Cars

Can I trust my 10-year-old car for a cross-country drive?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader planning a long road trip.

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Q. I have a chance for a new job in Utah that will require a very long road trip. My car is a 10-year-old Honda Accord. Can I take this car safely across the country? 

A. The three most common reasons people call AAA are: keys locked in the car, dead batteries, and flat tires. If I was to do this trip, I would bring the car to a good garage for an overall checkup, focusing on the parts that age. This would be drive belts, cooling system, tires, and the electrical system. If your Accord has a six-cylinder and the timing belt was not replaced, do it before the trip. The four-cylinder engine uses a timing chain and requires no maintenance. I would also look at brakes, steering and suspension components, and fuel and brake lines. Also carry an emergency kit of premixed coolant, extra oil, and transmission fluid, first aid kit, portable air compressor and jump-pack. If everything is repaired or looks okay, the trip is certainly possible.  

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Q. I have a GMC 2500-HD pickup that is used for my work as a carpenter as well as for towing my 24-foot boat. The door sticker states that the front tires should be at 65 PSI and the rear tires should be  75 PSI. I just had an oil change and tire rotation at my dealer, at about 11,000 miles. I checked my tires, and they are all at around 65 PSI. Should I set the tires at different levels?

A. I believe in setting vehicle tires at the pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. The only time I would vary the pressure is when you are towing your boat or if you are carrying a heavy load for a long distance. 

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Q. Recently, while driving out on the highway, the windshield just cracked. I didn’t see anything hit the window, but the crack ran across the entire windshield. The car is a 2016 Honda Pilot and I have only owned it for a couple of years. I don’t know if the windshield was original or not. When I had the windshield replaced, the glass guy said this is fairly common with these cars. Why is that?

A. Glass can shatter from stress, (the body flexes) poor installation, defective product, and of course impact. Glass also has a memory, and an almost undetectable chip can turn into a crack due to heat and stress. A quick search of online forums shows incidents of cracked windshields in the 2016 Honda Pilot are common. 

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Q. The air conditioner in my 2019 Toyota Corolla gives off an unpleasant odor. The dealer told me it is normal and there isn’t anything they can do about it. I purchased the car when it was about 18 months old. I wonder if this is why they traded in the car. 

A. Start with making sure the air-conditioner evaporator drain is clear (you should see water drip under the car when the A/C has been running for a while). When using the air conditioner, always try to use the fresh air or outside air setting. This will help in reducing odors stuck in the car and also will help eliminate excessive moisture which can lead to mold and mildew in the ducts and air-conditioner evaporator. In some cases, the evaporator and cooling ducts need to be cleaned. Toyota also has a charcoal impregnated filter which helps reduce odors. Try getting in the habit of shutting off your A/C a couple of minutes before the end of your drive, leaving the fan on. This will help dry out the air-conditioning/heater ducts. 

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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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