Need advice for buying a small, fun car

Q. I know you help people who are confused choosing a new car. I am looking for something small but it needs to be fun. I am looking at the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and Honda FIT. Of these cars, which would you pick?

A. If I was looking for practicality, dependability and good fuel economy I would choose the Honda FIT. If I wanted something with a bit more style and sharper handling I would look at the Mini Cooper. As good as the Fiat 500 is the Mini Cooper is just a little more poised and polished.

Q. My 2002 Hyundai Elantra will start and run but my power windows, air conditioner and radio won’t work. What do you think could be wrong and how do I fix it?


A. You need to start with the most basic of diagnostics. Start with a check of all the fuses. Once you have checked the fuses and fusible links, then I would suggest getting a wiring diagram for your car. With the wiring diagram you can check the individual circuit for each component that isn’t working.

Q. I had the computer on my 2003 Dodge Intrepid replaced recently. This was the second time. I now notice that the engine revs occasionally. It sounds like another car has pulled along beside you. I took it to the garage twice, but they can’t duplicate it the problem so they can’t fix it. What are your thoughts on this?

A. It is very difficult for a technician to fix a problem that is intermittent. There are several issues that could cause a high idle. Since you have had two computers put in, the first place I would want to check is the ground circuit for the computer. A poor ground can have a variety of effects on overall drivability.

Q. I have been trying to find a leak in my cars air conditioner all summer. I have tried dye and even spent money at a shop to have their air conditioning specialist look at it and he couldn’t find anything. Do you have any ideas?


A. I have talked to several technicians that have faced similar problems and have gone to a low tech approach to find some leaks. Recently, one technician I was speaking with recharged a problem air conditioner system and sprayed down all the hoses and connections with soapy water. For some reason the soapy water found a leak that dye and electronic testing equipment missed. Although I have never been a big proponent of “repair in a can’’, several people have told me that have had good luck with a product called Super Seal by A/C Pro.

Q. My son’s 2007 Mazda CX7 is on its third motor valve job. The latest is under warranty. The first was at 60,000 miles by the dealer, the second at 120,000 miles and the third at 123,000 miles by a local mechanic. The local mechanic handling the 2nd and 3rd valve job said that the turbo blew and it is a normal problem and that I will have to pay approximately $2,000 for the turbo replacement. What is the relationship of the turbo to the engine problems? Should the turbo have been replaced as part of the 1st and 2nd jobs?

A. The turbo charger certainly should have been inspected as part of the engine work that was being performed. The cost of the turbocharger is $1300 and it takes about five hours labor to install it, so $2000 sounds about right. Mazda has issued more than one technical service bulletin regarding cylinder-head and turbo charger issues.

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