car conversation

Dear car conversation: Does running the car constantly in “eco” mode cause any harm? And if this is not the case, then why not content themselves with programming the car in eco mode permanently? – wear a dress

Dear Reader: Good question, Don. It does not cause any harm at all. All engines and transmissions are now controlled by computers. So, for example, the point at which your transmission shifts is determined by a code that is programmed into the transmission computer.

Well, since it is easy to change, most cars now come with several sets of parameters for the engine and transmission. And you can select whichever you want.

In general, these settings change when the transmission shifts and how quickly the engine responds to the throttle. Most new cars these days have a mixture of casual, natural (sometimes called comfort) and sport.

Normal is the default setting. That’s what engineers think most people prefer. The Ordinary balances fuel economy with reasonable performance.

Eco attempts to maximize fuel economy by lowering the transmission shift points (making the gear shift change soon) and sometimes making the throttle slower to respond.

Sports do the opposite. It raises tipping points and prioritizes acceleration over fuel economy.

None of these settings are harmful, Don. And in fact, the economic system may be the most beneficial in the long run, because it leads you to drive more gently.

So, why don’t manufacturers just put the car in eco mode permanently? Because they are afraid that no one will buy it.

While some people are more than happy to save fuel and money, there seem to be more people enjoying a Nissan Sentra win at the next track when the light turns green.

And if the car runs at modest power at first, it often looks poorly powered in eco mode. At least for an important part of the drivers.

But you can use it to your heart’s content, Don. You do good things for your car, the environment, and your wallet. Not to mention the power of your index finger – from having to press the eco button every time you drive.

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Dear car conversation: I have a 2013 Honda Accord with 80,000 miles.

I went to a local tire dealer and had a rear tire replaced. Immediately after that, all the service engine lights on the instrument panel were on.

I took it to a Honda dealership, and they told me the rear sensor wire was cut, probably when the tire was replaced, but they said I’d have trouble proving the tire guys did. They said it would cost more than $2,000 to reconnect it.

I’ve been walking around with a dash of Christmas tree light, and it bothers me. Could there be a cheaper way to fix the wire without rewiring the entire car? – Kathy

Dear Reader: I certainly hope so. Two thousand dollars sounds crazy to me, Cathy.

It’s suspicious that your dashboard lights up at the same time as the rear tire replacement.

If the tire guys are wrong, it’s because they somehow cut the anti-lock brake system wires to that wheel. It would have required a pretty feat of folly, since it was purposely thrown off the wheel, but I suppose it’s possible.

What I don’t understand is what the trader wants to do for $2000. Do they want to replace the entire ABS system?

I think you need a second opinion from a non-dealer Honda repair shop. If you need help finding one, enter your zip code at and see what comes near you.

Usually, there are only a few wires in this ABS cable. And if you come to my shop, I’ll at least try to patch the wiring. It should be conscientious, as these wires are sensitive to electronic noise.

So I carefully soldered the wires to help maintain a good, clean electrical connection – rather than just twisting them together and putting a wire nut on them.

And if the wiring harness is warped, I’ll solder a whole new ABS sensor, which costs about $40. Then I use shrink tubing around the patch to insulate the wires from dirt and moisture.

It is worth trying. It can save you $1800. And you won’t just have to “hope” that you now have a working ABS system. You’ll know right away if the patch is working because your dashboard warning lights will turn off. And if you fail one day, you will know it too, because the lights will come on again.

So obviously a second opinion is needed, Kathy. A good independent store can tell you if the wire and sensor can be repaired rather than replaced. They may also be able to tell you if the tire shop was wrong – and give you enough evidence to go back and ask them to pay for it. Good luck and God bless you.

Ray Magliozzi distributes car tips at Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting

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