Do I still have to get my inspection sticker during the shutdown?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who is wondering if state inspection facilities are "essential."

A man waits to get an inspection sticker.
–Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff

Q. My car is due for an inspection. Are these services available under the current social distancing circumstances? Are inspection facilities considered “essential” services?

A. In Massachusetts, the inspection cycle has been extended. As an example, if your vehicle inspection was due in April, it has been extended to June 30. Repair shops are considered essential services, and most are open, although some are by appointment only. Many are providing “touchless”pick-up and drop off service or curbside drop off. 

Q. What is the recommended interval for a cooling system flush and service for a 2016 Toyota Tacoma?  Is this a job I can do myself? 


A. I use several technical databases, including referencing the Toyota owner’s manuals, and get differing results. They all agree that coolant should be checked regularly. If this were my vehicle, based on what I have seen in person and read, I would replace the coolant at 100,000 miles. Can you do it yourself? Sure. The tricky part is making sure you get all of the air out of the system and use only Toyota or equivalent coolant. 

Q. My 2007 Acura TL battery drains overnight. I have had the alternator checked and it’s fine. What is causing this problem?

A. The issue is referred to as parasitic drain. There is some system or component that is not shutting off when the engine is off. This could be as simple as a dome light that is staying on or even an electronic component of the emissions control system, seat motor, or even the radio causing the drain. If this has happened several times, most likely the battery will also need replacement. At this point you need to find a shop that specializes in electrical diagnosis and repair. This is also a difficult issue to get an estimate for, since it takes a wide range of time to find the source of the problem. 


Q. I own a 2013 Honda CR-V with approximately 41,000 miles on it. How often do I need to exchange the brake fluid and rear differential fluid? I have received a cost estimate from both a Honda dealer and independent shops and they tell me it will be about $100 for each service. Are these services needed? 

A. Unless there has been previous service, the differential fluid should be replaced at 90,000 miles and the brake fluid at 36,000 miles. You need to use only Honda fluid for the differential. Certainly, at this point unless the brakes have been serviced recently or will be, it is time for a brake fluid replacement. 

Q. I have a 2001 Porsche Boxer and am having trouble finding a service station that knows how to work on it. Other than going to a dealer, how can I find a place near me?

A. Having a specialty sports car serviced, especially a 19-year-old sports car, can be a challenge. There are many Porsche clubs all across the country. I would ask around where members are getting their cars serviced. 

Q. I’m looking at the 2019 Ford Flex. How reliable are these vehicles, and should I purchase an extended warranty? The car is almost brand new and has low mileage. 

A. When the Ford Flex was first introduced, it had a multitude of problems. Over the years, the Flex has become quite reliable. Of course now, the vehicle is being discontinued. Regarding an extended warranty, there are several years of both the factory bumper-to-bumper warranty and the powertrain warranty that transfer to you. Personally, I would wait until the end of the 3-year, 36,000 bumper-to-bumper warranty and reevaluate the purchase at that point. 


Q. My 2004 RAV4 leaks onto the floorboard on the driver side and also near the sunroof. Any idea what could be wrong? 

A. Chances are the sunroof drains are clogged and water is backing up. Start with low-pressure air and clean the sunroof drains. Once you have determined the drains are clear, run low-pressure water around the sunroof and see if you solved the problem. 

Recently I mentioned that the Diesel Brothers (TV hosts and Garage owners) were fined for “rolling coal”. An observant reader pointed out that I understated the fine. The total fine was a staggering $851,45.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to

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November 12, 2020 | 4:25 PM