Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – The Saratogian
Q. My question pertains to reputable resources for aftermarket parts, specifically headlight housings. I have a 2002 Honda Civic LX. Being 20 years old, the plastic headlight housings have become faded/clouded, which diminishes headlight power. I understand the do-it-yourself cleaning kits only provide short-term improvement. I understand some body shops wet sand the lenses and apply clear coat. However, I saw an example and it only provided mediocre improvement at best. A body shop suggested to me to use aftermarket housings as the only reasonable cost-effective solution. Can you suggest reputable companies that provide reasonable quality aftermarket parts for this purpose?
A. You are certainly correct, AAA studies have shown that clouded headlights can reduce light output be up to 90 percent. The DIY and professional restoration can work out well, but like most anything it really depends on the time and effort you put into it that determines the end result. Regarding aftermarket replacement parts, this is also a very cost-effective method to restore the headlights. When shopping for headlight assemblies, look for headlights that are CAPA (Certified Automotive Parts Association) certified. This nonprofit organization oversee the quality of automotive body parts. You can find CAPA certified headlight assemblies at many online parts stores such as CariD, RockAuto and Carparts.com.
Q. Years ago, I had a Toyota Matrix – great car. The only thing that would happen once or twice a year the check engine light would come on. First time it happened, I panicked and ran in to the dealer, which tried to tell me I needed a $1500 emissions system overhaul. Seemed odd as the car wasn’t old – I did quick research, found out that tightening the gas cap might do the trick – sure enough it did. The light went off after about 50 miles. My brother still drives that Matrix, close to 200k miles now and has never had another problem. Fast forward to today. My 2013 Prius IV has about 85k miles. Last year the Check Engine light came on. Based on my prior experience with the Matrix I tightened the gas cap and again the light went out after about 25 to 30 miles. A couple of months ago it happened twice, so I bought a brand-new gas cap from Toyota thinking maybe the old one was just shot since the car is from 2013. However, the last couple of weeks even with the new gas cap I’m getting the same pattern. Light goes on, tighten cap, light goes out. Frankly, I’m leery of the dealer trying to sell me a solution I don’t need – but I don’t want to foolishly damage my engine. Should I try another cap? Bring the car in?
A. You should bring the car to the dealer or a good independent repair shop. Very common with Toyota products is a minor leak develops with the evaporative emissions system which also includes the gas cap. The car will run fine and even the fuel economy may have not changed, but your car is polluting the air. A simple test will reveal a fault code, then some additional testing will determine which part has failed.
Q. I read your column and listen to your radio program. What is the name of the company you had on earlier this year that made car covers? I’m looking for a quality cover for my new to me Ford Mustang.
A. I have two car covers that I use. One is by Empire covers (http://empirecovers.com and it does a great job of protecting the car (it is in a car port). The second is a weighted car cover that goes all the way to the ground that keeps out rodents and other critters. This cover works quite well but is fairly heavy and a bit awkward to install. Depending on your needs both will work quite well.
Q. I have a 2006 Toyota Solara and it’s time for a new car. I’m in my eighties and I’m looking for a car with some of the newest safety features that my current car doesn’t have. I’m specifically interested in the back-up camera, automatic emergency braking and cross traffic sensors. So far, the only car that has everything I want is the Hyundai Sonata. What do you think of the Sonata and is there other cars I should look at?
A. For the 2023 model year just about every new car will have these features. The Hyundai Sonata is a fine vehicle and has its legendary 10 year 100,000 drivetrain warranty. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are very reliable cars. For something a little different the Subaru can be equipped with all the features you want plus it has standard all-wheel-drive, which adds to winter safety. You are correct to think if you are shopping for a new car, you should consider one with the latest safety features.
Q. I purchased a used Hyundai Santa-Fe, which is still under the warranty. The dealer said that since the is a Certified-Pre-Owned vehicle I need to come back to the dealer for service to maintain the warranty. I have built up a great relationship over the years with my own mechanic, but don’t want to void the 100,000-mile 10-year warranty. If my mechanic uses Hyundai parts will that maintain the warranty?
A. What makes this car different than other used Hyundai models is that it is a Certified Pre-Owned vehicle. Typically when a second owner purchases a Hyundai the warranty reverts to a five-year 60,000 mile warranty. As a CPO vehicle it keeps the 10-year 100,000 miles drivetrain warranty. Perhaps you misunderstood the dealer. you only need to maintain the car in accordance with the owner’s manual to maintain the warranty. As long as you keep records and use quality parts your car will be covered under the warranty.
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