Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Saratogian

Q. I have read your comments about synthetic oil and how you use it in your vehicles. My question is, which option is better for the environment?

A. Oil: synthetic or conventional when disposed of properly can be reused or re-refined into useable oil. One gallon of waste oil can be processed into 2.5 quarts of engine oil that meets or exceeds new oil standards. Some motorists using conventional oil still stick to the 3 months 3000-mile oil change. Many people who use synthetic oil tend to follow the factory service recommendation. Depending on the car, this could be once per year. Less oil changes means less waste oil. So bottom line, it is not the oil that is kinder to the environment but how it is used in the motorist’s vehicle.

Q. My wife and I liked the comfort and feel of a 2022 Volvo Momentum. I was surprised to find that as the base model certain safety features were not included especially Emergency braking with pedestrian detection and lane keeping assist. Several publications have written that these safety features are standard across all models. The dealer told me that the reason is because of the chip shortage. So, my question is do you know if Volvo has any intention of retrofitting the missing features when the parts become available?

A. If features are listed on the window sticker but those features are inoperable due to chip shortages, it is my understanding that once the semiconductor chips are available, they will be installed and activated. Not all safety systems are standard on all models. According to Volvo’s website systems such as front parking sensors, a surround-view camera system, and Volvo’s driver-assist system are optional safety features. This not just Volvo that has optional safety features. I evaluated a Mercedes Benz GLE, a very nice vehicle but about half the safety features were optional equipment.

Q. I need to purchase new mats for my car. When I asked at the dealer, they suggested that I just go to a discount store. Where else can I purchase car mats that will not slip around and look good?

A. Online parts retailer have a selection of mats from winter mats to custom designed mats. The first place I looked was and they had several styles and prices. Years back before there were as many online automotive retailers, I used GG Bailey for my own vehicle ( a company that specializes in premium quality car mats.

Q. Recently had the oil changed in my 2017 VW Jetta at a local shop. A few days later I noticed the shop marked 0W-20 on the windshield sticker to remind me when I am due for the next change. The owner’s manual indicates 5W-30 or 5W-40 should be used. Should I have the oil replaced?

A. If the oil that was put in was actually 0W-20 and not just some checked off the wrong box the oil should be drained out and replace with VW specification 5W-30 or 5W-40 oil. Volkswagen is extremely specific about using VW spec 502.00 oil. Castrol and several other brands now have VW/Audi Euro spec oil.

Q. I have received three answers from Dodge service on how to tow with my 2018 Durango Citadel with the ‘Trailer Tow & Skid Plate Group’ package, 3.6 V6 and 8-speed transmission. One person said tow in ECO mode, another said do not tow in ECO mode and the third said tow in SPORT mode. The owner’s manual is vague and refers to a “Tow Mode” What selection should I use when towing my 5000-pound trailer?

A. Based on the owners’ manual, just in drive and let the transmission decide. Sport mode give you a bit more steering feel and firmer slightly higher RPM shift points. ECO mode does just the opposite and shifts quicker (not ideal when towing a trailer). So just Drive without selecting any other modes. I do believe some model did have a specific tow/haul mode, but if your Durango does not, then select drive and just drive. Just to add to the confusion, Dodge also states you can manually select a gear position using the AutoStick gear selector. Find the highest gear that give adequate acceleration while avoiding frequent downshifts.

Q. My 2005 Nissan Frontier has 195,00 miles. The air conditioner works on blower level 1 but with very little circulation. The AC does not work when I go to level 2, 3, and 4. The heat does work on all four levels but again, very little circulation on level 1. What could be wrong with the AC?

A. There are basically four parts to this system, the switch, blower fan resistor, fan motor and relays, fuses and wiring. When the blower resistor fails, the fan will work on high only. The fan itself has been problematic on these trucks with water casing rust and binding up the motor. I would look at the fuses (there are three) and relay and ground circuit.

Q. I have a 2013 Dodge Charger r/t and recently the AWD, ABS and FCW lights all came on. I changed the all-wheel-drive module, but the lights are still on. I went to a local parts store and when they scanned the car, they said there were no codes. Any ideas?

A. Based on your description I would say one of the wheel sensors has failed. If the anti-lock brake system is not working properly, the body control computer will shut down associated systems. Regrading why there is no codes, it may be the scanner/code reader the parts store was using. Not all code readers can read body controls.

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