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Motormouth: The fine print on car parts

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: Recently, I was told by two repair shops that I needed to replace the original catalytic converter on my 2005 Honda Accord coupe. The Honda dealer where I purchased the car recommended a certain shop because a particular mechanic working there might be able to save the old one with welding or using an expander. The dealer said a new OEM cat from him would cost more than the value of the car. Neither repair shop would let me take the old cat. The local scrap yard said it belonged to me and I should insist, but that didn't help. So, you could say there is more than one kind of catalytic converter theft. Why is it OK for the shop to keep the old part that I had paid for?

C.O., Syracuse, New York

A: Your parts are yours — anything removed from your vehicle, even the battery. But here is the fine print: a core charge. You have the option to pay the core charge and keep the old part or let the shop keep the component and get its core charge money back. The core charge is like a deposit held for the return of the used part and encourages returning it. Core charges are set by suppliers based on the value of the materials in the part or its reusability. Your shop paid a core charge and then got its money back from its supplier. If you buy and install a battery, the store will charge you $10-20 but you will get it back when you return your old battery.

Q: I love your subtle and not so subtle humor in many of your replies. Keep up the good work.

I own a Subaru Forester. My wife might soon be the owner of a Subaru Outback. I stopped buying snow tires in 1983 (I think). She showed me an article that made me ponder: My thinking is that most of the suburban roads here (we live in the Chicago suburbs) are salted and that "winter tires" are not necessary. However, my wife does take trips farther west of us, which take her on farm roads where there is sometimes blowing and drifting snow during the winter months. What are your thoughts on winter tires? Should I go back to my 1983 habits? (Maybe I could even buy some parachute pants.)

M.S., St. Charles, Illinois

 

A: I have heard that those baggy bottoms are coming back. Ugh. But winter tires (don’t call them snow tires) never went out of style — especially in the snow belt. You may get by fine with all-season tires in the Plains states like Illinois, but winter tires are beneficial there, too. An added benefit is that winter tires help stop the vehicle in a shorter distance than all-season or summer tires.

Q: We’re told there is a proper way to charge cell phones to preserve battery health and longevity (charge when you’re at 20%, no overnight charging, etc.) Is the same true of EVs?

B.D., Woodstock, Illinois

A: Yes and no. The batteries life in electric vehicles would suffer the same fate as cell phone batteries. However, the vehicle’s computers prevent charging to 100 percent despite what your gauge may say. Ditto for running the charge down to zero. In other words, there is a built-in cushion or buffer to preserve battery life.

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