Am I being a car snob?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader torn between an Audi and a less-expensive Kia.

The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2.
The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2. –Kia

Q. I’m considering a new-to-me used car and I really like the looks of the Audi A7, but I have a problem. Since I road tested the A7 I’ve stumbled across the Kia Stinger. The Stinger looks like it has everything the A7 has and I can save $17,000. The A7 I looked at was for sale for $44,000 and the Stinger with the turbo-charged V-6 engine, all-wheel-drive, and a better warranty was $27,000. Am I being a car snob or is the Stinger a comparable car?

A. When the Kia Stinger came out, I was quite impressed and came away with the same impression. The Stinger was designed by a former Audi designer and engineered by a former BMW engineer. I like the Stinger a lot and found it to be delightful to drive. It’s quick, handles well, and as you mentioned, has the remainder of the Kia factory warranty. Merriam-Webster describes “snob-appeal” as qualities in a product that appeal to the snobbery in a purchaser. It uses the example of expensive cars as having ”snob appeal.” Some buyers just can’t see themselves in a less expensive car even though it may be a better value and a better overall vehicle. 

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Q. I am thinking of getting a Fiat 500X. Have you driven one? What do you think of this model and the company in general?

A. The Fiat 500 and 500X are cute to look at and sort of fun to drive, but reliability has been less than stellar. These cars are better than they used to be, but compared with others in this category, there are more reliable choices.

Q. I have a 22-year-old Jeep and the check engine light is on with a bunch of engine codes. Where should I start? 

A. I would start with the battery and all the ground connections. Poor battery connections can cause a multitude of problems. Other common issues with older Jeeps are rusted off engine-to-body ground straps as well as corrosion at the wiring harness to engine ground. A voltage drop test would be best, but even just inspecting all the connections and cleaning any corrosion would be a good starting point. 

Q. I have just purchased a 2015 Subaru Forester from a traveling maintenance technician with 206,000 miles on it. The car has had regular oil changes using Mobil 1 synthetic oil. I have never believed that the synthetics are that much better than conventional oil. I have always preferred to change the oil in my vehicles every 4,000 miles. Can I, or should I, switch back to conventional oil? I have heard that once synthetic oil is in an engine you cannot switch back. Is that true? 

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A. Synthetic oil offers superior lubrication and slightly longer intervals between oil changes — although you should never exceed the manufacturer’s recommendation. The idea of only using synthetic oil and not being able to switch to conventional oil is an urban myth. You can certainly switch to conventional oil, but If this were my car, and considering the already high mileage, I would continue to use synthetic oil for the added benefits. If you shop around you can find very competitive prices on synthetic oil. 

Q. I just purchased a 2004 Honda Odyssey van and plan to take it on at least one trip to Florida this winter. Since this van is new to me, what should I be looking at to prevent breakdowns? 

A. I would start with a complete inspection of the steering, suspension, tires, and brake system. Replacing any marginal component now rather than on the road makes sense. Additionally, look at the cooling system, belts, and hoses. At 105,000 miles, the timing belt should have been changed. If you don’t know the condition of the timing belt, at least remove a cover to look at the condition. Perhaps even replace the timing belt now so you don’t have to worry about it. Typically the timing belt is $60 and it takes about three hours of labor to replace. 

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 jpaul@aaanortheast.com. 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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