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lou's garage

I am clearly out of touch when it comes to trends in the world of young car enthusiasts. Some of these trends are benign, but some are a little more dangerous.

An example of the former is that I have been seeing Jeep Wranglers sporting expensive looking aftermarket wheels and a matching spare wheel sitting in its normal position on the rear tailgate. That’s not the odd part, as upgrading to a fancier set of wheels has been an option since the dawn of the motoring age. What I can’t figure out is why the spare sits proudly positioned in its normal spot but no tire is mounted on it. It’s just a wheel with no tire. Please, someone, explain this to me, as I’m starting to believe that the younger drivers supporting this fad perhaps never learned how to change a flat tire and have just given up on the whole idea.

An example of the more dangerous trends, however, is “hellaflush” and the stretched-tire phenomenon.

Yes, hellaflush is a word that the province of Quebec has recognized and has very clearly outlawed. A hellaflush is the dramatic lowering of a car, causing massive negative camber change. Negative camber is the wheel-alignment angle that sees the top of the tire sitting at an inward angle. The hellaflush also includes pushing out the wheels using spacers, while using offset wheels to exaggerate a wider stance. Installing and stretching very narrow tires onto much wider wheels also gives them a narrow rubber-band look.

The province of Quebec is pushing back against this trend due to the dramatic changes in suspension geometry. Not only can the changes severely impact a vehicle’s handling characteristics, it can also cause premature tire failure due to them not being mounted on the correct-size wheels. They have made it a ticket-able offence, with extreme examples being taken off the road.

Every spring, I field numerous calls from young, mostly male drivers asking us to install the tires they just purchased. Knowing better, I always inquire if they are the correct size for their car. The answer is almost always no. They are trying to find a place to stretch their tires. Amazingly enough, earlier this week I took a phone call from a mother who was doing the very same thing. After I finished my hearty chuckle, which I’m sure she didn’t quite understand, I asked her if she knew what she was asking me to do. She admitted that she didn’t and that her son had sent her on this mission while he was at work. I filled her in.

As far as I am aware, Quebec is the only province that currently has specific legislation allowing their officers to write citations on the spot. For the rest of the country, police officers use their discretion to determine if a vehicle is unsafe for the road and will ultimately remove plates and have it towed if they don’t feel it meets roadworthy standards. At that point, it is the vehicle owner’s responsibility to follow their provincial guidelines by having an inspection completed by a licensed repair facility that can re-certify their vehicle for the road. Stretched tires, wheel spacers and extreme lowered, negative-camber vehicles do not pass a safety inspection in most provinces.

Mom and dad, go out and take a look at junior’s car. Educate yourself. His insurance company, which is also probably your insurance company, tends to deny claims when modified vehicles are involved in accidents. When your son modifies his or your car, you are technically supposed to inform your insurance company. By not doing so, you are violating the terms of your policy, and the whole family will likely get dumped from the policy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m an auto enthusiast to the core, but I just don’t get it. Perhaps I’m just too old now.


Your automotive questions, answered

I have a 2008 BMW SUV 3.0i manual shift. At slow speeds (i.e., parking), when turning to the right, there’s an audible clunking sound and shudder at the front passenger-side wheel. This has been diagnosed as a transfer-case problem, with repair costs of $2,500 to $3,000. However, by disabling the 4x4 operation, the car can be driven using rear-wheel drive. My question to you: Does disabling the 4x4 and driving with rear-wheel drive cause any damage to the brakes, clutch, etc.? Is it okay to drive this way?

Thanks for your help.

Lorne H

I assume we are talking about an X3, as I don’t believe X5s were available with a manual transmission. Even so, an X3 with a manual transmission is incredibly rare. Firstly, I question the validity of your diagnosis, as the transfer case is not located anywhere near the front right. It sits to the rear of the transmission, underneath the vehicle, approximately between the two front seats. Its job is to send power to the front wheels by the means of a forward-facing propeller shaft, front differential and two constant-velocity (CV) shafts. If there was truly a problem with the transfer case, the noise and shudder would be there all the time, felt in the seat of your pants as soon as the vehicle started moving while in four-wheel drive. The more likely scenario is that the front passenger-side outer CV joint has failed. A much less complicated fix.

To answer your question, operating your SUV as a two-wheel drive vehicle might be doable temporarily, but I really wouldn’t want to. Assuming that I am wrong, the transfer case would still eventually be an issue as gears and such are still moving and spinning within the transfer case, even if the front propeller shaft has been removed.


Please, I need professional advice. The battery of my car keeps draining, and I bought a new one, though after being used once, it also drained. So I took it to my car electrician, and he said it’s an electrical fault. He worked on it, yet the next day the battery drained, and the car would not start.

When I contacted him, he said I should buy a new battery. So, my question now is if I buy the new battery, how do I maintain it so it will not drain? My car is a 2004 Toyota 2.4 model.

Joseph U

Considering the details you have provided Joseph, I am inclined to believe that your battery is not the problem. The more likely answer is that your vehicle is suffering from what is referred to as a parasitic draw. Every contemporary vehicle consumes a small amount of electrical current to keep critical functions alive
when the vehicle is not in use. This is how your engine-management system learns key running parameters to improve drivability or your radio remembers your favourite stations. When something goes wrong, however, a component may use more energy than it was designed to.

The easiest thing for you to do is to look for a bulb that is not extinguishing. Check the glove box, door-ajar and trunk bulbs to make sure they are all turning off. Other than that, you will require a professional to perform a parasitic-draw test to find the source of the problem, as there is no way to maintain a battery that is being drained unless you physically disconnect it every night.

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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