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Spring is a good time to change those headlights

Dear Car Fix: When is a good time to change my headlights?

-- B.C., Akron

Dear B.C.: I recommend changing your headlights in pairs once a year. Annual replacement ensures that your headlights will always be their brightest. The spring is a great time because there is more family travel in the warmer temperatures. Headlights really improve driving safety. Traffic deaths occur three times more often at night, according to the National Safety Council. Whiter headlights can improve driver reaction time and make it easier to avoid road hazards, so don't skimp. Get a name brand.


Dear Car Fix: Our family just bought a 2006 Toyota Sienna Limited. It is not on the recent recall list, but should we be worried anyway? Also, is it possible to install a brake override system, and if so, is it expensive to do and would you advise it?

-- T.G., Hamburg

Dear T.G.: I understand your safety concerns, however, if Toyota adds your vehicle to the recall list, you will be notified or you can call the service department of your local Toyota dealer or check on its Web site. As for adding a "brake over system," there are a few aftermarket units that you can add that are around $100, but a certified technician will have to install it. Keep in mind that it may affect your warranty, so I'd check with Toyota before adding anything that affects the driveline.


Dear Car Fix: Some jerk keyed my car because I stole his parking spot at the mall. Is there a way I can make the damage to my paint job less obvious until I can get it fixed by a collision shop?

-- H.B., Lackawanna

Dear H.B.: It's sad that people damage each other's property over something as silly as a parking spot. I wish we could offer the guy anger management classes, but that won't fix the damage. I recommend using a colored wax until you can get it repaired properly. You can also use a product called Quixx or 3M Scratch Repair that could blend the existing paint depending on how deep the scratches are. If the scratch is down to the metal, the wax will keep the metal from rusting. Next time, just give up the spot and park farther out.


Dear Car Fix: I have a problem with the heating system on my 2006 Chevrolet Impala V6. I talked to a couple of mechanics, and they haven't heard of this problem. The car has 85,000 miles on it and runs great. The problem is I get no heat from the heating system when the idle goes below 1,000 rpm. If I am idling in a parking lot or at a traffic light cold air comes out unless I step on the gas pedal and race the motor at 1,000 rpm. The car gives good heat while driving.

-- R.D., Ellicottville

Dear R.D.: I have heard of this problem before. You may also have problems with coolant consumption or a leak. If you see an indication of a leak, or smell coolant leaking, that is another sign of a leak in the heating/cooling system. The system can be pressure-tested, and this would help track down any leaks, too.

It's most likely the water pump that is causing this problem. The dealer or an ASE Certified Technician can replace the water pump and refill the coolant, and the system should behave normally.


Dear Car Fix: I have a 2006 Chrysler Pacifica that burns oil excessively. I have a V6 that burns at least two quarts every 600 miles. What could be the problem? We have an extended warranty and will be taking the car to the dealer tomorrow for servicing.

-- D.R., Buffalo

Dear D.R.: Engines burn oil for a few reasons. To keep it simple, it's most likely worn engine parts or you are using the wrong viscosity (thickness and stickiness) oil. Viscosity really means the measure of a substance's resistance to motion in the engine.

Your owner's manual recommends 5W30 oil, and if you are using thinner oil, that could cause you to burn oil, too. However, if you are burning oil that quickly, then it's most likely burning the oil either from the PCV valve stuck open or the air filter not correctly mounted or maintained properly. This can allow dust in to back up in the engine cylinder walls and can allow oil to clog up (sludge) and cause your engine to burn oil. This is why it is so important to use the recommended oil and take care of the maintenance on any car.

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