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THE CAR DOCTOR

Not that crazy to call Focus a budget BMW

Plus: Flooded Wrangler, and trying to find a Chrysler owner's manual

The 2009 Ford Focus SES, while not up to the model's newer European specifications, is surprisingly good, John Paul says. The 2009 Ford Focus SES, while not up to the model's newer European specifications, is surprisingly good, John Paul says. (Bill Griffith/Boston.com)
By John Paul
Boston.com Columnist / July 28, 2009

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Q. I tuned into your radio program on a recent Saturday and couldn't believe one of your statements. You were extolling the virtues of a Ford Focus and calling it a BMW 128 on a budget. Are you nuts?

A. This may have been a bit of an exaggeration. The new sporty Focus two-door is within two inches of all the dimensions of the BMW 128. The Focus is front-wheel drive and the BMW is rear-wheel drive. The six-cylinder BMW engine that produces 230 horsepower is 90 horsepower more powerful than the fuel efficient four-cylinder in the Focus. The Focus was fun to drive and even had heated leather seats, Sirius radio, and a very slick shifting five-speed transmission – all for about $12,000 less than the last 128 that I tested. Is the BMW a better sports car? Sure, but the Focus is a very good sporty-car value.

Q. My girlfriend's 2002 Wrangler X is leaking water (when it rains) into the driver- side foot well, and only into this area. She has the hardtop model, and it doesn't leak when that top is on. Do you have any idea on what caused this problem or how it can be fixed? A garage she has been to and trusts said they need to remove the seats to find the leak, and that it will cost at least $400.

A. Alldata, the data base that I use, shows a technical service bulletin 23-010-06. This bulletin describes a faulty door seal with water leaking just above the middle of the doors. The body flexes more with the hardtop removed and may be adding to the poor door seal design. A simple low pressure water test should verify the problem.

Q. Can you help a fellow motorist? Do you know of a shop that compounds/repairs heavily oxidized headlights instead of replacing the entire housing? I see the do-it-yourself kits, but some of those are close to $400. This price seems silly since the new assemblies will set me back the same amount.

A. Before you have someone else do the restoration you might want to try it yourself with a much simpler kit. There are several kits on the market for less than $30. I have seen Meguiars, the wax and polish company (www.meguiars.com), and Quixx (www.quixx-usa.com) used with good success.

Q. Do you know where we can order a new owner/service manual for our 2006 Chrysler Pacifica? We searched on-line and came up with a used manual on eBay. Chrysler's website is kaput, as are our closest Chrysler dealers.

A. Lack of dealers is certainly a problem. I called my local dealer, Randolph Chrysler Jeep, and the parts department gave me the phone number of Chrysler Publications, 1-800-890-4038. When I called, the customer service representative said they should have what you are looking for.

Q. I have a 2007 Toyota Camry with the six-cylinder engine. Due to my job, I put about 30,000 miles on a year. Due to lack of time and convenience, I have my car regularly serviced at the dealership I bought it from here in North Carolina (I still read boston.com regularly). The past several times I've had the car serviced, the dealership has recommended a fuel injector cleaning and a fuel induction service. They are quite pricey services. Are they required? The services make sense to me from my knowledge of carbon and deposit buildup, but, if I don't have to, I would rather put the money elsewhere. What are your thoughts?

A. This is another one of the cases where it won't hurt, but may not be necessary. In fact, the Toyota factory maintenance schedule does not recommend those services.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com.