General Questions +

Q. I just inherited my elderly aunt’s 2002 Honda Accord with a V6 engine. It was purchased new and was well maintained by a local garage. The car has only 52,000 miles on it and is closing in on 16 years old. The car runs great and I only drive it about 10 miles per day to the train. Is it necessary to have the timing belt replaced, and what else should I do to keep the car running great?
- Sara H.

A. According to the database I use (, Honda recommends replacing the timing belt at 105,000 miles. If the belt breaks, it will cause severe engine damage, so I’d replace it. If this was my car, I would also look at all the vital fluids, carefully inspect the radiator and consider replacing the radiator hose; and, as the timing belt is being replaced, I would swap out the water pump. You should also look at the brake condition for wear, as well as the tires for age damage.    

Q. I have a 2011 Volkswagen Jetta and I love this car, but it is so plain. I want to make my car unique to me. In Key West I saw a car with seashells glued all over it, and it was beautiful. What do you think about doing something like this to my car?
- Holly B.

A. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but you also must think about what happens when someday you decide to sell the car. Not everyone may be interested in a car covered with seashells. While not quite as dramatic as seashells, perhaps you could start with eyelashes (, and some custom interior details that are also removable. Start with funky floormats, seat and steering wheel covers and even removable window film. If you need inspiration, start with a simple search on    

Q.  I purchased a used Hyundai Elantra, which is still under warranty. The dealer said that since the car is a certified pre-owned vehicle, I need to come back to the dealer for service to maintain the warranty. I like going to my own mechanic, but don’t want to void the 100,000-mile/10-year warranty. If my mechanic uses Hyundai parts, will that maintain the warranty?
- Ben S .


A. Perhaps you misunderstood the dealer. You only need to maintain the car in accordance with the owner’s manual to maintain the warranty. As long as you keep records and use quality parts, your car will be covered under the warranty. 


Q.  I drive a 2010 Chevrolet Silverado and I’m getting a maple syrup smell from the heater. The other thing is that sometimes I get steam under the hood. I have owned this truck for six months and the coolant level is always full. How do I check for a leak?
- Andy H. 

A.  To determine the problem, you need to pressure test the cooling system. Once pressurized, the system should hold that pressure. Connect the tester to the radiator; if the pressure gauge drops, the system has a leak. You may see fresh coolant leaking or you may need to add a dye to the system and use an ultraviolet light to look for a leak. If you don’t see any external leaks, the problem is more than likely the heater core. A faulty heater core is a pretty extensive repair, taking about six hours to fix, plus the cost of the part. 

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