How To

Looking for a new car with the latest safety features

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader planning a new car purchase.

Car Doctor -- The 2023 Hyundai Sonata.
The Car Doctor answers a question from a reader looking for a new car. Hyundai

Q. I am in my eighties and looking for a car with some of the newest safety features. I am specifically interested in the back-up camera, automatic emergency braking, and cross traffic sensors. So far, the only car that has everything I want is the Hyundai Sonata. Are there others I should look at? 

A. The Sonata is a fine vehicle and is available with all the latest safety features that you are looking for. The Honda Accord has a back-up camera and emergency braking standard with cross-traffic alert as an option. For something a little different the Subaru can be equipped with all the features you want plus it has standard all-wheel drive, which adds to winter safety. The conventional wisdom is if you are shopping for a new car, you should consider one with the latest safety features. 


Q. A few years ago, I had the factory air conditioning on my 1969 Buick converted from Freon R12 to R134a. This summer the air conditioner would only blow warm air. My question is can I convert back to Freon? Do I need to stay with R134a, and how much do I need? I cannot find a chart that goes back to the 1970s. 

A. The problem with R134 is it runs at higher pressures and has smaller molecules than R12 (Freon) and is more apt to find a leak. The older air conditioner hoses did not have the same sealing as the new hoses, and the R134 can seep through the hose. Actual R12 has not been made in years and you are supposed to be licensed to buy and sell it. The last I heard the original R12 was selling for up to $100 a pound. According to one of the databases that I use, typically the A/C system in a 1969 Buick unit used four pounds of R12. Looking online, the conversion from R12 to R134a is 3.25 pounds. I suspect you have a leak – try a DIY can of R134a with a dye and sealer and see what happens. You may stop the leak, or the dye will help you find it.


Q. My very dependable 2004 Chevrolet Malibu is leaking antifreeze. I can see it on the ground. This only seems to have happened after I had replaced the radiator, oil, and transmission gaskets as well as some hoses. What should I do? 

A. The very first thing is to check the coolant level. Driving with low coolant in the radiator will cause the engine to overheat and possibly damage it beyond repair. I would return to the shop that replaced the radiator and explain what is going on. They should pressure test the cooling system to look for a leak. Possibilities include a leaking radiator, engine freeze-plug, other hoses, or even a defective radiator. 

Q. In July I bought a low mileage 2016 Nissan Rogue SV. After a month or so, I started to notice a vibration in the steering wheel, primarily when driving between 20 and 45 mph at a constant 1250 RPM. I took the vehicle back to the dealer and they looked at it for a few days. They told me they found and replaced a bad exhaust mount, and that the vibration was virtually gone. Unfortunately, that did not take care of the vibration. I took the Rogue to a second dealer and was told that transmission is designed to cause the vibration. I asked them why I did not feel the vibration in any of the other new or used Rogues I test drove. They just answered that the car is supposed to have a vibration and suggested that I call Nissan if I was not happy. I cannot believe that Nissan has sold over 1 million Rogues, and all have a built-in vibration in the steering wheel. I really like the vehicle, but the vibration is annoying when driving on local roads. Do you have any suggestions?


A. Some continuously variable transmissions (CVT), like the one used in your Rogue, have a somewhat undesirable vibration, but it is a characteristic of the design. Before I wrote this off as normal, I would want the dealer to check for any technical service bulletins that address vibration. Using AllData, the technical database that I use, I found one that describes a low-speed vibration caused by the electric controlled coupling for the rear drive unit. In addition, I would want the dealer to perform a vibration analysis to determine the source of the vibration to determine if it is in fact a normal characteristic or if something is wrong. 

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 Doctor question to [email protected]. Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on