Q: I have a 2012 Subaru Legacy, and I purchased an extended warranty from the dealer. I want to put an aftermarket remote starter on this car. Will it affect the warranty? Is there a remote starting unit you recommend?
— A.S., Roselle, Ill.
A: You may not want to install a remote starter yourself. Tap into the wrong wire, and you could create havoc. We suggest going to a shop that specializes in remote starting systems. Avoid the cheapo kits you may find online or at big-box discount retailers. If installed properly, it will not affect your warranty. Since we are not well-versed in these systems, we can't offer a recommendation.
Q: I've been using a 2.6-ounce, two-cycle oil that says on the label to mix with 1 gallon of gas. The label says it is good for 50-to-1, 40-to-1, 32-to-1 and 16-to-1 engines. How important is the oil/gas ratio? My snowblower uses a 50-1 mixture.
— G.D., Harleysville, Pa.
A: The proper mix is crucial. Read the oil label carefully. Any two-cycle oils can be mixed in ratios up to 50-to-1, but the small print may say to use a specific amount. We are unfamiliar with universal products. Since too little oil may lead to engine seizure and too much causes carbon buildup that may damage the engine, use the ratio your snowblower demands.
Q: The price differential between 87 and 93 octane gas has increased. Sometimes it's around 80 cents per gallon these days. This can be $10 or $15 per tankful. Yet you see octane boosters for sale at the local auto supply store for much less than this. Does this mean I can buy 87 octane gas for my 93 octane-loving engine, add some booster and come out ahead? It wouldn't seem to make sense.
— S.P., Chicago
A: You would need an awful lot of octane boost to increase the gas in your tank by six points. Depending on the size of your tank, you may need to take out a mortgage. The economy is just not there, not to mention the hassle of pouring all those bottles of stuff in the tank. Check your owner's manual. You may be able to use regular (87 octane) fuel if you don't need peak performance. If the book says something like 91 octane or higher "preferred," not required, you can get by with regular.
Q: My wife drives a 2004 Toyota Avalon that has 53,000 miles on it. I'm going to replace the original tires soon. Should I replace the struts as well? We're planning to keep the car for another 50,000-plus miles.
— D.H., St. Charles, Ill.
A: Some industry experts suggest replacing the ride control components (shocks and/or struts) every 50,000 miles despite the fact that they may show no leaks or other issues. A good suspension is a safety benefit. Not only is handling improved, but brake performance is enhanced by keeping the tires in better contact with the road — especially on rough surfaces. Besides, worn shocks and struts may lead to premature tire wear.