Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Saratogian

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Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Saratogian

Q. I live in New York and own a 2013 Mazda CX5 with 98,000 miles. The exhaust was getting loud up front of the car. Upon inspection by my mechanic, said the flex exhaust pipe was failing. He looked up the part and called Mazda to find only to find out that flex pipe is attached to catalytic converter and sold as one unit. The cost was approximately $1600 plus labor. It seems absurd that Mazda would require a simple flex pipe fix to be attached to such an expensive part. Do you have any alternative options to fix the flex pipe without changing the catalytic converter?

A. Unfortunately, this design, which is also used by some other manufacturers, requires the flex pipe of catalytic converter to be replaced as one unit. Your car, like many sold in the Northeast, needs to meet California emissions regulations. Because of this, you have very limited aftermarket options. One possible option is a custom exhaust shop that may be able to fabricate a flex pipe and weld it in place of the leaking part.

Q. How often should a four-wheel alignment be done?

A. Generally, once per year, after pothole season is a good time. Or anytime you see odd tire wear, slight pulling when driving on a flat road or if the steering wheel is off center. These are all indications your vehicle needs alignment.

Q. Maybe this is an odd question but how does one adjust tire pressure when traveling to different temperatures. Now if I’m driving from the north to the south the temperatures could vary quite a bit. This could even happen over a week of being home as the weather could vary quite a bit.

A. Check and adjust the tire pressure when the tires are cool. As a general rule when the air temperature drops 10 degrees your tires can lose one pound of air. If you are starting the day in 30-degree weather check the tire pressure and adjust as necessary. You will find that if your next stop is 70 degrees the pressure won’t vary much. When the tires are under inflated, the pressure will vary more due to the friction of the molecules of air moving faster, generating heat and causing pressure to rise.

Q. When changing brake pads, is it necessary to resurface or replace the rotors?

A. When changing brake pads, it isn’t always necessary to change or resurface brake rotors, but it makes sense to do it. When you resurface a disc rotor you remove metal. A thin rotor will not be able to dissipate as much heat and is more prone to warping. To me replacing brake rotors with brake pads is money well spent and there is much less chance of brake vibration/squeal over the life of the brake pads.

Q. I enjoy you Q&A column, regarding the recent question about a Toyota Corolla with poorly performing headlights. Another likely problem which we had with a similar car was that the headlight covers became translucent. The dealer cleaned them up for $100. But there are Internet fixes with toothpaste, baking soda and even bug spray. This may be worth looking into.

A. Yes, you are correct that cloudy headlight lenses can reduce headlight performance by 90 percent. Cleaning or replacing the headlight assemblies as well as new bulbs can make a remarkable difference when driving at night. Last fall I used the Sylvania Headlight Restoration Kit on our 15-year-old Volkswagen and although it was quite a bit of work the results were very good.

Q. I have a 2015 Subaru Outback, and like many Subaru owners had trouble with keeping battery charged. Ater reading your column I used the battery maintainer you suggested, and it worked well. Last spring, I had the dealer perform the charging system update and they said the battery should be replaced. When I got home called AAA and they checked everything and said all looked good. The car started until this first cold winter day My question is do I need a more robust battery? I don’t drive much anymore but try to start the car every few days.

A. Certainly, charging and retesting the battery is the first place to start. Adding a battery with more reserve capacity could certainly help. Your car’s battery should be able to start the car, even after a few weeks of sitting. On thing that you may not realize that you are doing wrong is periodically starting the car. Starting the car without driving it actually takes more electricity out of the battery than what you are putting back in. Also even with fuel injection, there is always a little extra fuel needed for a cold start and just starting the car and not getting it up to operation temperature can contaminate the oil.

Q. I have a 2018 Lexus LS and it is the best car I have and may ever own. The problem is one day I stupidly left a window open, and the sunroof and it rained and rained hard. I vacuum out as much water as possible, but it still smells like a wet dog. Any suggestions?

Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Saratogian

China Cheap Catalytic Converter Direct Fit A. Depending on how wet the car was will determine how extensive the repairs will be. In extreme cases the seats will need to come out, the carpets washed and dried, under carpet mat and sound deadening material replaced. Lexus has a “performance” carbon imbedded cabin filter that will filter out some smells. This does not take car of the problem if there is mold, but will filter out the smell. You could also rent an Ozonator, a machine that uses ozone and UV light to remove smells. Cleaning companies sometimes will use these machines to remove offensive smells. Unfortunately, time will either fix and make the problem worse.