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lou's garage

I recently wrote a about a thief who obtained a Ram owner’s vehicle identification number (VIN) and cut an unauthorized key to gain easy entry to the truck, negating the need to smash a window. With a VIN, a thief can obtain a key code and cut a physical key. They shouldn’t be able to, but they can. These codes are only supposed to be used at the dealership level or by a licensed locksmith. While this unauthorized key may not be a smart key, enabling the vehicle to start, it will unlock the driver’s door.

You responded, and one suggestion that came in more than half a dozen times was to hide or cover the VIN on the dashboard. Unfortunately, covering it is no longer a strong theft deterrent. A vehicle’s VIN is available to anyone using your licence plate number. I’m not a legal expert but as I understand it no driver is ever issued a VIN and when the car is sold, the VIN goes with the vehicle. Therefore, it is not considered personal information. Is your licence plate considered personal information? That’s a tough question, one I’m not qualified to answer.

Regardless, there are multiple ways to obtain a VIN from a license plate, one way is by using the Carfax Car Care app on your phone. I downloaded the app, created an account, and typed in my own personal car licence plate and there it was. Total time spent was about two minutes. Carfax integrates with most automotive repair invoicing systems and tracks vehicle maintenance. They also have access to records from motor vehicle agencies, financing and insurance companies, auto auctions and police departments in Canada and the United States. All this is provided without any personal information and is extremely valuable to the second and third hand buyers of any vehicle.

The Big Brother is watching analogy is something I’m sure all vehicle history reporting companies must deal with, and honestly, I’m on the fence. When I think others can access information about my car on the internet it gives me pause. Then I think that once I sell the car I probably won’t care anymore. What do you think?


Your automotive questions answered

Is an engine flush and decarbonization different? Is it required for a 2019 Nissan kicks S? What’s the difference? - Michael M.

Yes, they are very different. An engine, or oil flush is a chemical service that sees an oil flush product added into the engine’s crankcase. The engine is then typically run for 20 minutes with the product in the oil, on the hoist by a technician. After that time, the oil including the recently added chemical is drained and an oil change is completed.

A decarbonization is a service that is either done by a chemical process or a mechanical one. Newer vehicles feature a direct-injection system, where the fuel is injected directly into the combustion chamber. This process of direct injecting fuel can result in a significant amount of carbon building up on the engines intake valve.

An oil flush is rarely a must-do service requirement from the vehicle manufacturer, it is the dealerships that tack this service on. That being said, there are times when an oil flush can offer benefits such as when an engine is suffering from lack of oil changes or tardy maintenance. However, if you are punctual with your maintenance then an oil flush is not required.

Some vehicles seem to suffer from early carbon build up, more so than others. For those that do suffer from this, they can certainly benefit from a decarbonization. Your Nissan Kicks is not one of them though, so to answer your question, I strongly doubt your vehicle requires either one of these services.


Hi Lou, Great to see you back on a regular basis. I have a comment and a question. I just read your article regarding the thermostat repair on a 2019 Subaru Forester with some interest since I own a 2020 Outback. The Subaru warranty states that the engine and drive train are covered for five years or 100,000 kilometres. It would seem to me that with 70,000 kilometres this should be covered by warranty unless the thermostat isn’t in the engine somehow. My experience with Toyota over several vehicles is that this type of repair was always considered a warranty item. - Fred S., Nanaimo B.C.

Most manufacturers use these similar terms which is - anything internally lubricated when referring to five-year or 100,000-kilometre engine and drive train warranties. That is, internally lubricated by oil. A thermostat is located within the coolant system and therefore not internally lubricated. The Subaru in question would likely have only had a 60,000-kilometre warranty on its thermostat. I also imagine most Toyotas would have a similar 60,000 thermostat warranty.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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