strong>Dear Doctor: I need an axle on the passenger side of my 2003 Volkswagen Jetta that has 90,000 miles on it. The VW shop sells this for $399, while a major retailer that performs automotive service will charge me $119 for this axle. Should I pay the difference for the VW part? Why is there such a difference? Is German engineering worth it on this part? William
strong>Dear William: Great question. I check prices on all parts before ordering. Sometimes OEM parts from the dealership are less expensive than the aftermarket. The majority of the aftermarket axles are made outside of the U.S. -- and some aftermarket parts are poor quality. Ask the shop that you are buying the aftermarket axle from if they have had a lot of defective returns. I always give my customers the option and 98 percent go with the aftermarket. Our parts warranty on the aftermarket is two years and on OEM it's one year.
strong>Dear Doctor: My 2003 Toyota Camry has 64,000 miles and has been trouble free. Early on in ownership the brakes pulsated, but my mechanic, after replacing front brakes and rotors and test-driving the car, said it was not a safety issue and indeed the brakes seem to work fine. This mechanic has now retired. Another mechanic, after doing some work, told me differently and said he could fix the problem for about $100. I'm 83 years old and an easy target for unnecessary work. I would appreciate your opinion. Also, is it normal to have to replace the cabin filter frequently, about every 5,000 to 6,000 miles? Trude
strong>Dear Trude: The pulsation from the front brake rotors is not unusual. Brake rotors will need replacement, but no resurfacing. The technician must remove the rear wheels and check the rear brake operation to make sure they are also contributing to stopping the vehicle. The cabin filter is usually replaced annually or every two years, depending on how dirty it gets for outside debris.
strong>Dear Doctor: I brought brand new a 2006 Honda Civic Hybrid. I loved this car I was getting 53 miles per gallon. Then Honda did an IMA software update in 2010, and my mileage dropped to 42-45 mpg, still not bad, but when the software goes into action I lose that 25 horsepower electric motor assist. The car is a dog, very dangerous and I lose the engine braking, which takes a while to get use to. Has anyone found a way to get the car back to original form? I just want my car back. Jim
strong>Dear Jim: I've found that updates and reprogramming of the computer is not always a good thing, such as in your case. Unfortunately, there are no aftermarket programmers available that I'm aware of. You just have to live with the reprogramming as-is.
strong>Dear Doctor: I own a 2005 Ford Taurus with the 3.0-liter V-6 engine that has approximately 66,000 miles. A chirping sound is coming from the engine compartment that increases proportionally with the speed of the engine. The noise seems to dissipate when the engine reaches normal operating temperature. I believe the noise is emanating from the vicinity of the camshaft synchronizer/camshaft position sensor. Do camshaft synchronizers tend to chirp when they fail? What will eventually happen if I continue to drive it? Michael
strong>Dear Michael: The synchronizer is a common failure on a lot of front-wheel-drive Ford V-6 vehicles -- and it does emit a chirping sound. I use an aftermarket assembly and have had great success with these units. When the unit fails it can cause a no-start condition.
strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan with the fuel flex capability. In my area, E-85 ethanol is about .80 per gallon cheaper than the 87 octane fuel. Can the E-85 fuel damage my engine and will I get better mileage by using it? James
strong>Dear James: If your vehicle's engine is designed to run on it, then there should be no adverse affects. To date, E-85 has been discussed in many places regarding the pro and con of its mileage and usage. And yes, there is a big price difference, but E-85 is still not readily available in many areas of the country.
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