When to change a new car’s oil?

Q. I bought a new Mercedes E350 last winter but ended up driving my 10 year-old CR-V most of the time. So far, I have only put about 2,500 miles on the Mercedes, but the engine oil had been there for seven months or longer. I don’t know how long the dealer had the vehicle before I purchased it. Should I follow the maintenance “minder’’ (it advises 50% oil life left) or go ahead and change the oil? By the way I miss you column when it isn’t in the paper.

A. Thanks for the kind words. The oil change reminders on some cars actually measure the oil condition using an algebraic logarithm, others just look at mileage. The oil change interval recommended on your Mercedes is to change the oil using the oil change monitor, not by mileage or time. Would it hurt to change the oil now? No. Is it necessary “by the book’’? No. But, if this was my Mercedes, I would change the oil at least yearly.


Q. Like one of your previous readers, I am considering buying a 2001 Jaguar XK8. It has 21k miles and is in immaculate condition. Purchasing a pre-owned model is the only way I can afford one of these beautiful cars. As you can tell, I love the looks but am hesitant on the reliability of this car. I have read as many good reviews as very bad. The general reputations of the original Jaguars speak volumes on why not to own them. Can you tell me about the reliability of this model and if it is going to be “high maintenance’’? Also, what is the “real’’ MPG to be expected? I see everything from 15 to 18 MPG in the city listed for this car, but I know that the method of measuring fuel economy has changed since 2001.

A. The old saying that Jaguar has two of everything that breaks twice as often, has certainly changed and the cars has gotten better. Although as with any luxury sports car, repairs and general maintenance can be very expensive. As a general rule regarding fuel economy, deduct 10-15 percent from the old EPA fuel economy number.

Q. I have a 2000 Ford Windstar on which the right directional signal, parking and cornering lights do not work. All of the bulbs are working. According to the manual, they are all on one circuit and the fuse is fine. Is there a solution?


A. There is always a solution! Once upon a time, cars were simple and lighting used switches, power and ground circuits. The only tool necessary was a keen eye and a test light. In the last decade, that has all changed. Although wiring could be a problem, the circuit in the Windstar uses a rear electronic module to trigger the ground circuit of the lights. This part, as well as the lighting, can be checked with a Ford compatible scan tool.

Q. I have a 2007 Nissan Altima. When I first start the car, I hear the sound of running water which subsides after a few minutes. In addition, the car doesn’t always start on my first attempt. If I wait a moment, it will turn over and run fine. Any thoughts?

A. I would start with leaving the car in a repair shop overnight so the technician can hear the noise. If possible, you may even want to meet the technician in the morning when they start the car so you can identify the noise. At the same time, they can hook up some test equipment to measure fuel pressure and test the ignition system to determine if this may be the cause of the “no-start’’ condition.

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