Posts Tagged ‘Click and Clack’
BY TOM AND RAY MAGLIOZZI
Dear Tom and Ray:
Recently I’ve been thinking of piece-mealing a car (aka creating a Frankenstein car) from the best parts of all the cars I can identify, the goal being that the car would be the most reliable, lowest-maintenance, most fun to drive vehicle ever to grace the surface of this planet. I do realize that such an endeavor would entail a great deal of fabrication and modification of components, but hopefully these matters will be overcome by my optimism and determination. I’ve been Googling to find the best components, and so far I’ve decided that the engine of this beast will be the Volvo B18/20, which apparently powered some of the world’s highest-mileage cars. So, do you have any other advice for me, as far as components or anything else? — Hunter
TOM: Well, I’d suggest that you go back and watch “Frankenstein” again, and take note of what happens to the “vehicle” in the end.
RAY: It certainly sounds like a fun project, Hunter. And you’re obviously unencumbered by such hindrances as family or employment. So I take it you need something to keep you busy. This will fill up your schedule.
TOM: But keep in mind that there’s a 99 percent chance that if you do produce a vehicle in the end, it’s going to be unsafe, unreliable, unpredictable and undriveable.
RAY: Manufacturers spend a lot of time and effort matching their components so they all work well together — so that the weight balances and the car handles well, so that it has the right amount of power and braking ability, and the engine works well with the transmission, and so that the computer software ties everything together, including the safety equipment.
TOM: You’re just going to throw a bunch of parts together and hope for the best. The result is likely to be a mess, even if all of the individual pieces are good ones.
RAY: But I know you’re going to do this anyway, Hunter. We’ve been answering car questions long enough to recognize that no matter what we say, you’re going to be out hunting for an engine this weekend.
TOM: In which case we’d recommend a late-1990s or later Honda Civic engine. The old Volvo “DL” engines certainly were great and durable, but the Civic engine is less expensive to fix, more reliable, more fuel-efficient, cleaner and easier to get parts for.
RAY: In fact, I’d use the engine AND transmission from a Civic. Not only will you have a reliable drive train that way, but you know they’ll work well together, and you’ll be able to use the computerized engine-management system with little modification.
TOM: Actually, while you’re at it, you might just want to buy a whole Honda Civic and be done with this crazy idea. We know it’s already full of great components. And then you could concentrate on modifying the body panels and interior. That way, you might end up with something you could actually drive.
RAY: I know, I know. That’s not enough of an adventure for you. And to be fair to you, Hunter, projects like this sometimes are the venues in which genius is unleashed.
TOM: Or the venues in which people get killed. Those activities often are closely related. So whatever you decide, please be careful. And send us pictures of your monster — before the fire consumes it.
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You want to buy a used car, but how do you find a good one? Tom and Ray can help! Order “How to Buy a Great Used Car: Secrets Only Your Mechanic Knows.” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Used Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.
(c) 2012 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
Dear Tom and Ray:
The tires on my wife’s ’05 Infiniti FX35 are about six months old. We had no problems with them, until three weeks ago. When driving down the highway, the tire-pressure warning light came on. I pulled over to see which one had gone flat, but lo and behold, the right front tire was registering 57 psi! I reduced the pressure to 36, continued my drive home, checked the tires the next morning, found everything OK, figured it was just a fluke and forgot about it. Then, a few days ago, the exact same thing happened again. Same car, same tire, same highway. I’ve taken the car back to the reputable dealer where I purchased the tires. No one has heard of this before, and they can find nothing wrong with the car or the tire. I don’t even think they believe me. What do you think, guys? — Rob (more…)
Dear Tom and Ray:
My son is driving a 2001 Chrysler Concorde, and it’s now on its last leg. He drives fast — he just got a speeding ticket for going 96 mph! He goes to college out of state, and it’s a long, boring drive home; that’s the excuse I got for the ticket. He also told me that’s not the fastest he’s driven! He’s always in a hurry — jackrabbit starts and last-second braking. Does the way he drives affect the longevity of the engine? I’m pretty sure it does. I want him to understand how to make a car last. –Richard (more…)
Dear Tom and Ray:
Say I have an electric car (one that runs on nothing but electricity) that can be charged by plugging into any outlet. But for cross-country trips or long trips outside my car’s range, I carry a 120-volt Honda generator and a gas can in the trunk with me. Could I just pull over when I need to and charge up the car? Would that work? How much charging from a gas generator would it take to charge an electric car? — John (more…)
Dear Tom and Ray:
My fiance and I are planning to buy a new car that fits our lifestyle and our budget. We are currently looking at the Honda Fit, the Toyota Matrix and, my personal favorite, the Honda Element. Anyway, here’s some info about us:
–We live in the mountains outside of Las Vegas (at 8,000 feet!), so we get lots of snow.
–We also drive about 300-400 miles per week, so decent miles per gallon is important.
–We are cyclists, and I am starting a gardening business, so we need lots of cargo room.
–We are cash buyers looking to buy a used 2008-2011 vehicle for less than $20,000.
Now, with all of that information, would you agree that the Element is a good choice? I am mostly concerned about repair costs and resale value, because Honda has discontinued the model. My main question is this: When a car manufacturer discontinues a model, does the resale value typically increase, or decrease? How about the cost of repair? Elements are hard to find used by private sellers, and I’ve always heard that Element drivers LOVE their cars, so I wonder if the resale value might even increase. Thank you so much! — Kaelin (more…)
Dear Tom and Ray:
We recently purchased a 2003 Honda Civic with 80,000 miles. The previous owner was very fastidious about maintenance, and had replaced several major items within the past six months, including the timing belt, for which he provided us receipts. My husband was driving the car recently and accelerated to pass another vehicle, when the Civic suddenly lost power and some of the dashboard lights came on. Fortunately, he was close by, and was able to limp home at a slow speed. We had the car towed to the repair shop that we have used previously, and they diagnosed the problem as a burned-out alternator and PCM. The mechanic told us that the problem was caused because when the timing belt was replaced, the alternator was left loose and not grounded. He said that when there was a power surge during acceleration, both the alternator and the PCM burned out. The repair bill was $1,200. We contacted the shop where the timing-belt repair was done, and the owner denies that his work would have caused this damage. He said our repair shop sold us unnecessary parts, and said the alternator is not touched when a timing belt is installed. He also pointed to the five-month span between the time the work was done by his shop and the alternator problem, and suggested that any problems with the repair would have shown up sooner. We don’t know what to believe. What do you think? — Kathi (more…)
Dear Tom and Ray:
Do you ever address questions about old farm tractors? Our 1945 Farmall-A starts well and runs well for about 10-20 minutes, but then it starts to miss and then stalls out, typically while going up a slope — even a small one. Along with our local mechanic, we checked out the carburetor (the original Schebler), the fuel lines, put in new plugs and added B-12 Chemtool and STP Lead Substitute additives to the gasoline. The problem will not go away, and we really need this little old tractor to mow our fields and haul logs. Any suggestions? We have a new Zenith-type carburetor on the shelf, but I don’t want to put that in unless that’s the problem for sure. I will be grateful for any words of wisdom on this. Thanks. — Will (more…)
About a year ago, I had the timing belt replaced on my 2003 Subaru Outback. Then, last week, I had the head gasket replaced at a different shop. When they replaced the head gasket, they looked at my timing belt and said I needed a new one! The reason was because they could not see any writing on the belt, and they said if it was replaced last year, there would still be writing visible, as it takes 40,000-50,000 miles to wear the writing off a belt, even an aftermarket one. So, now I am wondering, Did they really replace my timing belt last year, or did they rip me off? — Jim (more…)
My wife had the oil changed in her 2010 Camry at Walmart. One week later, as she was finishing her 25-mile morning commute, she noticed a noise coming from the engine while she parked the car. She called me to report it, and said she also noticed a small amount of oil dripping under the car. Upon restarting the car at lunch, the sound was much worse. So she shut off the car, and had it towed to the dealer where it was purchased. The dealer said that the oil-filter cartridge was installed incorrectly, so the oil ran out and the car’s engine probably is a total loss. I will be going to the dealer and also speaking with a Walmart manager tomorrow. How do I ensure that Walmart will make good on this, and won’t try to weasel out of paying for my new engine? It’s going to cost thousands of dollars. Thanks for your advice. — Tom
TOM: Well, you can’t prevent them from TRYING to weasel out of it, Tom. The manager wouldn’t be worth his salt if he didn’t at least try to claim that the oil was abducted by aliens while you were walking the dog.
RAY: Actually, what they may argue is that your wife shares some responsibility for the engine failure because she had an obligation to notice that the oil light was on. And that once the oil light was on, she should have stopped driving before the engine was ruined completely. If she did drive some distance with the oil light on, that argument has some merit.
TOM: But whether she shares responsibility or not, your job now is to lock down your evidence. So, when you go to the dealer, you want to get his statement, in writing, of what he found, when he found it, what he believes happened and how much your new engine’s going to cost. Take some dated pictures of the incorrectly installed part, if you can, and get the names and phone numbers of the individuals who examined your car. Ask them to agree to testify in small-claims court someday, should that be necessary.
RAY: And by the way, I would ask the dealer to specify a new or remanufactured engine, rather than let Walmart repair your engine. Here’s why: The worst of the damage — to the crankshaft and the bearings — will be obvious when they take apart the engine. But when you run out of oil, there’s subtle damage to every other part that’s supposed to be protected by oil. And that damage may not show up for 50,000 or 75,000 miles, when you start burning oil and belching blue smoke.
TOM: And while that’s not a problem for a car that already has a lot of miles on it, your car is practically brand-new, and you have a right to expect another 100,000 non-oil-burning miles out of it. So ask the dealer to write down that the engine needs to be replaced and cannot be satisfactorily rebuilt.
RAY: Once you have all of your evidence collected — the receipt for the Walmart oil change, the dealer’s statements, the pictures with circles and arrows on them — trundle over to Walmart and calmly lay out your case. Basically, the more you’re able to convince the Walmart manager that resistance is futile, the easier a time you’ll have getting your money from them.
TOM: The good news is that just about all repair shops have what we like to call “bonehead insurance,” which covers us for the stupid things we, or our employees, inevitably do once in a while.
RAY: Well, it covers us for the stupid things we do while working on other people’s cars. It won’t cover me for agreeing to write a newspaper column with my brother, unfortunately.
TOM: But Walmart either has insurance to cover its employees’ mistakes, or it self-insures and covers the cost of the errors itself. Either way, you have to let them know that they’re going to have to make a claim and buy you an engine.
RAY: If they try to give you the runaround, then you have to take them to small-claims court. Or, if the small-claims damage limit in your state isn’t high enough to cover the cost of the engine, you’ll have to pay a lawyer and use the regular court system.
TOM: But in front of a judge, the expert testimony and contemporaneous evidence you collected from the dealership should win the day. And hopefully the Walmart manager, or his or her higher-up, is experienced enough to know that in advance. Good luck, Tom.
In their pamphlet “Should I Buy, Lease, or Steal My Next Car?” Tom and Ray break down the strategies for buying a car, so you can make the most of your money. Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Next Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.
Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.
My mom is great. I love her, and I need to know how to help her. She has a ‘74 Fiat Spider convertible. It’s adorable and fast, and she loves it. But it’s not running. AGAIN. It’s been parked for about a year or so now, covered with a tarp. The canvas roof has a hole, so it would need to be replaced. The interior has water damage, so that needs to be cleaned or replaced. The clutch (the reason it was parked) needs to be replaced, and now the battery is dead. My dad also thinks the carburetor is shot. My mom literally burst into tears at seeing its accumulated damage, and has despaired over not taking better care of it. My dad and I think we should get her a Mazda Miata. What’s your advice? Do I try to help her keep the Fiat, or is it better to stop fighting it and let it go? — Nora (more…)