Cars

Why did my car’s horn go from cool to ‘wimpy’?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who needs to replace one of his car's two horns.

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Q. My 2014 Buick had a nice sounding horn and now it sounds wimpy. I assume there are two horns, and one has quit. The dealer quoted my nearly $300 to fix it during the last oil change. I want to replace it but I can’t find its location. Can you help?

A. You are correct that there are two horns — high and low notes. To get to the horns you need to remove the bumper facia. You can do it yourself, but plan the better part of a morning or afternoon to find and replace the horns. 

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Q. I am 63 years old and getting my license for the first time. I have a limited income but would like to buy my first used car.  Any suggestions? 

A. Congratulations on getting your license. You need to look at what is comfortable to drive, and fits your budget and needs. Do you need a small fuel-efficient car or a bigger sedan? Perhaps a small SUV for winter weather driving and carrying more cargo or people. I would start by trying a variety of vehicles, perhaps try a large used car superstore for the variety of makes and models. Even if a vehicle isn’t in your budget, you can get an idea what kind of car fits you best. If you are buying from a private party, make sure it is their car — their name is on the title. Sometimes a non-dealer (referred to as a curbstoner) will buy and flip cars. These cars may have issues and will have no warranty, since the person selling the car doesn’t have a license or permit to sell vehicles.  Some private party sales can be well maintained cars and offer a good value. Larger new car dealers have the better inventories and may offer better warranties. Some smaller used car dealers can also have high quality vehicles. I would look at websites such as www.iseecars.com and www.cargurus.com to search out what you like within your budget. Finally, before you buy any car have it checked out by a reputable repair shop — it is money well spent. 

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Q. After our latest brush with hurricane Henri, I am considering buying a generator for my home. Since it has an engine, I thought you might have some ideas. 

A. You need to decide what you want the generator to do. If all you want to do is run a few lights and keep your refrigerator running, a 2,000-watt generator should suit your needs. For a small generator I prefer the inverter style. The electricity is cleaner, and overall, they are quieter. If you want to run bigger, higher capacity items such as your furnace, water heater, air conditioner, and other household items, you have two choices. Whole-house generators are permanently installed, generally operate on natural gas, propane, or even diesel, and will come on automatically when the power goes off. The other choice is a large portable generator that you would use with a manual transfer-switch or in some locations a “lock-out” plate. Never back feed a generator through a household outlet. Whatever generator you choose, when running it keep it away from the house (not in a garage or shed) to minimize any chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. Just like your car or power equipment, use it periodically to keep the gasoline fresh, and maintain it according to the owner’s manual.

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Q. I’m thinking of buying a toy-car — something that is fun that I can leave to my grandson. I guess what I am looking for is a car that I can enjoy and will have value when it becomes his at some point. Any thoughts? 

A. Performance cars usually can be considered future collectables. Something like a Dodge Charger Hellcat-Redeye edition. The Redeye edition of the Charger with nearly 800 horsepower is quite the vehicle, and like any performance car, requires driver restraint. In the same category, the Ford Mustang Shelby GT-500 or Mustang Mach-1 could also be considered a future collectible.  Depending on your budget, the second-generation hybrid Acura NSX is going to be discontinued next year, and based on the previous generation NSX may go up in value. My suggestion is buy something you like and enjoy it. Regardless of the car — whether, Corvette, Mustang or Porsche — it is the time you spend with your grandson and those memories that will have far greater value than any car. 

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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