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Buying advice and expert solutions for your car troubles from AAA "car doctor" John Paul.


Can't find that part you're looking for? Looking for tips on the latest models? E-mail John your car questions.

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Catch John Paul live Saturday mornings on WROL AM 950 at 9 a.m., or listen afterward here on Ustream.

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About John

About John

John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England and a columnist for A certified mechanic, Paul tests dozens of new cars each year and also hosts a radio show on AM 950 and 550.

Search for answers

Chances are John has already solved your problem. Search our archives of columns and chats.

Popular tips from the Car Doctor

We've picked out some of John's most popular tips, as seen each week in The Boston Sunday Globe and

My Honda Civic nearly stalls out

Driving our 2001 Honda Civic EX, when slowing down to a stop, the car nearly stalls out. Just before the car stalls, the engine speeds up and just in the nick of time, stays running.

Blue smoke comes out of my Camry’s exhaust

Every couple weeks I get a puff of blue smoke out of the exhaust when I first start the car after it has sat overnight.

Brakes were replaced, now they make a noise

When I step on brake pedal, I get a shaking in the pedal and a noise that sounds like something is loose.

What should I replace my Subaru Outback with?

I am starting to shop to replace my 2002 Subaru Outback. We are not city commuters; most of its miles are highway.

Should I trade in my Nissan Pathfinder?

I bought a used Nissan Pathfinder about two years ago. I have already had two starters replaced and now I find out my Nissan needs wheel bearings in the front.

Can the Dodge Charger handle a New England winter?

 I really like the look of the Dodge Charger, although living in New England I’m concerned about winter driving especially after our latest blizzard.

Is the Passat wagon a good choice for my son?

My son is in a band and he needs to be able to transport his drum set in the car, so decent cargo space is mandatory.

Is brake fluid replacement necessary?

I went into a few well-known tire shops that seemed to be pushing brake fluid replacement with their brake jobs. Is this necessary?

Why does my Jeep Grand Cherokee keep stalling?

My 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee keeps stalling. I get a jump start and it will start up, then I can drive about a mile before it stalls.

Is there a problem with my transmission fluid?

Since this is a manual transmission, it is hard for me to check the fluid level and condition.

I can’t afford to repair van after it failed inspection

I have a 1999 Oldsmobile Silhouette van that has a rejection sticker on it. My van needs more work than its actual value in order for me to pass inspection here in Massachusetts. 

Is ‘re-flashing’ your car’s computer helpful?

The shop claims the flashing will remove false engine codes, increase engine performance, improve gas mileage, etc.

I have trouble getting gas into my Explorer

 I have a 2002 Ford Explorer Ltd. and for the past several years I have been having trouble getting gasoline to go into my vehicle. 

My Ford Focus’s engine revs very high

No matter what time of year when I first start the car the engine revs very high. It starts at almost 2000 RPMs and then settle down to about 1000 RPMs.

My Nissan Rogue locks the doors when I get out

This can even happen when I leave the keys in the car with the engine running and get out and pick up the newspaper. Is something wrong and can it be changed?

My gear shift gets stuck in park

I have a 2003 Buick Century. Lately, whenever I park my car on an incline, it’s almost impossible to get the gear shift out of the park.

My Nissan 350Z roadster’s engine will not start

For the past few months, randomly (i.e. twice in one day then not at all for several weeks) I push in the clutch, turn the key-the starter turns over, but engine will not start.

What do you think of Jaguar XK convertible?

I’m thinking of buying a used 2001 Jaguar XK convertible. It wouldn’t be my only car.

Was a sensor damaged when the tires were changed?

I recently had four new tires installed on my 2007 Camry Hybrid and ten days later the check tire light came on.

My Altima’s battery keeps going dead

The car has been to the dealership five times because of the battery going dead and at this point they have no suggestions. I am now trying to contact Nissan to see if they can help with this.

My CRV has air conditioner problems at low speeds

I purchased a 2011 Honda CRV with 27,000, at 32,000 while driving when I slow down the air conditioner temperature raises a substantial amount—the car gets warm.

My Ford Freestar’s power steering is ‘whining’

The last time my 2007 Ford Freestar went for normal maintenance, it was suggested I replace the power steering pump.

Why did my hybrid’s fuel efficiency drop?

I have a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid with 53,000 miles. As of 18 months ago I was getting 34.4 miles per gallon.

My replacement air filter didn’t fit

My wife's 2005 Ford Focus ZXW SES (station wagon) purchased new and has provided yeoman service with never a problem.

What in the world is going on with my gas tanks?

I have a 1992 Ford F150 with a 300 CID 6-cylinder engine. It has the long cargo bed and two gas tanks.

Nissan GT-R or Porsche 911?

I have a fantasy question for you. If you had a choice, would you buy a Nissan GT-R or a Porsche 911?

A whoosh sound from my Kia Sorento

I have a 2004 Kia Sorento with 100,000 miles. I'm hearing a poof or whoosh sound coming from the rear end area whenever I accelerate.

My Toyota Avalon’s high beam bulbs shatter

I have a 2008 Toyota Avalon, the high beam bulbs have shattered or blown twice. To me it is a manufacturing or design defective and the car should be recalled.

Frustrated with the check engine light

If the check engine light is on there is a problem. A good repair shop should read the codes, come up with a repair strategy and recommend the proper repair.


About Pete

About Pete

Peter DeMarco writes about the rules of the road we all should know but really don't. His column, "Who taught YOU to drive?" appears every other week on and in the Boston Globe's regional editions.