I have new Dodge Grand Caravan and it's time for its first scheduled oil change. My dealer wants to switch it to synthetic oil, claiming better fuel mileage and longer engine life. Is this a good idea? – Cynthia
Synthetic oil is a superior product and some engines and driving conditions warrant the significant extra cost. Follow the advice of the manufacturer as printed in the owner's manual, not that of the dealer or local oil change shop. The manufacturer is responsible for warranty costs and has conducted extensive testing to arrive at the recommended type and grade of oil and change intervals. Switching is not an issue, but I doubt it is necessary.
Age-old tire question
I have heard that new tires are often the opposite, that they can be several years old when purchased. Is this true? How can I tell how old my tires are? – Marie
There is a complex number on the sidewall of all new tires sold in North America. That number complies with a directive from Transport Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Called the Tire Identification Code, it consists of 11 or 12 numbers and letters that identify where they were produced, the size and date of manufacture. The last four digits are the ones you are concerned with. Tires produced since Sept. 1, 2000, must have that four-digit number. For example, 3713 would tell you the tire was produced in the 37th week of 2013. If your tires are more than 6-8 years old they may well have past their "best by" date.
Tires generally loose their effectiveness after 6-8 years, regardless of mileage. The most common cause of tire failure is overheating – whether through overloading or under-inflation but, after a period of time, they harden and lose much of their grip and effectiveness in wet or dry conditions. Tires are a complex combination of rubber and a variety of chemicals. Molecules within that compound are activated every time a tire goes from cold to hot, hardening with each heating and cooling cycle. The oils contained within evaporate over time, further contributing to the hardening process.
The British Rubber Manufacturers Association has "strongly recommended" that unused tires should not be put into service if they are more than six years old and that "all tires should be replaced 10 years from the date of their manufacture." Several European manufacturers of high-performance cars state in the owner's manual that "under no circumstances should tires older than six years" be used.
It is nearly impossible to get a set of four new tires with perfectly consecutive dates, they are sent from a plant around the world to tens of thousands of distribution centres and then sales points, so are often split up. But you should be able to get four that were produced within a few months of each other. Reputable tire stores try to keep track of these numbers and rotate their stock accordingly.
How often do I need to replace my wipers? – Robert
Wipers lead a difficult life. They are exposed to punishing sun and a wide variety of temperatures and then are expected to perform when the first drops of rain or washer fluid arrive. One issue is pollution, which is hazardous to the life of soft rubber products. Also, a wiper's edge can be damaged by frequently running across rock-hard ice on the windshield in winter. Should that happen, it's time to replace the wipers and this is one of those cases where you get what you pay for. Spend the extra money for some high-end units and you will get one made from more expensive rubber that has been carefully developed.
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
Add us to your circles
Sign up for our weekly newsletter