Q. I recently started driving a 2013 Ford Fusion as a company leased vehicle. This vehicle is equipped with a “Start-Stop’’ feature that shuts off and restarts the engine when the vehicle comes to a stop. There is a button that is available that can disable this feature. Are there any general guidelines that you know of for using this feature, such as it is fuel efficient in stop/start traffic when the engine stops/starts multiple times? In the past, the thought was that starting an engine used more gasoline and produced more emissions than letting it idle, although I assume technology has improved this over time. Thanks for the assistance.
A. You are correct, once it did only make sense to shut off an engine if you were idling for extended periods of time. Today any idling wastes gas. I recently drove three difference cars with “idle-stop’’ and depending on the car some are better than others. In my opinion it is more about how annoying you find the restart. One was a Prius hybrid and the re-starting was almost transparent. The Fusion that I drove started quietly and was pretty tolerable. The last was a BMW 330 and as good as a 3 series car is, I found myself shutting off the idle stop in stop and go traffic because of the raucous sound and feel when it re-started.
Q. What are the symptoms of CV joints wearing out on a 2005 Toyota Camry?
A. There are four C/V (constant velocity) joints on your car, two outer and two inner joints. The typical symptoms of a faulty outer C/V joint are a clicking noise on turns. A worn inner C/V joint can cause a vibration. The joints themselves are covered in a rubber boot. If the boot is torn or leaking grease the joint should be inspected and the boot or joint should be replaced if necessary.
Q. I’m considering a new Honda Accord with the four-cylinder engine. For 2013 Honda replaced the 5-speed automatic transmission with a CVT transmission. What do you think about the effect on fuel economy, the longevity of CVT transmission and the overall driving experience of the CVT over a more conventional transmission?
A. I have driven the new CVT Accord and found it to be one of the best continually variable transmissions in any car that I have driven. The CVT helps improve fuel economy by always being in the “sweet-spot’’ of that combination of power and economy. The driving experience was totally “normal’’—at first I didn’t realize it was a CVT transmission. Regarding longevity of the transmission only time will tell, but considering Honda’s track record I would expect generally trouble free operation.
Q. The air conditioner in my car blows only warm air. If I put Freon in, it will be cold for about four hours and then go back to blowing hot air. What can I do?
A. There is a leak that needs to be repaired, just adding more refrigerant without finding the cause of the problem is just a waste of money and not particularly good for the environment. You could try adding a same quantity of refrigerant (generally four ounce cans) with a dye built in and see if you can visually find the leak. There are some leak sealing and recharge products-one is A/C Pro. I have had pretty good luck with this product, but with your car it sounds like you have a fairly substantial leak that may require mechanical repair.
Q. I have had a Jeep for many years and loved it. It would go anywhere and I liked the Jeep community (It is like being in a club-we wave at each other). Now I’m married and have two kids and my husband and I are thinking we should have a more practical vehicle. I was thinking a small SUV like a RAV4, what do you think?
A. The RAV4 is a good vehicle and the most recent design has only made a good vehicle better. But don’t discount a new Jeep, I recently drove a four-door Wrangler and found it to be a vehicle most anyone could easily live with. The ride was comfortable, off-road ability as good as any Jeep and it has comfortable seating for four-five in a pinch. Even with four doors there is still room for plenty of cargo. The latest V-6 engine in my test car was returning 22 mpg on the highway with an overall city/highway average of 18 miles per gallon. My vehicle had the canvas top which was quiet and generally tight, a hard top is available for winter weather, although I’m not sure it is needed.