strong>Dear Doctor: I recently bought a 2011 Hyundai Elantra and was not told the car did not have a spare tire or donut. Instead of a tire, there is a "kit-type set-up" of a pump and something like a sealant. Needless to say the first week that I had the car I had a blowout, which tore the tire, rendering this "kit" worthless. There is a space in the trunk for one, so why isn't there a spare? Jim
strong>Dear Jim: You are not alone. Three of my cars do not have spare tires, just the tire repair kits. I would go online to tirerack.com for a spare tire and wheel. Double check to make sure a full-size tire will fit in the tire well area before you buy a spare. I would have to say; I think cars in the compact class should have spare tires.
strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2006 MINI Cooper S with only 7,300 miles. It is always kept on an OEM battery tender. I had to move the Mini outside in December when a new ceiling was being installed in my garage. The Mini got buried in the snowstorm and the battery went dead. I jumped it and drove for 45 minutes at 60 mph. When I shut it off it was totally dead with no lights, no cranking power. I put it on a 10-amp charge for a few hours and now everything is fine. How long do you have to drive to fully charge a battery? Sherman
strong>Dear Sherman: The battery is original and needs to be checked by a battery shop or automotive shop. You can call 1-800-crankit for and Interstate dealer in your zip code. Also, your original battery is also more than 4 years old and really should be replaced. Regarding how long to recharge the battery, there is no exact answer. You can charge it with the 10-amp charger for 4 hours and then put the battery tender on to fully top off the battery.
strong>Dear Doctor: My 2004 Mercury Mountaineer has 85,000 trouble free miles, but recently after filling up the tank one night the engine ran fine for 25 miles then the next morning started misfiring and the "service engine" light came on. My mechanic installed new plugs and wires after reading PO304, cylinder #4 misfire & PO316 engine misfire on start up first 100 revolutions. I have driven 500 miles and the engine continues to misfire. The misfire can be felt at all speeds. I added Chevron Techron fuel injector cleaner. My mechanic has hit a wall. What do you advise? RPM
strong>Dear RPM: Before anyone can successfully diagnose the problem, a lot of checking has to be done with a professional scan tool. The technician will monitor fuel trim and oxygen sensor voltage, as well as look at the spark plug color. A full engine performance test including an injector balance test will need to be performed. There is no magic wand to checking the source of a misfire. I can tell you that I have replaced a lot of fuel injectors in a variety of vehicles.
strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2000 Oldsmobile Alero with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and 138,000 miles. The car is well maintained. In the last few months I have heard what sounds like a metal-to-metal scraping sound from the front when I apply the brakes. I have had the brakes checked by two different shops and they are OK. One mechanic said it could be a worn bushing given the age of the car. What do you think? If I don't get it fixed will it eventually damage the car? Sam
strong>Dear Sam: You need to have a technician pull the wheels and check the brake pad, and rear shoes if equipped. Today's brake friction material does not have any asbestos, which had a quieting feature and also acted as a lubricant to braking. The friction material used today has either ceramic or metallic material imbedded into the friction material. This friction material will cause some noise under some conditions. In most cases there are no safety concerns.
strong>Dear Doctor: I noticed on my 2005 Cadillac SRX that in order to go in a straight line my steering wheel has been at the 8 and 2 o'clock positions for a while. I bought four new tires and had them balanced, but noticed the steering wheel was still at the same position. I brought my car to the dealership to have a wheel alignment and when I drove out I noticed that my steering wheel was still at about the 8 and 2 o'clock position. I took it right back and they told me it was aligned within specs and there was nothing else they could do. Is there a way of correcting this to the 9 and 3 o'clock position? Glenn
strong>Dear Glenn: When a dealer service advisor says there is nothing more we can do, that must mean they do not have anyone on staff who can properly align the steering wheel -- or your car has a defect. It's time to go to another dealership or shop that can properly align and straighten the steering wheel. I would get the car aligned and bring the bill to the first dealer and ask for a refund. This is unheard of. I'm happy to say the majority of dealers do take care of this problem to an owner's satisfaction.
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