Car Guides

Does our new car require winter tires?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader having a disagreement with her husband over snow tires.

Winter tires.
Tires at a tire shop. Bill Griffith

Q. My husband and I are having a disagreement and have a dinner bet on the answer. I say that our new BMW 330 xDrive needs snow tires. My husband thinks because it’s all-wheel-drive it does not, and that extra tires would just be a waste of money. 

A. Certainly all-wheel-drive improves traction in snowy conditions but it is more than just snow you need to worry about. The rubber compound of dedicated winter tires is designed for cold weather performance. With summer or even all-season tires, as the temperature drops the tires lose some grip. An all-season tire is a bit of a compromise, where a winter tire is specialized for those conditions. Think of all the different types of sneakers that you can buy and how they can vary based on the sport you want to use them for. Tires are very similar. 

Q. When my classic Oldsmobile 442 was in for service it was noted that the valve covers were leaking badly. This is a job I would like to attempt, however I have a few questions for you. In the early days there was only one gasket cement available. Today there are many. Which one would you use? Also, what about coating the bolts to prevent the valve covers from loosening in the future? Last time I tightened them by feel — a little beyond snug. Do they need to be torqued?

A. The keys to leak-free gasket repair are clean, smooth mating surfaces. The other issue is that the valve covers themselves need to be completely straight and true. The steel valve covers can become uneven over time from excessive retightening. Any gasket cement is used only to hold the gaskets in place, not to seal a leak. That is the job of the gasket itself. The valve cover bolts should be evenly torqued without any tread locker. The valve cover bolts do not loosen; the gaskets shrink over time. 

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Q. I came across your email from a forum post about windshield repair/replacement. I thought you may be able to help, as my Hyundai dealer won’t give me a straight answer. I have a leased SUV which is due back in about 60 days. The windshield has a crack in it and needs replacement. Can I use a local window shop in my area? Or do I need to use a national company or the service department from my Hyundai dealership?

A. Most dealerships sublet their windshield businesses, so who puts the windshield in is not as much of an issue as the replacement windshield itself. Some vehicle leasing contracts require factory glass only. Others state that any replacement parts (glass included) meet or exceed the manufacturers specifications. Before you replace the windshield, look over your leasing agreement or call Hyundai customer service for end-of-lease information. 

Q. I am going to store my new-to-me 1968 MG-B in an indoor storage unit, and I’ve read all of your storage tips. One thing that concerns me is rodents. How can I make sure these critters stay out of my car? 

A. The predator sprays and granules that smell like a fox or coyote usually do a pretty good job of keeping mice away. Some people also use oil of spearmint or even fabric softener dryer sheets to keep mice away. Recently I received an email from www.getcoverseal.com that is coming out with a car cover that is weighted around the perimeter and is supposed to keep out mice and rats. If this works as advertised (I am waiting to try one out) it could be the answer for this nasty problem.

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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 [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.

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