. I am considering a more fuel efficient car and was wondering if you have any suggestions for a safe, reliable car that is good on gas. My 2002 WRX loves gas - even when I put the cruise on 60 or 65 miles an hour - plus it needs premium. The all-wheel drive is great, but I'm sure it doesn't help the mileage. I have thought about a Mercury Milan, six-cylinder with four-wheel drive. It's comfortable, reliable and decent on gas. Do you have any other suggestions?

A. If you can wait until the end of summer, several manufacturers will be bringing diesels to the market. One of the most impressive is the Volkswagen Jetta. The diesel Jetta will be available in both a sedan and a wagon and should easily return 45 to 55 miles per gallon. While diesel is more expensive than gasoline, the performance and fuel economy are very good. If you want something sportier, Acura will be selling a version of the TSX with its new clean diesel early next year.

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