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Motormouth: Your car knows more about you than you might think

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: There is something your readers might fail to do when trading in a late model auto. Those with navigation systems probably have their home address programmed as the "Go to Home" address. In addition, many might also have their garage door opener and/or community gate code programmed as well. This could possibly lead to unfettered access to their property. Sellers should make sure their vital information has been deleted.

C.R., Coral Springs, Florida

A: Good advice. I once bought a used vehicle that had the previous owner’s telephone contacts. Of course, I erased them. I didn’t recognize any of the names as people who owed me money.

Q: You recently ran a column about a guy with the Subaru Forester who complained that the hill descent feature kicked out at 25 mph. I have had several Subaru Outbacks and had been under the impression that the hill descent feature was designed to let the engine do some of the braking and take the load off the brakes. However, I looked at the owner's manual. (This is something I do every 10 years or so whether I need it or not). Lo and behold! Hill descent is a brake feature.

R.B., Colchester, Connecticut

A: If you have a long descent down a steep mountain road, you have a good point. But the Subaru hill descent feature is designed for slow-speed, off-road driving. There is no worry of the brakes overheating or wearing prematurely.

Q: For us non-engineers/non-physics majors will you please tell us why an electric vehicle can’t contribute to its own charging? Solar roof panels? Alternator/generators?

 

T.T., Lockhart, Texas

A: Good ideas and most are being used. During braking, the electric drive motors switch to generators to charge the batteries. It is called regenerative braking. The Chevy Volt had a small gasoline engine that could charge the batteries. Solar panels have been kicked around for years but are not yet mainstream.

Q: I still have my 2002 Toyota Corolla S workhorse. It has just over 100,000 miles and still runs like a champ. Per proper maintenance, I have never had any mechanical problems. However, periodically the check engine light comes on because of a problem with emissions, the gas cap. The cap is changed or tightened, and the problem goes away until the next time it randomly happens. Hoping you will be able to solve three issues with this great car. Is there a permanent fix to this issue? Is there a sensing device that I can purchase to assure me that it is just an emissions leak and not something more serious? Will I be able to clear the check engine light without taking it to the mechanic?

L.B., Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A: Your car already has a sensing device, the check engine light. If it glows steadily, there is a problem that is causing increased emissions for either the tailpipe or evaporative emissions from fuel. If the light blinks, there is a serious problem, and you should have it checked right away. In most cases, the check engine light stops coming on if the problem goes away, as you have discovered by replacing the bad gas cap. Although you may be able to clear the check engine light by disconnecting the battery temporarily, you may also lose important settings. On some cars, that may include rendering the windows inoperative, and loss of radio settings.

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