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Motormouth: Ethanol and fuel economy

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: President Joe Biden recently announced an expansion of the use of ethanol added gasoline. Any benefits or drawbacks? It is usually a few cents cheaper, but I wonder if I get as good mileage with the blend.

D.J., Burnsville, Minnesota

A: A higher alcohol content may lower fuel economy since alcohol contains less energy — lower BTU rating. Bumping the amount of alcohol, mostly made from corn, could impact food prices.

Q: Saw the question about rain beading on the windows. I wonder if he goes through the automatic car wash. Most use a spray wax near the end of the cycle and when it does, it covers the whole car — hood, roof, sides and yes, windows.

R.D., Elgin, Illinois

A: Good point. I am passing it along.

Q: My friend insists on using the parking brake on his 2021 Kia because he says it will protect the transmission. I think it’s unnecessary; it’s all flat here, no hills. Does this really help the transmission?

W.S., Las Vegas

A: In the past I would have agreed to using the parking brakes all the time. That’s because they were applied via cables that could rust. When that happens, the rusty cables may not move within the cable housings and, if needed when parking on an incline, the brakes may not apply. But with Kia’s electric parking brakes, there are no concerns about cables. There will be no transmission issues. I still suggest using the parking brakes.

 

Q: For many years I have added fuel injector cleaner to gas, usually every three to six months. My confusion is two-fold: Does it do anything and how to choose? The shelf displaying injector cleaners shows bottles of various volume and ranging in price from $2 to $15. How do you decide which one to buy under the assumption that it does clean the injectors? And what is the cleaner made of?

C.M., Quakertown, Pennsylvania

A: Back in the 1990s, several car makers, especially BMW, instructed owners and mechanics to occasionally add Techron to the gas to prevent intake valve deposits. It contains a detergent. If you choose top-tier gasoline you needn’t add additional stuff to your tank because it already exceeds the EPA’s standard detergent requirement. I can’t address for the other products’ chemistry but if you want to dig deep, look up the product’s MSDS (material safety data sheet) for the chemicals used.

Q: As I write this my 2015 GMC Terrain with only 20,000 miles sits in the shop with at least $2,000 in damage. The squirrel/s chewed into my HVAC housing, some wires, (engine light) and windshield wiper motor (no wipers), the dash has to come out, etc. Do you or any readers know of a way to deter these critters from re-invading my engine compartment?

R.H., Downers Grove, Illinois

A: I have heard of things ranging from high-tech ultrasonic devices to lowly mothballs. I have yet to find anything that is 100 percent effective. After the parts are replaced, wrap them with Honda rodent proof tape to prevent a critter chewing encore. Meanwhile, check with your insurance company. Your comprehensive coverage may ease the bill.

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