Auto Q&A: Should brake lights be augmented by deceleration lights?

North Andover, MA - 8-28-2019 - Drivers had to navigate some localized flooding, while motorists coming in the other direction hit their brake lights as they made their way through the parking lot at the North Andover Mall late this afternoon as heavy rain fell in the area..  (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)
–Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Q: Being one of those rare drivers who actually takes my foot off the gas if I see a traffic light is red about a quarter- to half-mile ahead, I was wondering your position on an idea I’ve had for a while. Perhaps the taillights should have another section with an amber color that would only come on when a driver takes their foot off the accelerator indicating that the car will be slowing down. This could eliminate a lot of rear-end collisions.

S.A., Coral Springs, Florida

A: That’s kind of a cool idea, but don’t expect carmakers or government agencies to jump on it. Additionally, Japanese cars are required to have amber turn signals. It could get confusing. If you are worried about a rear-ender as you coast to the red light, keep an eye on your mirror and tap the brakes. Unless the driver behind you is texting, the red lights should send him or her a message.


Q: In Florida every summer we have love bugs. They cover the front end and windshield. I have found that washing the car as soon as possible with warm water and soap (I use Dawn) will remove a lot of the bugs. Any that are left I spray with Armor All. I leave it on a little while and then wipe it off. For the windshield, I use some sudsy ammonia with water (3 parts water to 1 part ammonia). Make sure the car is in the shade and cool to the touch.

J.D., Pembroke Pines, Florida

A: It seems you have a good formula (or two) for bug removal. I have had good luck using moistened dryer sheets, usually after they have been used for clothes. Be advised that using dishwashing soap will remove any wax you may have applied to your paint.

Q: I have carelessly caused some scratches on the finish of my leased 2017 Mazda CX5. Can I use a polishing compound on these to make them look better? Am I doomed to use the body shop instead?

H.G., Bourbonnais, Illinois

A: Most scratches go no deeper than the clear coat over the colored paint. There are two quick ways to tell. Slide your fingernail across the scratch. If it doesn’t catch, the damage is only in the clear coat. The second is to spray the scratch with soapy water and wipe off.

If the scratch disappears but returns when completely dry, the damage is only in the clear coat.

Auto parts stores carry a variety of scratch repair products from companies such as Meguiar’s and Turtle Wax for the do-it-yourselfer. The more expensive option is to use a detail shop or body shop, but the cost is still less than a paint job. By the way, check with your lessor, who may accept run-of-the-mill scratches as normal wear and tear.

Q: The sway bar serves an important purpose. However, it is the inside wheel that tends to lift in a sharp corner as a result of the physical forces acting upon the car, not the outside corner.

D.M., New Lenox, Illinois

A: Thanks, D.M., Several alert readers spotted my mistake. I must have been breathing too much exhaust that day. It is the unloaded inner wheel that tends to lift when cornering.

Auto Q&A: Valve job cheaper than new truck


Brad Bergholdt, Tribune News Service

Q: My 2006 Chevy Colorado pickup has developed a misfire. I took it to a shop. They ran some tests and said it has low compression due to a faulty intake valve. They said this was common for this truck. I’m pondering my options, as it’s a shame to give up on this truck with only 72,000 miles on the odometer. What are your suggestions for what to do?

Ed O.

A: Ed, you’re correct this is a common fault on GM’s 2.8- and 3.5-liter engines built from 2004 to 2006. The intake valve seats deteriorate and compression is lost. In 2008, GM offered a special coverage adjustment, extending the warranty period for a failure of this type to seven years or 100,000 miles. Unfortunately, you are far beyond the time frame.

All is not lost. A valve job should get your Colorado running sweet again. The cylinder head is removed and either replaced with an exchange unit or remanufactured by a local machine shop. A lower timing gear tensioner holding tool saves time during disassembly/reassembly, and the job can be performed with the engine remaining in the chassis.

It’s prudent during a job like this to also consider renewing belts, hoses, water pump and a few other miscellaneous parts along with the cylinder head work. Remanufactured/exchange cylinder heads run about $700 and the labor to do the job is perhaps 10-12 hours. Not an inexpensive repair, but it pales in comparison to buying another truck.


Q: My son’s car has begun to overheat at times. I’m trying to get him to get it serviced before he destroys the engine. Can you provide me with some causes and ammunition to get him moving on this?

Carl D.

A: This needs prompt attention. A head gasket failure, damaged cylinder head or worse can result, costing several thousand dollars. If the engine is losing coolant due to a leak, the cause should be fairly evident, and perhaps not that difficult to resolve. Common leakage causes are failed hoses, loose connections, a leaky water pump, or heater core (leaks inside the cabin).

When does the high temperature condition occur? If at low speed/in traffic, an inoperative electric cooling fan could be the cause. Can he hear the fan cycling on at times? On longitudinal engines (inline) the mechanical fan likely includes a fan clutch to increase airflow under high temperature conditions. This may be faulty.

At high speed/load, the cause could be a restricted radiator (bugs or debris clogging exterior, and/or the air conditioner condenser in front of the radiator, or clogging interior passages), a missing or damaged air deflector (which directs air to the radiator) or a worn water pump impeller, among other possibilities.

Your son can improve the chances for an accurate diagnosis and repair if he can explain or demonstrate the symptom to the service provider.

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