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THE CAR DOCTOR

What to buy after Volvo goes Chinese

Plus: Fixing headlight haze, faulty fan speed

By John Paul
Boston.com Columnist / November 30, 2009

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Q. Do you know what the plan is for the Volvo brand? I seem to remember that it was being sold to a Chinese firm. I love my Volvo and am due for a new car next year but will not buy anything manufactured in China.

A. The latest round of talks has Ford, the parent company of Volvo, negotiating with the Chinese car company Geely. When it comes time to replace your Volvo you might want to look at the Ford family of vehicles. The Ford/Volvo partnership resulted in some great technology sharing. In addition, in my opinion Ford is building some of their best quality products ever. The Lincoln MKS with its new Eco-Boost engine, available all-wheel drive and premium features may fit the bill.

Q. What to you know of a product called Blue Devil? It is supposed to be able to fix a cracked block or leaking head-gasket, without disassembling the engine?

A. I have seen the product advertised but have never used it. After reading their website there is a little work involved to get a successful repair. Using the product requires complete draining of the coolant, removal of the thermostat and then adding the product, running the engine and then replacing the coolant and thermostat. The company claims to have a great success rate. I recently contacted the company for a sample to try out. I have a candidate in mind and will be testing the product shortly.

Q. The headlight lenses on my car are clouding up. Is there a product that I can buy to clean-up the haziness?

A. Over time polycarbonate headlight lenses fog and haze, limiting effective headlight use. There are several types of polish you can use to take the haze out plastic headlight lenses. 3M, Quixx, and Meguiars all make headlight lens restoration kits. I have also heard from readers that have had some success using toothpaste to clear up cloudy lenses.   

Q. The blower on my 2004 Dodge Durango that regulates hot or cold air from the vents in my truck will only work on the highest setting. It makes for a really warm or really cold journey. Will this cost much to repair?

A. The problem could be a broken wire, faulty switch, or most commonly, a fan resistor. The resistor regulates voltage to the fan motor to vary the fan speed. The repair, if fairly straightforward, should take less than one hour. A quick check on the Internet shows the part is available for less than $25. Be advised that it is possible the resistor could have burned out because the heater fan itself is binding up and causing the resistor to fail, similar to a fuse burning out.

Q. I have a 2008 F-150. Could you please advise how often the oil should be changed?  I only put 3,500 to 4,000 miles on the truck per year, and some people say to change the oil every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. This would bring it into over a year on the same oil. Please advise.

A. Considering how little you drive, I would want to change the oil in your truck twice per year. Over time the oil in the engine picks up condensation, fuel, as well as other contaminates. All of these contaminates combine to dilute and contaminate the oil. If you are not already using it, I would consider a switch to synthetic oil. Synthetic oil offers better lubricating properties than conventional oil, especially during short trips.

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