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Monday, May 21, 2012

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Baby boomers drive boom in new-car sales By Greg Gardner Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Automakers are turning to buyers like 64-year-old Martin Friedman for the same reason Willie Sutton robbed banks. That’s where the money is. Friedman, who retired three years ago, recently leased a 2012 Cadillac SRX. He’s happy because he’s driving a comfortable new luxury vehicle. His dealership is happy because, God-willing, Friedman will be back in 24 months when his lease ends to get another car. Baby boomers’ retirement savings may have taken a hit during the financial crisis. Their inheritances may have shrunk as their parents may be living longer and in need of expensive care. But they’re buying new cars like never before. Those age 50 and older are buying more than three of every five new vehicles sold, or about 62 percent, according to a new study from J.D. Power and AARP. That’s up from 39 percent in 2001 when Power began tracking the data. For the Detroit Three, boomers now account for 67 percent of all sales. “The amazing thing is the retirees. They’re coming in waves,” said Dan Frost, owner of Cadillac of Novi and Chrysler-Jeep-

Who buys new cars A J.D. Power-AARP study shows that more than three out of every five new vehicles sold in the U.S. were purchased by baby boomers, up dramatically from a decade ago. At the same time, the percentage of younger consumers buying new vehicles dropped.

New auto registration market share by age group 50 and older 35-49 18-34

2001

2002

2007

2012

39%

40%

48%

62%

37

36

24

24

33 20

NOTE: Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding Source: J.D. Power auto survey Graphic: Detroit Free Press

Dodge-Ram dealerships in Southfield and Taylor, Mich. “They used to be cash buyers. Now we’re getting them into leases so they come back in a few years.” The flip side of the research: Those between 18 and 34 make up just 13 percent of the market, down from 24 percent in 2001. “Boomers can afford to buy new vehicles. Millennials cannot. The numbers don’t lie,” said Mark Bradbury, director of integrated marketing at AARP Media. Demographers define baby boomers as those born between 1946 and 1964, and generally as the crush of children born post-World War II. Millennials are the

24 13 © 2011 MCT

generation born anytime after the late 1970s. The research raises the question of whether automakers’ vigorous efforts to reach younger buyers through social media or targeted reality shows, such as Ford’s “Escape Routes,” are generating much return. There are older consumers spending significant time on social media and watching shows aimed at their children. But until the incomes of more millennials stabilize and grow, the question will persist. “You can’t build any loyalty among people who are not paying attention,” said AARP’s Bradbury. To be sure, Americans

older than 50 already make up a larger percentage of the population, about 42 percent, up from 37 percent in 2000, census data show. But from 2000-2010, the over-50 crowd’s new vehicle purchasing increased at a much faster clip than the percentage population increase in that age group, making their purchasing power disproportionately stronger. C o nver s ely, 18 - to 34 -year-olds are much less likely to buy a new car, though their portion of the population has remained steady — 23.2 percent in 2010 vs. 23.8 percent in 2000. Charles Ballard, Michigan State University economist, said “a substantial portion of it has to be a result of income shifts ... The Great Recession has visited a lot of pain upon those who are early in their careers.” AARP’s Bradbury said the median income of those 50 and older is $67,537 compared with $55,856 for the 18-to-34 demographic. Boomers on average have investments that are worth $107,833, roughly four times the $23,490 value of a millennial’s portfolio. “The average price of a new vehicle is slightly over $30,000. We tend to forget that,” said Tom Libby, senior automotive analyst with R.L. Polk in Southfield. “For a 22-year-old, that’s a lot of money.”

Mission for vehicle designers: Cut weight, keep the look exciting By Mark Phelan Detroit Free Press

What if automakers could slash the weight of their vehicles 30 percent, 40 percent, even 50 percent? A panel of top designers will discuss that as part of the annual Michelin Challenge Design contest. Reducing vehicle weight is one of the most challenging and rewarding areas in automotive development. Every ounce of weight you remove from a part affects all the parts around it. Those parts then affect their neighbors, and so on. “This is about more than just styling,” said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics and moderator of the panel discussion at the Automotive Press Association this week. “It requires an understanding of where the market is going and what technologies are available or near. “Design should be the part of an automaker that pushes the organization into the future.” This year’s goal is to design vehicles that combine radical weight reduction with exciting, passionate looks and performance. Bob Boniface, Cadillac exterior design director and design director of the Chevrolet Volt; Mark Trostle, design chief for Chrysler’s SRT performance brand, and Michael

Arbaugh, chief interior designer for the 2013 Ford Fusion and the current Ford Explorer and F-150, will be on the panel. The program also includes a video about the wild-looking lightweight Delta Wing race car that will compete this June in France in the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. “The notion of designing super-efficient lightweight vehicles employs a lot of different technologies,” said Stewart Reed, chief juror and chair of transportation design at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. “The Challenge encompasses everything from new propulsion systems to energy storage, lightweight materials, parts simplification and aerodynamics. There’s been a sense that super-efficient vehicles require a lot of sacrifice and denial. That’s not true. Look at racing bicycles. Their performance and light weight flow directly from design.” The Challenge culminates at the North American International Auto Show every year, where a stand displays 25 to 30 of the top entries along with designs by students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. “Designers have to be multi-disciplinarians in the Michelin Challenge,” See DESIGNERS, Page 2


Page 2 / Monday, May 21, 2012

Designers From Page 1

Hall said. “A lot depends on the materials and technologies they choose.” The Michelin Challenge Design has become a focal point for designers around the world. Previous topics included designing vehicles for megacities in the year 2046, creating America’s next iconic vehicle, making ultra-safe small vehicles, and designing for specific places ranging from California to China, Germany and France. “This is the best design contest in the world,” said Reed, who got his start thanks to a scholarship from a General Motors design contest. “A lot of young talent comes up through the Challenge.” Past judges have included designers for virtually every major automaker and teachers at top design schools around the world. More than 4,300 people from 109 countries have participated since the Challenge began in 2003. The jury starts with 250 or more design proposals. Each entry has to include sketches from at least two different perspectives and a written description of the vehicle and how it addresses the year’s topic. For more information, including videos and sketches from last year’s contest, go to michelinchallengedesign. com. The contest gives design students, companies and schools around the world an unrivaled chance to put their work in front of some of their field’s leaders. That counts for a lot in the closeknit world of automotive design, where it seems like everybody knows everybody else. For Michelin, and the rest of us, the contest and this week’s panel discussion provide a window onto what the future of transportation may look like.

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Motoring Q&A: Have a brake dust buildup? By Paul Brand Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Question: I hate brake dust. I replaced the front pads and rotors about a month ago on my ‘98 Saab with Brembo rotors and EBC Red pads, which I have on another Saab and never notice a buildup of dust between washings. On the ‘98, I have to wash the front wheels every two or three days after about 50 miles of driving. The amount of dust does not seem to be decreasing with use. Any suggestions? Answer: My only suggestion would be to check the finish pattern on the rotors. Some pads seem to like a certain type of finish pattern on a rotor. Check with the pad manufacturer to see if they have a specific recommendation. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you could try scuffing the pads with a non-symmetrical finish pattern using a 400-grit sanding disc on your electric drill. ——— Q: I have excessive play in the steering wheel of my

1998 Dodge four-wheeldrive pickup truck with 150,000 miles. The steering gear seems to be the prime suspect because a mechanic said the steering linkage and suspension components are tight. When replacing the unit, how do I make sure the steering wheel stays straight in relation to the wheels? Will marking the steering coupler to its shaft and pitman arm apply to a new unit? A: With the hood open, watch the pitman arm, the steering gearbox input shaft and steering coupler closely as someone moves the steering wheel back and forth an inch or two. If the play is in the coupler, replace it. Scribe or mark the coupler orientation with the front wheels straight in order to install it correctly. If the play is in the recirculating ball steering gearbox, it may be possible to adjust the worm gear bearing preload and the front thrust bearing. Chrysler recommends making these adjustments with the steering gearbox removed from

Some pads seem to like a certain type of finish pattern on a rotor. Check with the pad manufacturer to see if they have a specific recommendation.

the vehicle. Mark or scribe the pitman arm at the sector shaft master spline to reinstall the pitman arm in the correct position. ——— Q: There are four cars in my family, and it seems I can never get a pair of windshield wipers to do their job. I always end up with a streak or a spot where the wiper completely misses. Is there a secret to getting a pair of wipers to do a better job? A: Start by making sure the windshield is clean. Automotive glass cleaner

and wadded-up newspaper do a good job, but for really stubborn road film, polish the glass with a metal polish like Brasso, then clean the residue with glass cleaner. Also, don’t forget to clean the wiper blade edges every time you clean the windshield. ——— Q: I have a ‘55 T-Bird with the 292-cubic-inch engine and four-barrel “teapot” carburetor that is notorious for reliability. I’ve had the carb professionally rebuilt, but the engine won’t start without a shot of ether starting fluid. When it does start, it idles and runs fine. It does not seem to get gas on its own for starting even though it has a new fuel pump. Should I replace the old carb? A: You could try a oneway check valve in the fuel line between the pump and carb, but the most likely scenario is fuel leaking from the carburetor float bowl while the car sits. Thus, when you try to start it, there’s no fuel in the carb. Assuming it’s

a mechanical fuel pump, it won’t refill the carb until you either crank the engine for a long period of time or the engine starts. To determine whether this is the problem, remove the air cleaner, and with the key off, stuff rags or paper towels down the venturis to prevent the screws from falling into the intake manifold and remove the carb top cover to check how much fuel is in the float bowl. If it’s empty, fuel leaking from the expansion plugs in the bottom of the float is the likely culprit. —Paul Brand, author of “How to Repair Your Car,” is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488 or via email at paulbrand@startribune.com. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.

Gov’t proposal aimed at bus, truck rollovers By Joan Lowy The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Manufacturers would have to equip large trucks and buses with safety systems that help prevent rollover accidents through computercontrolled braking, under regulations proposed by the government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s proposal would require electronic stability control in new trucks and buses, including motorcoaches. The safety system senses when a driver might lose control and automatically

applies brakes to individual wheels to keep the vehicle stable and avoid a rollover. It helps prevent skidding across icy or slick roads, and helps motorists keep control when swerving to avoid an unexpected object in the road. The individual wheel braking counters over-steering and understeering. Government research shows the technology could prevent up to 56 percent of rollover crashes each year — the deadliest among all crash types — and another 14 percent of loss-of-control crashes.

NHTSA estimates that a standard requiring the safety systems on large trucks and large buses would prevent up to 2,329 crashes, eliminate an estimated 649 to 858 injuries, and prevent between 49 and 60 fatalities a year. The safety systems are already required in passenger cars, sport utility vehicles and light trucks, beginning with the current model year. But the safety systems have been available in all SUVs and many passenger cars for years. “We’ve already seen how effective stability control can be at reducing rollovers

in passenger vehicles,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said in a statement. “Now, we’re expanding our efforts to require stability enhancing technology on the many large trucks, motor coaches, and other large buses on our roadways.” Safety advocates welcomed the proposal. “Rollover crashes can be costly and catastrophic, especially when involving a large truck weighing 80,000 pounds or a motorcoach carrying as many as 54 passengers,” Jacqueline Gillan, president of Advo-

cates for Highway and Auto Safety, said. Preventing a rollover is essential to protecting motorcoach occupants, she said. Motorcoaches have become the over-the-road passenger airlines for millions of families, students, seniors and church groups, with nearly 750 million trips taken each year. David Champion, senior director of automotive testing for Consumer Reports, has called electronic stability control “the single most important advance in auto safety since the development of the seatbelt.”


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Page 4 / Monday, May 21, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Beauty of new 3-series is beneath the skin By Mark Phelan Detroit Free Press

The 2012 BMW 335i sport sedan holds the line against the weight gain that detracted from some of the automaker’s recent vehicles. At $54,850 for the loaded car I tested, the 335i’s price tag is awful hefty, though. The 2012 3-series sedan is all new, despite styling that’s evolutionary in the sense that living creatures evolve over millennia, with virtually no discernible difference from one generation to the next. Unless you’re a BMW salesman, you may have a hard time recognizing the 2012 335i. Under the skin, the differences are profound and for the good. The new car has more passenger and luggage room, a more powerful base engine and better fuel economy. The 3-series is BMW’s best-selling vehicle. It comes in a wide array of models, but only the sedan is new for 2012. New versions of the coupe, convertible and station wagon are coming, but all BMW will say about timing is not to expect any this year. A hybrid arrives this fall, and an optional all-wheel drive model. It’s unclear whether BMW will continue to offer a diesel. P rices for the 2 012 BMW 3-series sedan start at $34,900 for a 328i with a 240-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine and six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0-liter base engine is new. It replaces a normally aspirated 3.0-liter straightsix that used more fuel and produced less power. The new 328i is slightly heavier than the 2011 model. The 335i uses a turbocharged version of the 3.0-liter I-6 that produces 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque. The 2012 335i is lighter and more fuel efficient than

Investment community gives Tesla Motors vote of confidence By Jerry Hirsch Los Angeles Times

BMW/MCT

The 2012 BMW 335i sedan has more passenger and luggage room, a more powerful base engine and better fuel economy. the old model. Prices start at $42,400 for a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic. I tested a very wellequipped $54,850 335i. It had the manual transmission and options that included a navigation system, head-up display, Harman/Kardon sound, 19-inch alloy wheels and adaptive suspension. The 335i competes with the Acura TL SH-AWD, Audi S4, Cadillac ATS, Infiniti G37, Lexus IS 350 and Mercedes-Benz C350. The 335i sedan’s base price compares well to all those cars except the ATS, for which prices have not been announced. The 3-series’ cost rises with dismaying speed as you add options, though. The 335i is a delight to drive. It practically leaps to life as the turbocharged straight-six produces 300 pound-feet of torque from just 1,200 r.p.m. The silky six-speed manual transmission is virtually effortless. The light clutch makes it easy to work the gears

2012 BMW 335I n Rear-wheel drive five-passenger sport sedan n Price as tested: $54,850 (excluding destination charge) n Rating: Three out of four stars n Reasons to buy: Handling, performance, fuel economy n Shortcomings: Price, road and wind noise, evolutionary

styling

enthusiastically. The suspension holds the 335i firmly planted during hard cornering and absorbs bumps well. The steering is quick and precise. It felt a bit light at 40 to 60 m.p.h., however. Road and wind noise are loud enough to impede conversations. Despite being 3.7 inches longer, 0.2 inch wider, 0.4 inch taller, and having more passenger and luggage space, the 2012 335i weighs a few pounds less than a comparably equipped ‘11 model. The 335i I tested rates an excellent EPA combined city/highway fuel economy rating of 23 mpg. Only the C250 Sport can match that, but the Mercedes only comes

with an automatic transmission, and a 335i with BMW’s 8-speed automatic trounces it by 3 mpg. The 3-series has an autostop feature that shuts the engine off when the vehicle sits idling. It worked poorly with the automatic transmission in a 528i sedan I tested recently. It’s a bit better with a manual, but only operates when you shift into neutral and release the clutch. That process masks some of the system’s flaws. It’s also inconvenient enough that I doubt many drivers will use the feature much. Stop-start can be responsible for 3 percent-4 percent of a vehicle’s EPA combined rating. BMW’s system needs

work. T he la rger i nter ior increases head and leg room. Big map pockets offer good storage space, but the bin in the center console is small. You’ll be hard put to find a good place for sunglasses, phone and music player. A 6.5-inch color display and BMW’s continually improving iDrive system make it reasonably easy to control the car’s secondary systems. The interior materials are appealing. A soft and attractive black padded plastic covers the doors and dash. The steering wheel, shifter and seats all had leather, and the trim made restrained use of brightwork. The surfaces of the doors and dash are cast in sweeping, flowing shapes. The light, sleek 335i sedan’s comfort, performance and fuel economy set a high standard that goes a long way toward justifying the car’s high price. A quieter interior and better auto-stop would be welcome, though.

L O S A NGE L E S — Launching a new auto business and building a brand in the United States is no simple task. But inch by inch, electric-car maker Tesla Motors Inc. seems to be doing just that. “Tesla continues to show its ability to manage expectations and deliver on what it promises,” Morgan Stanley Research auto analyst Adam Jonas wrote in a report to investors. Tesla “surpassed our expectations as momentum heading into the company’s summer Model S launch continues to build,” analysts at Barclays Capital told their clients. Both investment houses were reacting to Tesla’s first-quarter earnings report this week. Tesla said its first-quarter loss widened to $89.9 million, from a $48.9-million deficit a year, earlier as it spent more on car development expenses. Revenue dropped 38 percent to $30.2 million. Normally those aren’t stellar numbers. But Palo Alto-based Tesla is still essentially a start-up and burns a lot of cash. What grabbed the attention of analysts was the announcement by Chief Executive Elon Musk that the company is advancing Model S sedan deliveries to June from July and that it has more than 10,000 orders for the battery-powered car. The announcement alleviates investor jitters that the automaker might be facing some unforeseen roadblock in getting the car onto the road by its promised time, Barclays Capital noted.

Monday, May 21, 2012 / Page 5

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

New-age Subaru a bit less less Imprezive A redesign for 2012 gave the Subaru Impreza a smaller two-liter engine with 148 horsepower, a continuously variable transmission and muchimproved fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon city, 36 highway.

By Terry Box The Dallas Morning News

Gruff, bipolar Subarus like the dark-hearted STI left some real dents in me. They hurt so good. Driven slowly, the sinister STI thrums and squirms and stutters along like a two-bit con getting squeezed by a couple of beefy, heavy-handed cops. But give it a boot in first or second, and the squat, oddlooking sedan explodes with the turbocharged intensity of a honey badger coming out of a cage. Yeehaw. Call a chiropractor and lawyer. My neck will still be sore when I get out of jail. And meanwhile, maybe we could find a good body man to work on the deep impressions left by those scintillating Subies from a few years back. They sure make it harder to start clean with the 2012 Subaru Impreza 2.0i, a lean, nicely styled and utterly modern sedan that looks like it just got home from choir practice. OK, OK, I realize that high-performance WRX and STI models of the Impreza will arrive shortly. But one thing I’ve relished with Subarus over the years is that even the tame ones carry an ominous echo or two from the felonious STI. I struggled to hear them in the new Impreza. The Impreza is a bit smaller, a little lighter (63 pounds lighter, according to Motor Trend) and considerably better looking. The last Impreza, I think, was designed by the winner of a charity raffle in Japan. Unfortunately, the new model also got a downsized two-liter engine with 148 good-little-boy horsepower, a continuously variable transmission and much-improved fuel economy of 27 miles per gallon city, 36 highway (compared with 20 and 26 mpg in the old car).

Subaru/MCT

The old car, incidentally, had a 2.5-liter flat four with 170 horsepower. So besides being more attractive, the new Impreza is more efficient, greener and probably eats carrots regularly. If it had brilliant white teeth and a good dark suit, we could run it for president. I’m not so sure I’d vote for it. Don’t get me wrong. There is much to like about the Impreza — particularly the fact that it is the most fuel efficient all-wheel-drive passenger car in the U.S. and, with a base price of $18,245, one of the least expensive. My maroon Premium sedan offered a longer wheelbase than the previous car with shorter overhangs. Consequently, it had more interior space and rode a little better. Big headlamps on either side of a contemporary hor-

izontal Subaru grille also looked pretty good. Even better were the big doors with prominent character lines down low, smaller shoulders over the front and rear fenders and the chiseled, slightly raised hood. Spoked 17-inch wheels fitted with 205/50 tires kept the car from looking like another, uh, federalized, fuel-efficient compact. (I could provide a more colorful, politically charged description, but if I did, my editors would beat on me, and I’m lumpy enough now, thank you.) But Subaru was less successful with the Impreza inside — though I guess we shouldn’t be too hard on them considering the car’s $22,545 window sticker. Black cloth interior completed the car I had recently — more or less. If you have kids or carpool, you’ll appreciate the generous leg- and head-room in back.

B o t h a r e fe a t u r e s you don’t often find in 2 , 9 0 0 - pou nd ec onomy sedans. But you’ll also have to accept lots of hard surfaces. A textured black plastic dashboard washed around to black plastic door panels with black cloth inserts. The dash was OK, with whitefaced gauges on the instrument panel beneath a hood and an attractive black center stack. Although the black cloth seats had patterned centers and were nicely supportive, they were sort of offset by a rental-car gray headliner. Still, I could accept the interior’s abundance of “average” if the Impreza were more fun to drive. Subarus generally employ horizontally opposed fourcylinder engines that are flat, with two cylinders lying parallel to the street on one side, offset by two on the other.

(Most in-line four-cylinder engines, of course, are vertical.) The engine’s low center of gravity, in conjunction with grippy all-wheel-drive, can produce exceptional handling. Though hardly an STI, the Impreza turned into corners pretty eagerly and with the sort of basic grace you don’t typically find in an econo-box. While body lean was fairly well controlled, the car tended to squirm some even in moderate-speed corners — probably because of the economy-grade tires. The steering, however, was quick, lively and unusually light for an all-wheeldrive sedan, giving the Subie a flingable feel. But I just never really warmed to the car’s sleepy engine-CVT combination. Smooth and fairly responsive at low speeds, the two-liter

motor was far less impressive (Imprezive?) under full throttle. The engine got coarser past 5,000 rpm. And under full throttle, the CVT and its constantly changing pullies make sure the braying engine note never wavers. It was sort of like driving a large weedeater. You can savor it while waiting for the car to hit 60 mph — a process that takes a hybridlike 9.4 seconds, according to Motor Trend. Look, the Impreza offers good value and is a solid, safe car I wouldn’t mind seeing my daughter and grandchildren in. But it makes you wonder what it would be like — how much more fun the Impreza might be — if fuel economy hadn’t been such an overarching priority. In fact, if you’re really curious, go drive a 2-yearold Impreza.


Page 6 / Monday, May 21, 2012

Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

Under the Hood: The essentials for changing transmission fluid By Brad Bergholdt McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Question: I’m due for an automatic transmission fluid change for an ‘04 Accord V6 with 126,218 miles on it. The owner’s manual recommends draining and filling the ATF Z1 four times, driving and moving the car through all gears between each drain and fill. I’ve contacted three mechanics, including two Honda mechanics who told me they only do one drain and fill because that’s all that is necessary. One mechanic said you only need to drain and fill four times for the first change, so as to dilute out the incorrect fluid that was put in by the factory. Another said you only need to do one drain and fill if the fluid is warmed up, rather than cool. Which procedure is correct, and why? Answer: Wow, this is like asking three doctors why your elbow hurts! Opening the drain plug of your automatic transmission allows only about 40 percent (3.1 quart) of the fluid to escape. The remaining fluid is trapped in the torque converter and a multitude of internal places and passages. This makes a great case for draining/refilling several times (and running the transmission through its paces between) in order to turn the tide on the old fluid. The more times one repeats the process the smaller the percentage of old fluid remains. Draining an engine of oil when warm makes a lot of sense, but I don’t see how it makes a big

The more times one repeats the process the smaller the percentage of old fluid remains. Draining an engine of oil when warm makes a lot of sense, but I don’t see how it makes a big difference with low viscosity automatic transmission fluid. difference with low viscosity automatic transmission fluid. Honda has come out with a new ATF DW-1 fluid that offers improved cold transmission performance and improved fuel economy, compared to the original ATF-Z which has been discontinued. The new Hondaspecified fluid can be mixed with old in any ratio and isn’t too pricey at about $7.50 per quart. ——— Q: How can you tell when your battery terminals need cleaning? I’ve had or seen a few cars that had horribly dirty looking terminals but there seemed to be no problems caused by it. And then there was the time my car wouldn’t start and the clean looking terminals turned out to be what caused it. With the computers in cars now it seems like it’s best not to disconnect the cables to clean them unless you really need to. A: This is a great question with an easy

solution, if it’s a top terminal battery. A corroded battery terminal can lead to starting problems, odd computer glitches, and even radio static. A simple voltage drop test will tell you the real story about terminal performance. You’ll need a basic multimeter (Sears Craftsman .82139 is a favorite at about $30) and a helper. With the meter set to volts DC, press/hold the red lead tip against the battery positive post and the black lead to the cable clamp (only a half inch or so apart). Watch closely as your helper cranks the starter — keep hands and leads clear of moving parts! A reading of .2 volts or less indicates an acceptably small amount of voltage drop across the connection during the most severe service the terminal connection will ever see. If the engine starts too quickly to see the reading clearly, press the data hold button (prior) and the meter will record a snapshot. Next, check the negative terminal in the same way, this time black lead to post and red to clamp. This quick test unfortunately can’t be performed on side terminal batteries as the cable end obscures access to the battery terminal. A reading above .2 volts indicates terminal cleaning is needed. —Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at under-thehood@earthlink.net; he cannot make personal replies.

Shoppers purchase used recalled cars unrepaired By Jerry Hirsch Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The editors of Edmunds.com’s online auto forum recently noticed a wave of complaints about engine fires in older-model GM vehicles, primarily in vehicles equipped with a 3.8-liter V6 engine produced by the automaker. But what caught their interest was that these were all vehicles that had been recalled at least three years ago, yet people were complaining now. The auto information company said the surge in complaints highlights a problem with recalls — many owners of the affected cars don’t bother to get them fixed. An analysis of the two GM recalls examined by Edmunds. com showed a “completion rate” of just 52.5 percent as of December 2011. GM says that its recalls generally reach

a completion rate of about 70 percent. No other automaker would provide Edmunds. com with a completion rate for their recalls. Often these unrepaired vehicles are sold to unsuspecting buyers who have no clue they are purchasing a flawed vehicle. “The current system does not make it easy for car owners — especially used-car owners — to know if their vehicles are up-to-date on recall services,” says Edmunds.com Senior Editor John O’Dell. “And since there’s only so much the manufacturers can do to reach out to car owners, the responsibility for ensuring that a car has been checked for recalls ultimately rests with individual owners.” O’Dell said that used-car buyers should register their vehicles with the automakers to make sure they’re in the loop on any existing or future recalls.

They should also check out the U.S. Department of Transportation’s www.safercar.org, a database where a car buyer can look to see if the model they are looking at was part of a recall. A system that would allow buyers to use specific vehicle identification numbers to check if the car they are considering has been repaired is under development but there is no word on when it will be ready. Edmunds noted that there are no laws that require a car’s owner to notify a potential buyer that the car being sold is the subject of a recall. The auto information company also said automakers send out letters of notification, but the owners might have moved and not left forwarding addresses. During two years of GM recalls ending in 2009 almost 8 percent of the notifications were not delivered, Edmunds reported.

GM to sell Chevrolet Trax overseas

General Motors

General Motors plans to introduce a new small sport-utility vehicle called the Chevrolet Trax in a key addition to its foreign product mix. The vehicle will be available in showrooms in Mexico starting in the fourth quarter. The five-seat Trax won’t be sold in the United States because it’s similar in size to the Chevrolet Equinox. “The Trax provides Chevrolet an entry into a growing small SUV segment and delivers the flexibility, great fuel economy and carlike handling that urban explorers around the world require,” said Mary Barra, GM senior vice president of product development.


Monday, May 21, 2012 / Page 7

OnTheMOve / Tallahassee Democrat

SuperCenter 3127 W. Tennessee St. | Tallahassee, FL

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Page 8 / Monday, May 21, 2012

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Tallahassee Democrat / OnTheMOve

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On the Move  

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