QUESTION: I am having a lot of trouble filling my tank completely. I try to keep an accurate track of my fuel use and mileage, but am growing frustrated by not being able to fill the tank completely and to the same point each time.
Ideally that point would be when the automatic shutoff of the pump activates. But it does this constantly, and I know it is not full so have to keep squeezing the handle until it is so full I end up overfilling and the gas runs out and down the side of the fender. -- Chris
ANSWER: This is not an unusual problem.
Vapours, let alone spilled fuel, escaping during the refuelling process were identified a long time ago as a major environmental issue. Regulations were put in place to ensure manufacturers equipped vehicles with systems to prevent this.
Essentially, the fuel system is sealed; fumes and any overflow are redirected back into the system and/or tank.
The "gas cap" is part of this design and that is why you feel and hear clicks when tightening the cap - to indicate it has been properly sealed. If you fail to seat the cap properly, fumes will escape and the "check engine" light will appear on the instrument panel.
To control fuel delivery, the mandated fuel filler systems are much more restrictive than older ones. Not only are they designed to reduce the flow of the liquid fuel, but also escaping gases.
The pumps at the filling station had to be modified as well, to reduce the rate at which they pump fuel into the smaller filler necks.
The problem in your case is either an overactive pump shutoff or perhaps a restriction in the filler neck of your vehicle, or even a bent or pinched filler neck.
The pump is designed to shut off when it senses the presence of fuel in the neck. If the flow is too great or the neck restricts the rate of flow, the pump shutoff will activate. Under the best of circumstances, there is a delicate balance between the flow rate of the gasoline through the vehicle's filler neck, and the sensitivity of the automatic shutoff valve in the pump handle.
If the problem is the flow rate, you may find another station where the pumps are set up differently. If that does not solve the issue, you should ask the dealer to carefully check for any restrictions. This is not something to do yourself because of the fuel's volatility and safety issues.
Certified used cars
QUESTION: I have been reading a lot of ads recently for certified used cars. With the economy in the dumpster this would seem a good way to get into a newer vehicle while escaping the worry of all that technology going wrong when the warranty is history. Is it?
ANSWER: It depends on who is doing the certification, what the warranty involves and who is backing the warranty.
Many manufacturers are offering certified used cars. Only a few are eligible and those are checked by licensed and trained technicians according to a very rigid procedure. The warranty is provided by the manufacturer. As you say, this is very good way to get into a newer car worry-free.
At the other end of the scale is a vehicle "certified" by a local garage with a warranty covered by a third party. The only certificate that I would recommend is one from a manufacturer.
But be wary, like extended warranties there can be loopholes. I recently bought an extended warranty on a used high-end vehicle from the manufacturer. It was passed along to a subsequent buyer who has discovered it doesn't cover anything related to normal wear and tear. Read the small print.
Fixing a flat
QUESTION: I was visiting a construction site where our new house is being built. A couple of kilometres down the road, I noticed I had a flat tire.
I called the auto club and the man came and changed the tire. He said the old one had a cut in the sidewall and could not be repaired.
I followed his advice and bought a new tire. But later my dad said I should have had it patched. Was I wrong in buying the new tire -- Crystal
ANSWER: Absolutely not! While it is possible to patch a small puncture in the tread of a tire, it is unsafe to attempt to repair any damage to a sidewall.
In a modern radial tire, the sidewall is designed to flex and actually acts as part of the suspension system, absorbing bumps, and it works to keep the tread flat and in contact with the surface of the road.
Also, the fact that you may have driven for a bit with the tire flat will undoubtedly have caused additional damage to the structure of the tire.
This is one area where it is unwise to try to save money.