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Motormouth: What is a 'certified used car'?

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: What does it mean to buy a certified car? When I got my used 2018 Toyota Camry SE nearly a year ago, they played up the certified car bit, but I found out later that it does not mean anything. I feel this dealer is doing an injustice to their customers. I tried to get that answer from the dealership manager and others. No one can answer. In their shop no one can answer questions regarding the information on my dash screens. It also jerks when changing gears, but they will not look at it. Toyotas should be great cars, but not this one.

M.B., Austin, Texas

A: Did you buy the car from a Toyota dealer? Certified Previously Owned (CPO) cars usually have fewer miles and may have had better care. They usually have extended warranties. CPO cars pass a multi-point inspection to verify that repairs are not imminent. Of course, you will pay a little more than for a comparable car that has no CPO, but it is a more reliable purchase. It sounds like you may have been taken by a not-so-honest used car lot. Independent dealers can slap CPO signs on anything. It is just a meaningless piece of paper.

Q: You recently said that car batteries have 6.1 volts per cell. I'm thinking you might have meant 2.1 volts per cell.

S.W., Chicago

A: Right you are.

Q: I wonder if the Intelligent Oil-Life Management (IOLM) 10,000-mile standard set forth in the owner’s manual can be trusted. Will it protect the engine versus the 5,000 mile-standard the dealer recommends? Normal vehicle usage is assumed. Also, my question is whether or not the warranty would be affected.

P.J., Naperville, Ill.

A: Yes, oil life monitors can be trusted. Automobile manufacturers don’t want people to stop buying their vehicles because they break down so they are careful to put the best information in the owners’ manuals. Following the recommendations saves you money while reducing the amount of petrochemical waste. Neither following the monitor nor changing the oil more often will affect the warranty.


Q: I own a 2010 Toyota Tacoma truck with 42,000 miles on it. Several years ago, when I had an oil change, the dealership put in synthetic oil instead of regular oil. A couple of months ago, the dealership did the same thing. Will this damage my vehicle? Should I just switch to synthetic?

M.E., Las Vegas

A: Synthetic oil will certainly not damage your engine. You may use it exclusively if you like. But if you want to switch back to traditional oil recommended in the owner’s manual, there will be no harm.

Q: Owning a truck, an SUV and four motorcycles, I've come to the realization that I need a competent battery tester as opposed to hauling batteries to the local battery store for checkups. I want one that places a load on the battery to as well as able to check the charging system. A little online search plus checking Amazon reveals that Ancel and Foxwell products get lots of good reviews. Any thoughts or suggestions you may have will be greatly appreciated.

G. B., Liverpool, N.Y.

A: I like hand-held battery and charging system testers, but I cannot vouch for which brand having used only a professional Ancel unit. The best thing about these little tools, is that the battery need not be removed for testing. Another option is to visit an auto parts store. Most offer free testing right in the parking lot.


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