Questions and answers from the “Car Doctor” – Saratogian

Q: I have a 2007 Hyundai Sonata and when I took off in the morning, the front of the car wore a lot. After a few miles of driving, it seems to lighten up to almost unnoticeable. My mechanic told me to replace the tires and have the wheels aligned, but to no avail. Any idea what this car is has pretty low mileage.

A: I suspect the front struts have worn out after about 15 years. The best course of action would be to recheck all suspension and steering components and replace the front struts if necessary. Today, in many cases when replacing supports, you can also replace springs, bearings and fittings. Although the parts are expensive, the labor is less, and you are replacing the most common components that wear out with age.

Q: When the car has an “ECON” switch, can it be turned on and off while driving. Will doing this do any harm as I can leave it in the economy environment at all times?

A. The econ setting on most vehicles will limit climate control and change transmission shift points to maximize fuel economy. You can leave the car in econ mode at all times or turn it on and off as desired. When the car is turned off, it may have a slightly sportier feel with longer, leaner fits.

Q: What do you think of lean solar powered chargers? I have a non-parking car in the garage and have been sitting for two months while I’m in Florida.

Drip or float style solar chargers are designed to keep your battery fully charged. If you can position the solar panel for maximum sun exposure, your car battery should remain fully charged. I have seen solar powered chargers successfully used in cars, boats, and even heavy equipment.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for Toyota Prius 2013 problem? Often, but not always, when I start the car for the first time, the main console screen will not display the normal colors, with a black background that is hard to read. Maybe after four or five minutes the screen will be normal again. Once back to normal it will be fine even after the subsequent stop/start – until the next day. My guess is that I have a loose multi-pin connector, but I have no idea how to locate it. I am sure I would appreciate your professional advice!

A: It was a software update that corrects among other things the screen staying in night mode (darkness). When selecting the night mode during the day, it is very difficult if not impossible to read. which may happen. If the software version is less than 5.1.0, it must be upgraded. If you go into settings, you should be able to see which version you have.

Q: My dad recently received an airbag for a recall of a Volvo ultra-low mileage over 20 years old. The problem is that his nearest dealership is three and a half hours away on a winding mountain road. My dad is 87 and can’t drive. And no one else, friend or family, could make this trip for him (honestly with drive time and repair time, it would end up being an overnight visit). What happens in such a case? Does the car manufacturer still have to do the repair on recall? If so then where, a certified local mechanic?

A: I will start by calling Volvo Customer Service (800-458-1552). In almost every case when a car is recalled, and the owner pays for the repair that would have been done under the recall, the automaker will often reimburse you. Given where your father lives and this is a safety issue, Volvo may be able to contract with a local non-Volvo facility to carry out the recall.

Q: What is the reason for the intermittent “no sound” from the 2015 Buick LaCrosse. Periodically, the radio and the “blinking click” become silent – both at the same time. This only seems to happen when the car is started. Once on, it stays on until the car is turned off (to run errands) and back on again. The blinkers still work during ‘no sound’ episodes since I got out of the car while the lights outside were flashing. Only there is no sound inside the car. We fix cars. This has happened sporadically since January. Sometimes (but not always), the car shuts down and restarts and everything is fine. I don’t know but I suspect the outside temperature may be a factor because the “silence” seems to happen in cooler weather. Also, could something (a bag of putters?) hit something in the truck to somehow affect the wires?

c. I also discovered that the blinking “click” sound was coming through the wireless speakers. What happens is the radio, speaker or wires are a problem. Just like every component in the car today, it can be scanned to look for fault codes. I’ve found two possible issues with the audio unit itself: a defective or a wiring problem. In this case just like any computer network, there is a problem with the CAN buss. The CAN bus allows computer modules to communicate with each other.

— John Paul, Senior Director, Public Affairs and Traffic Safety, AAA Northeast

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