The Car Doctor Q&A: Four wheel alignment, tire pressure and changing brake pads | PIX11

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The Car Doctor Q&A: Four wheel alignment, tire pressure and changing brake pads | PIX11

Viewer-submitted questions for The Car Doctor:

Q: I live in New York and own a 2013 Mazda CX5 with 98,000 miles. The exhaust was getting loud, and after inspection, my mechanic said the flex exhaust pipe was failing. He called Mazda and found out that flex pipe is attached to a catalytic converter and sold as one unit. The cost was approximately $1,600 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 other manufacturers) requires the flex pipe of the catalytic converter to be replaced as one unit. Your car, like many sold in the Northeast, needs to meet California emissions regulations and 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, preferably after pothole season. Additionally, you might want to have the alignment done if you notice 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: How do you adjust tire pressure when traveling to different temperatures? If I’m driving from the north to the south, the temperatures can vary quite a bit. This might also occur over just a week at home, seeing as the weather varies quite a bit.

A: Check and adjust the tire pressure when the tires are cool. As a rule, when the air temperature drops 10 degrees your tires can lose one pound of air. If you start the day in 30-degree weather, check the tire pressure and adjust as necessary. However, if your next stop occurs in 70-degree temperatures, you’ll find the pressure won’t vary much. One other thing to note: 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. Make sure your tire pressure is at the recommended level.

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

A: 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. In my opinion, replacing brake rotors with brake pads is money well spent and there is less chance of brake vibration/squeal over the life of the brake pads.

Q: I enjoy your Q&A column! Regarding the recent question about a Toyota Corolla with poorly performing headlights, another common 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: 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 keeping the battery charged. After 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. Do you think I need a more robust battery? I don’t drive much anymore but try to start the car every few days.

A: Charging and retesting the battery is the first place to start, though adding a battery with more reserve capacity could certainly help. However, you may not realize that it’s detrimental to periodically start the car. First. your car’s battery should be able to start the car even after a few weeks of sitting. Starting a car without driving it actually takes more electricity OUT of the battery than you are putting back in. Also, even with fuel injection, there is always a little extra fuel needed for a cold start. If you just start the car but don’t get it up to operation temperature, you can contaminate the oil.

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

A: The extent of the repairs depends on how wet the car was. In extreme cases, the seats will need to come out, the carpets washed and dried, and the under-carpet mat and sound deadening material replaced. Lexus has a “performance” carbon-imbedded cabin filter that will filter out some smells, but not take care of any mold problem. 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 the problem, or make it worse.

If you have a car question, email the Car Doctor for a personal reply.

If you’d like more information, head to AAA Northeast.

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The Car Doctor Q&A: Four wheel alignment, tire pressure and changing brake pads | PIX11

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