Ask the AAA Car Doctor: Bluetooth, car covers, and more

John Paul

John Paul

man fixing vehicle engine

John Paul is back for week two. Be sure to email your questions to the address below for a personal answer from the AAA Car Doctor.

Q.         I am scheduled for a coolant change at 100,000 miles. Currently, I have 96,500 miles on my 2014 Toyota Camry. What is a reasonable price for this?

A.         Today in most cases this is considered a drain and refill. The price of the coolant varies but $25 for a gallon is average and a complete cooling system which includes a drain and refill, inspect for leaks, check for proper cooling system operation takes about an hour and a half. Depending on labor charges $175-$225. AAA also has a repair estimator that can give you a range of different repairs and service

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Use the right weight of oil for the best performance and protection.

Q.         My neighbor has a 1956 Ford T-bird with a 312 V8 engine, and he wants me to change the oil for him but wasn’t sure what weight oil to use. What would you recommend?

A.         I would use a good quality 15W-40, maybe Shell Rotella available most everywhere. This oil seems to be very popular with old-car enthusiasts and works well with flat tappet engines.

Q.         I just purchased four new tires on July 12, 2022. They were sold and installed at the local Land Rover dealership. I drove 6.5 miles and found the ride to be “bumpy/slight vibration so I thoroughly examined the tires. I am a mechanic. I found after learning about the expiration date of tires that my “new tires” are six years old. In addition, they are not the same speed rating.  Is there a law that protects us from this safety hazard?

A.         Currently there are no laws that prohibit selling old tires. There has been talk over the years in states with vehicle inspection that tires over six years old should fail inspection. The tire trade organization the Rubber Manufacturers Association recommends that tires over 10 years old should be carefully inspected and replaced if they show signs of aging. I suspect your new tires may have been “take-offs” from another vehicle and sold to you as new. I would go back to the dealer and tell them you want the proper new tires for your vehicle. 

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A car cover can protect your car against the elements when weather turns nasty.

Q.         I am thinking about possibly looking around for an outdoor car cover that would be good with the change of seasons that we have here in New England. I was wondering if you have any thoughts or ideas in this regard. 

A.         If is always best to use a quality cover and not a tarp. A quality cover is typically multilayer allows the car to breathe and protects the paint. If the car is a vintage variety with aging paint, even a good car cover can wear off the paint. On my own car, I have had good luck with the covers from Empire covers https://www.empirecovers.com/. I keep a car outside in Florida and the Empire cover held in place during a hurricane last year. 

Q.         I use my cell phone a lot in my side hustle delivery business but my van doesn’t have Bluetooth. Can I upgrade the radio, or should I just keep using my rechargeable (which I forget to recharge) AirPods? 

A.         First off, hands free is not risk free. Even though you may be keeping your hands on the wheel, you brain may be focusing on the call rather than driving. Yes, you can replace the radio with a unit that has full Bluetooth capability. Most any auto electronics shop can do this work. Recently I have been trying a headset by BlueTiger (https://bluetigerusa.com )  called the Solare. It has a single earpiece (in many states it is illegal to wear full headphones). The headband portion of the headset contains a solar panel that keeps the headset charged, although you can plug it in to recharge. It charges very well in sun light but also charges pretty well with indoor lighting. The headset is comfortable, and the microphone cancels most background noise. This may be a good portable and legal solution.

Q.         I recently purchased a very small RV and plan to spend as much time in it as possible. With my job work from home or anywhere policy I don’t need to be tied to my office. As I travel, I am concerned about keeping the two batteries fully charged, since one powers some of the “house” accessories. I’m considering a small generator or even a portable battery, non-gas generator. Any thoughts on this or should I just carry a jump pack in case of emergencies? 

A.         There are some small, fairly quiet and relatively lightweight gas generators (but you need to carry a gas can) made by Honda, Generac and even Harbor Freight that could keep you going and recharge the batteries. I have never tried the battery generators, although EcoFlow seems to be popular. Recently I have been evaluating a battery maintainer from CTEK called the CS Free. What makes it interesting it can maintain/charge your batteries, without being plugged in to house current. It can also recharge its internal battery by plugging it in to a 120-volt outlet, 12-volt outlet and by using a folding solar panel. The solar panel charges the CS Free and the CS Free charges and maintains your batteries. This is all done without making a sound. By the way I always keep a portable jump-pack in our family cars as well as portable air compressors, just in case of emergencies. 

Q.         I’m looking for an SUV it is just me, my spouse and a labradoodle. Seems like everything I look at is too small, way too big or too macho. I also want to be able to tow our small boat in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter. I have looked at Jeeps, nice but concerned about reliability, The Hyundai Santa-Fe just didn’t feel right, and the Kia Telluride and Ford Bronco were too big and hard to get. I also looked at the Ford Explorer and Dodge Durango and they weren’t a fit either. I hate to sound like the Princess and the Pea, but when you are spending up to $50,000 for a vehicle it needs to make you happy be the right fit. 

A.         Vehicles are a personal choice, and you are correct it makes sense to buy what you want that fits your needs. Something I honestly almost forgot about until I just evaluated it recently was the Honda Passport. This is a five passenger SUV and now can be packaged with the TrailSport trim which adds additional off-road capability and has a bit more rugged design. With eight inches of ground clearance, 280 horsepower from its V-6 engine and the ability to tow 5000 pounds, the Honda Passport in standard or TrailSport trim could be the perfect fit.  

Got a car question, email the AAA Car Doctor for a personal reply. [email protected]

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