Motormouth: Do the maintenance now for peace of mind later

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

December 25, 2017

Q: Im the original owner of a 2003 Acura MDX. It just hit 85,000 miles. I hear timing belts should be changed at 100,000 miles but given that the car is already 15 years old should I change it now or wait until it hits 100,000? I have no plans on selling it.

S.R., Skokie, Ill.

A: If you plan to drive your car until it dies, we say replace the timing belt now and take advantage of the peace of mind that it will provide. While the tech has the front of the engine torn apart, also have the water pump replaced to save the potential cost of replacement in the future.

Q: I respectfully take issue with your comment that car CD players are out of date. CD players are being quietly eliminated by the auto industry because they need more room for the bloated infotainment systems. A survey published by Cars.com revealed that 70 percent of new car buyers would still like one, if they could get it. ("Car CD Players Not Played Out for Shoppers"

J.D., Atco, N.J.

A: We were neither advocating nor apologizing for the demise of the CD player. We were simply reporting the reality. As you surmised, the "stack," as it is known in the car industry, is forcing designers to salvage every millimeter of interior space and CD players take up a lot of real estate. Ditto for shifters, which are morphing into knobs another topic we addressed here that annoys motorists. Incidentally, good luck finding a laptop with an optical drive today.

Q: I recently received a 2009 Hyundai Sonata with 180,000 miles on it. I replaced the battery and had a new timing belt installed last June. The car is used very sparingly (usually on weekends for local travel). The battery has markings that I do not understand: MTP-124R, CCA 700, CA 875, RC 120. I would like to purchase a battery minder but am confused as to what to buy. I keep the car garaged when not in use. Can you help me?

J.F., Warrenville, Ill.

A: The codes indicate the group size, the cold cranking amps, cranking amps and reserve capacity. None of this matters when you are buying a battery charger/maintainer.

Q: Every car nowadays seems to tell us how many miles we can drive before were out of fuel. My wife likes to push the limits, by running it down to 2-3 miles remaining. How accurate are these gauges? Since Im the one who has to drive nervously to the gas station, Im never sure Im going to make it. My wife thinks that there must be some type of reserve fuel remaining.

R.S., Bedford, Mass.

A: There is no reserve. When the fuel runs out, youre out of luck. It is not only a good idea to have enough gas in the tank to make it to the gas station, it is important for keeping the fuel pump cool. The pump is bathed in gasoline which helps dissipate heat that could shorten its life.