THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
THE CAR DOCTOR

Paint rust, but consider the damage

Plus: Using a spare for tire rotation

By John Paul
Boston.com Columnist / February 18, 2010

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Q. I own a 1993 Acura Integra with 130,000 miles. The car is starting to show some rust on top of the rear wheel wells. I’m trying to decide whether it would be worth removing the rust and having it fully painted. Other than the rust, the car runs fine. I’ve had the timing belt replaced at 90,000 miles. I guess my question is how many more miles can I expect to get out of this car to make it worthwhile?

A. It is not unusual to see a Honda/Acura easily reach 200,000 miles. The problem is more the age of the vehicle. Since the car is going on 17 years old, at what point are rust and corrosion going to go from an appearance issue to a structural problem? If this was my car, I would have a complete evaluation of the car performed. Once the car was given a "clean" bill of health, I would consider painting only the rusted areas. A complete quality repaint could easily cost $4,000 to $5,000 and may not be money well spent on a 17-year-old commuter car.

Q. My 2000 Ford Mustang won’t start; you turn the key and get nothing, or maybe a faint click. Is it possible that the alarm could be the problem?  Is there anything I can check prior to the car being towed?

A. There are a few basic tests you can perform with little or no tools. Start with turning the headlights on; are they strong and bright? If so, the battery is likely to be charged. Check the electrical connections from the battery to the starter looking for corrosion or a poor connection. Don’t forget to check for a possible faulty fuse. With a helper turning the key, tap lightly on the starter. Jarring the starter slightly may get the car to start. If it does start, you didn’t fix the car, it still needs a permanent repair. 

Q. I have a 2004 Lexus RX330. The SUV has 74,000 miles. It has a full- size spare tire that has never been used. Is it safe to use this spare tire for tire rotation and drive as normal as with the other four tires that I replaced at 65,000 miles?

A. Several car manufacturers recommend that tires are replaced if they have been in service for six or more years. The Rubber Manufacturers Association doesn’t look at shelf life but more of how the tire was stored. Tirerack, one of the largest mail order tire centers, believe that tires have a shelf life between six and ten years. If this was my vehicle, I would leave the spare tire where it is.

Q. I have a 1974 Plymouth Satellite with a 318 cubic inch engine. I replaced the plugs, plug wires, coil, and battery but the car won't start. It is getting spark to the plugs. I put some gas in the carburetor and tried starting fluid. It fired up once but didn't start. What can I do?

A. For an engine to run, it needs spark, fuel, engine compression, and most importantly, all these factors must come together at the proper time. I would start with the basics. Check the firing order. If the firing order is correct, it is time to check the engine compression. Considering the age of the vehicle, the timing chain could have stretched enough to cause the "no-start."

Q. Have you ever heard of using cooking oil on the door gaskets of a car to keep the doors from freezing shut? I have this problem from time-to-time and recently heard about the cooking oil tip.

A. I suppose cooking oil would work, but I would think it would get on your clothes. A better solution would be silicone spray. The spray is colorless, not greasy, and has very little odor.

Reader comment:  Your advice is always great. I have a suggestion to add to the recent discussion on Boston.com who said that his windows get "steamy" when he turns the heat on. While I do agree that the heater core might have a small leak (and could be costly to repair), in my opinion it is far more likely that the car operator simply has the heat on re-circulate, rather than drawing in fresh air causing the windows to fog up.

Car Doctor: This is certainly a possibility, although many cars don’t allow re-circulated air when the defroster position is selected to avoid this type of fogging. 

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