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lou's garage

As soon as I sit in the driver’s seat of a customer’s car, I can usually tell if the last driver was under the age of 30. The angle of the front seats are often reclined to the point where driver and front occupant are almost lying down.

I’ve tried to understand why and the benefits. I’ve been told its more comfortable. Maybe me and my aging back just don’t get it, as reclining and then contorting my upper back to see over the door ledge doesn’t seem comfortable. I’m 6 foot 2 and I drive a Volkswagen Golf, so I also don’t buy the ‘I’m too tall and need to lean my seat back’ explanation.

There are real consequences. Paramedics and emergency response staff refer to it as submarining. The seatbelt is meant to protect during a crash by holding occupants firmly against the seat. When your seat is reclined, the chances of the seatbelt doing its job diminishes the steeper the seat is reclined. You may slide under the seatbelt and submarine under the vehicle’s dashboard, breaking your legs as they get folded in odd angles. Secondly, as the vehicle’s airbags deploy, their effectiveness is also limited. The airbag is designed and timed to meet you at a specific angle when in an accident. Instead of meeting you at the most favourable position, you may bounce off or underneath the airbag, further exaggerating the submarining effect. For a dramatically reclined driver, performing something as simple as a lane-change shoulder check is also limited. Our necks simply don’t bend that way.

I have three daughters and two of them are driving now, one of them has a boyfriend who likes his seat reclined. Hence the reasoning for this week’s piece. His angle is not extreme, but more than I like. The problem is it is influencing her seating position, and that I have a problem with. I have spoken with her, and she has improved the position a bit, but I’m still trying to convince her to raise it more.

Good luck with improving your own young drivers seating position, especially if you see they are almost lying down while driving.


Your automotive questions answered

Hello Lou,

I have a 2011 BMW 328i convertible with just over 100,000 kilometres. It is a gorgeous little car, bought used to celebrate the successful conclusion of my breast cancer treatments. It has cheap brake pads and when breaking in hot, humid weather, the car squeals like a diesel bus. My very honest mechanic says replacing them isn’t needed from a safety factor and an expensive solution to the problem. I am prepared to spend the money to upgrade the brakes to get rid of the problem. Before I do that, any thoughts on a less expensive, but effective solution? – Marian M.

I’m so happy for you Marian and share in your celebration. With regards to your convertible, you have now experienced the used-car brake job special. I am technically a used-car dealer myself, but rarely sell used vehicles any more. It’s because when I sell a car, it almost always comes back to me after for post-sale maintenance and repair. Therefore, I fix the vehicles prior to sale using parts that will not come back to haunt me later. Unfortunately, this also means that my cost to properly certify a vehicle with original equipment or quality parts is significantly higher. My own customers understand this and don’t mind the extra cost, but if I don’t manage to sell the vehicle within my own circle then I’m in for a difficult sale. Trying to sell a vehicle in the open market is tough for small dealers like me, especially in this overpriced age, add to that, before I even start, I have spent far too much on it to make a decent return. Alternatively, most larger dealers know that the vehicles they sell will likely not come back for post-sale servicing or squeaky brakes. The parts that are put onto the vehicles are the cheapest they can safely use.

Sorry, that was a long story for a short answer. There is no less expensive solution, live with it as your mechanic has suggested, or throw all the parts out and start over again, with quality brake parts and then enjoy the silence.


Lou, I enjoy your articles. I now have a puzzler for you.

I am the original owner of a 2015 2.5-litre Subaru Outback, with 150,000 kilometres. The car runs fine, but about two years ago, a problem started. During the cold months the car occasionally stalls within 15 – 45 seconds after starting it. The car then starts again and runs fine. It will not stall again during the course of the day, despite any further parking, then restarting episodes.

This problem occurs about two to three times a week. On other days the car starts and runs as expected. Once the warmer weather comes, the car starts no problem. Despite this being a pain, my real worry is that the car might stall while I am driving, perhaps in traffic, but this has never happened.

I have contacted my local Subaru service department. They had never heard of this issue with any other Subarus. They had no idea of the cause. They suggested I bring in the car for a diagnostic test, but admitted they were unaware of any test codes that might indicate the problem. I did not take the car into the dealership as their response suggested this would be a waste of time and money. Their only suggestion was that I try switching the gas I use in the car. I have done this, but no change in the starting/stalling issue.

I recently sent an e-mail to Subaru Canada’s Customer Service website. Their response was that they are not mechanically trained and could offer no advice. They suggested that I contact the local dealer, despite me telling them that I had already done this.

It is now May and once again the car is starting and running fine.

Can you offer advice as to what my problem might be and a possible solution?

Thank you and kind regards. – John W.

Thank you, John.

The fact that it stalls 15-45 seconds after starting is peculiar, but the first thing that comes to mind is fuel supply. Next winter, I would suggest tasking a dealer or capable independent shop with monitoring fuel pressure with an appropriate fuel pressure gauge, while hooked up to the vehicle. You will likely have to leave it for a few days for them to try it several times after it has sat outside for the night. If they notice a fuel drop off and stall, they will likely then look at the fuel pump as the culprit. But that’s just a guess, there are so many variables from a worn spark plug to an evaporative emissions part that has failed. But, I can assure you switching to a different gas is not going to fix a stalling problem. I would prefer a service adviser to just say, sorry I have no idea.

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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