What kind of engine problems should I expect?

John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.
John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.

Q. I bought a 2011 Subaru Forester in Oct 2015 with 17,400 miles on the odometer. I love it, but major consumer magazine shows that year and model to have engine problems. What should I watch for? I’m 84 and drive about 4,000 miles per year.

A. It is interesting that the Forester shows engine problems but not the Outback or Legacy that use the same engine. There are a couple of technical service bulletins about different issues with this engine, but at this point I wouldn’t do anything other than routine maintenance. Monitoring the oil and coolant levels and noting abnormalities will give you an idea if there are any issues that need to be addressed.


Q. I have a 2007 Honda Accord and on one of the warm days we had this year I tried the air conditioner on my car and all it did was blow warm air. Last year it worked fine on the hottest days, what could be wrong?

A. I would start with a check of the basic operation of the air conditioner system. This would include checking the low and high side pressures, compressor and air duct operation. In addition as with most new cars a faulty air conditioner system will also set a computer fault code. The problem could be a leak in the system or a faulty sensor/switch.

Q. Are there any problems with the new Honda 2016 CR-V, I’m interested in buying one but don’t want to make a mistake. I get mixed reviews when I read about the CR-V online. What do you think?

A. The Honda CR-V is one of the best small SUVs on the market. For its size it is very roomy inside with great use of space, the four-cylinder engine is peppy enough and delivers solid fuel economy. Some consumers have commented about a slight engine vibration at idle and some don’t like the feel of the (CVT) continually variable transmission. During my road test in a CR-V I didn’t notice any of those problems.


Q. I read about the owner of the 2014 Toyota Avalon XLE wrote you regarding his car hesitating. I owned a 2000 Toyota Avalon XLE that I was experiencing the same type of hesitation. My son a mechanic told me the reason could be that I was filling my gas tank at the local supermarket gas station. I went back to filling my gas tank at Mobile gas stations. In a few weeks the hesitation was gone. I then read my owner’s manual and it said that I could use 87 octane fuel but recommended using Top Tier Gasoline. It said because Top Tier Gasoline has a detergent added to the gasoline. I recently purchased a 2016 Toyota Avalon XLE Plus and read the owner’s manual and it recommend 87 octane at Top Tier Gasoline Stations. Maybe this can help others with the same problems, also could you explain Top Tier Fuel?

A. All gasoline use additives to minimize fuel deposits and keep engines and fuel systems clean. Top Tier fuel uses a higher concentration of detergent additives than other fuels. Seven of automakers, BMW, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes Benz, believe that non Top Tier fuel lacks the necessary additives that help minimize combustion chamber deposits.

Q. I am looking at a new BMW, either a 3 or 5 series, and the car requires premium fuel. Friends of mine have similar cars and use regular fuel. Would regular fuel damage the engine, or would the mid-grade fuel work on these cars without damaging the engine? Would using regular fuel negate the warranty? Also what do you think of Top Tier fuel?


A. If the engine requires premium fuel that is what you should use. The electronics in a modern engine will make adjustments to prevent engine damage but you shouldn’t make a habit of using fuel with a lower octane level than required. If the vehicle manufacturer “recommends’’ using a premium grade of fuel it is okay to use a lower grade but it has been my experience that both performance and fuel economy will suffer. AAA has been extensively testing fuel and found that fuel that is labeled Top-Tier has more additives and reduce carbon buildup on the valves and in the injection system. This seems to be more of a problem with vehicles that use gasoline direct injection systems.

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