Car Guides

Do I need an oil change even though I use my SUV sparingly?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who has only put 2,000 miles on his SUV since buying it more than a year ago.

A line of 2020 CR-V sports-utility vehicles at a Honda dealership in Highlands Ranch, Colo. AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Q. I purchased a 2020 Honda CR-V in February of 2020, and have just over 2,000 miles on the odometer. Should I consider having the oil and oil filter replaced? I would normally be traveling more, but with the pandemic, my trips have all been short.

A. Honda, like many newer vehicles today, uses a computer to remind owners when to perform maintenance. These calculations are based on a variety of items such as time, mileage, and temperature. Still, even with this computer calculation, Honda and some other vehicle manufacturers recommend changing engine oil at least once per year. If this was my CR-V, I would change the oil. It’s money well spent.   

Q. I am looking to replace my sedan with a small SUV. I’m coming from a 2009 Nissan Maxima sport model, which is a beautiful car and has only 63,000 miles on it. I’m thinking a smaller SUV would be easier to get in and out of as I age. My thoughts are to replace my car now because I don’t think vehicle prices are coming down. Any thoughts on selling my car privately? Or should I just trade it and take the hit? I really don’t want strangers coming over.


A. Certainly, you will get less for your car as a trade in than selling it privately. There are some things to keep in mind. Your trade in will be applied to the purchase price, which will reduce sales tax costs. In addition to meeting strangers at your home, you also need to accept that people will make appointments and never show up.  Also, in this day and age, there is fraud to worry about. I have heard of people taking counterfeit bank checks, ending up with no car and a worthless check. 

Q. I need your advice on an upgrade I am contemplating for my 1977 Plymouth Fury. It was born with a 318 engine (I did some performance upgrades — nothing radical). It has a 727 three-speed transmission, and an 8.25-inch differential with 3.55 gear ratio. The car also has headers, dual exhaust, and a four-barrel carburetor to complete the package. What I am thinking about is to upgrade to a four-speed automatic transmission. There are two options I’m aware of. One is to replace my three-speed 727 with a four-speed 727. The other option is to add a Gear Vendors under/overdrive transmission. I of course would have it done by a professional. I would like to reduce the engine speed by about 20 percent on the highway. Whatever I do, my primary goal is to do it right and not cut any corners. What would you advise?  


A. My first thought was to go with a Chrysler A-518. It is based on the 727-transmission (perhaps one of the best transmissions made) and is a close match to the original. You will need to cut the driveshaft and modify the transmission mount, and linkage since this transmission is about three inches longer than the 727. Using this transmission should drop the engine speed at least six hundred RPM and improve fuel economy. I spoke with AAA Approved Shop owner Junior Damato who has a reputation for building performance cars. His suggestion was the Gear Vendor under/overdrive unit. Junior felt the overall installation is simpler. This will essentially turn your three-speed automatic into a six-speed transmission. He recently put a Gear Vendor unit in a 700-horsepower car and it easily handled the power. Both options are pricey and will require some modifications, but both will also get the results you want. 


Q. I have a seven-year-old Subaru Outback. It has one AM and two FM settings on the radio. One day I pushed the AM button and didn’t get any AM stations, including the one you’re on in the mornings. Because of this I haven’t been able to listen to your radio program for at least a year. The FM stations are perfect and working properly. What is wrong and how can I rectify it?

A. If the radio is staticky then the problem is with the antenna or antenna booster. If there is no sound at all then the radio has failed internally. If this is the case, then you can either take the radio out and have it repaired, or replace it with a new radio that has features such as Bluetooth, Android Auto, or Apple CarPlay. By the way, my radio program moved to Northshore 104.9 FM about a year ago.


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

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