Q. I always look forward to reading your car care Q&A column, but don’t recall seeing a review of the Diesel Volkswagen Passat TDI . Now that the diesels run quieter, don’t spew heavy tail pipe emissions and don’t smell bad, I’m considering buying a TDI and welcome seeing your thoughts on these vehicles. I drove one recently and it performed well. I now drive a 2007 Infiniti M35.
A. The Passat diesel is certainly a very good car with world class fit and finish. The performance is great and the fuel economy outstanding. Although, keep in mind you will need to replenish the special exhaust emissions additive. Also keep in mind that diesel fuel is also much more expensive than gasoline, in some cases as much as a dollar more per gallon. As good as the Passat is, (perhaps the best affordable mid-sized car) you may miss some of the luxury that you have become accustomed to with your Infiniti M35.
Q. My wife just bought a 2012 Kia Sorento. I told the salesman that I change my own oil and filter on all my vehicles. He said that I should only use a Kia filter because that some aftermarket filters have caused engine failure. Is there any truth to this? I have never had a problem with the brand name that I have been using. If this is true, what makes a Kia filter so special/different?
A. In the past few years, Kia has issued a technical service bulletin warning about the use of inferior aftermarket oil filters and improper viscosity oil. According to Kia, the Kia filter has a superior anti-drain back valve compared to other filters. It has been my experience that a quality aftermarket filter generally meets or exceeds the factory filter. With that said, if you want to use the factory filter it costs less than $6.00, making it very competitively priced with aftermarket filters.
Q. I recently purchased a 2010 Corolla with about 14,000 miles on it. When I put it in reverse, I hear a noise like the gears adjusting when a jet plane taking off. My dealership assured me nothing is wrong but I am wondering how or if this problem can be corrected.
A. I would ask the dealer to identify where the noise is coming from. It is possible that the noise may be a characteristic of the car (an undesirable characteristic certainly) and may not be able to be repaired. When the dealer indentifies the problem, compare it to an identical car. If the other car has the same noise, I would classify the issue as a characteristic rather than a problem.
Q. Having spent several days without power got me to thinking is there a way to use my car to run some electrical devices in my house? I was thinking of cable/internet, a few lights and the television. Certainly I know I could get a generator but was thinking of when I was a kid I remember seeing the local handyman who rigged their truck to power an electric saw.
A. The easiest way would be to use an inverter. An inverter takes 12 volts of electricity and converts it to house current. Certainly in limited circumstances this would work, but will run down the battery very quickly unless the engine is kept running. Last year during the hurricane I used a 750 watt inverter to help keep my refrigerator cool, run a small light, television, satellite box and cable modem. In Japan it is not uncommon to see residents powering their homes in an emergency with the all electric Nissan Leaf.
Q. I own a 2006 Honda Accord EX, with about 60,000 miles on it. The past few months, when driving in the rain, the battery light will occasionally come one, and the steering freezes for a few seconds. This is more prominent when I make a right hand turn. I recently had an oil change and the dealer checked out the car but could not find anything wrong. This only happens in the rain, any thoughts?
A. The problem sounds as if there is a belt slipping, worn idler pulley or even a slipping crankshaft pulley. Since this happens in the rain, the simple diagnostic solution would be to allow the engine to run, add water to the belt area and look for the cause of the problem.