Motormouth: Do I really need to wax my car?

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Q: I see you recommend waxing your car twice a year. I have owned more than 30 cars in my life and have never waxed one of them. When my car comes out of the car wash, it looks has good as any of my neighbors' cars. Have you sold out to the wax companies or should I have my eyes tested?

T.C., Chicago

A: Sold out? That’s impossible. I am having too much fun writing this column to risk getting fired. Not everybody goes to the car wash. Many of us prefer to wash our own cars in the shade of a big tree with a cold beer. As to your eyes, see your optometrist.

Q: Are automated car washes safe? How often, if at all, should they be used? I read your column each week and really learn a lot.

M.S., Chesapeake, Virginia

A: You may be surprised to learn that car washes are often safer than doing it yourself. Owners unwittingly drag dirt around with their sponges, rags or mitts. Most do not use a second bucket to rinse the sponge or mitt before dipping back in the soapy bucket. Run your car through the car wash whenever it needs a bath. Shop around. Some even offer unlimited washes for the cost of a couple pay-as-you-go trips.

Q: Quite often when I am driving at night, I come up on a car with no taillights. I then assume that they don't have any lights on at all. When I get in front of them, I see that they do have their headlights on. In my experience, when you have your headlights on you also have your taillights on. How is it possible to have headlights on without having taillights on? This is baffling to me.

C.Y., Mount Prospect, Illinois

A: Although it may appear that the headlights are on, it is likely the daytime running lights that you see. DRLs previously used the high beams at reduced voltage. In urban areas with lots of ambient lighting, the driver may not notice that the real headlights are not on. DRLs have changed lately with most vehicles now sporting LED arrays. They are even part of the overall styling of the car. Some look way cool.


Q: My 2018 Prius uses radar to maintain distance when using Adaptive Cruise Control. How much if any of the radar energy penetrates the car in front of me?

S.I., Elk Grove Village, Illinois

A: None. The signal bounces back to your car. You, too, are safe when the signal returns.

Q: I have a 1995 Oldsmobile with a 3.8-liter engine. Over the years, the car has had a problem with the intake gaskets leaking. They have been changed twice and I fear it's ready for a third because the antifreeze in the reservoir tank goes very low plus the engine will misfire. Could you please advise me on this repair? I would like to keep the car if it is worth repairing.

P.M., Merrillville, Indiana

A: The original gaskets were plastic, but there are improved aluminum gaskets that hold up much better. I have faith in Fel-Pro gaskets, which I have used for years with long lasting results. Edmunds estimates the value of your car to be roughly between $850 and $1,200 for a car in average shape. Get some quotes for the repair to help you decide.


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