Q: I have had experiences with Volkswagen dealers where I was told that oil and filter changes are due every 5,000 miles, but according to the factory manual, the oil and filter should be changed every 10,000 miles. My daughter has a 2007 VW Rabbit and I have the 2009 version. Please advise which is correct.
— B.P., Downers Grove, Ill.
A: Your owner's manuals are right. The only difference between your car and your daughter's is that yours calls for synthetic oil. That would also be a good choice for hers. Synthetic oil holds up better for extended oil change intervals.
Q: You have fielded questions regarding hybrids not getting good gas mileage. I would like to make a quick, hopefully helpful, comment. One of the biggest factors influencing MPG on a hybrid vehicle is the tires, specifically, the tire resistance rating. The higher the resistance rating, the better the handling of the car is but at a cost of MPG; sometimes as much as 10 percent less! Of course keeping the tires inflated to the vehicles specs is also very important. I hope this helps.
— B.O., Orefield, Pa.
A: Right you are. Most hybrids come with low rolling resistance tires and replacing them with regular tires may have a significant impact on fuel economy. Just installing new tires, in fact, often results in decreased fuel economy as the more substantial tread and greater tire diameter, compared to the old tires, changes the MPG. Some owners of regular, non-hybrid cars are now seeking out low rolling resistance tires when it comes time for replacement. We are unaware of a rolling resistance rating, though.
Q: The rear wiper blade on my 2010 Highlander hangs so low below horizontal that it almost hangs off the glass. Toyota said it was fine every time they looked at it. When used, it goes back to the horizontal position, then after time starts to drop. It looks terrible! Any ideas?
— P.O., Elmwood Park, Ill.
A: The wiper arm is splined to the wiper motor shaft. There are grooves in the arm that fit over ridges on the shaft. The arm can be moved counter-clockwise a spline or two to adjust its park position.
Q: I have a 2008 Hyundai Tiburon with 38K miles that just lost a clutch which of course Hyundai says is normal wear and will not cover. My last two manuals both went to the grave at 140K with the original clutches still in them. To me 38K is unacceptable for any clutch. I have since found out through Edmond's that Hyundai puts a delay valve in the slave cylinder which allows the clutch to slip for novice drivers and that removing this will extend the clutch to a normal life. What do you think of this modification?
— D.B., Naperville, Ill.
A: We say go for it. Without the delay valve, the clutch will hook up quicker and you'll be able to row through the gears like Speed Racer.
Q: When I started driving in the late 1970's my father made me pay for my car and for all maintenance on my car. I recall tires lasting for only 15,000 miles or so. Tires now last for 60,000 or more miles. Is my memory wrong? If not, what happened with tire technology to increase wear by four times?
— B.B., Chicago
A: We could not cover the changes in tire technology without writing a complete book on the subject. Rubber compounding continually improves. Tread designs have changed dramatically. The belts, body plies and cap plies have gone from steel and nylon to aramid fibers and carbon fibers. But most of all, the radial tire was a major improvement over the bias ply tire and a quantum leap in technology and longevity.
Q: I am disappointed to find that GM has eliminated the radiator cap and the transmission fluid dipstick. I guess these were cost-saving measures and eliminating potential leak points on the part of GM. However, the downside in my opinion of eliminating these components and also by installing tamper-proof coolant reservoirs makes it difficult to check the level and condition of the antifreeze and transmission fluid.
— R.G., Berwyn, Ill.
A: You can still check the coolant condition and transmission fluid level, but it is not easy. The cap for the cooling system in on the remotely located surge tank. It is here that you can see if there is sufficient coolant in the system, but be careful if you want to remove the cap as the tank is under pressure. Allow the system to cool down before opening. Checking the transmission fluid level is more difficult. The car must be on a hoist, in park with the engine running. After removing the transmission vent cap, you remove the fill plug on the side of the box, much the same way you would check the fluid level on a manual transmission. We are afraid that car companies don't want owners messing with stuff and eventually will seal the hood to keep us out.