Transmission fluid, cruise control in the rain and snow, Chevy HHR, should I buy a spare tire?

Q. I am considering changing the transmission fluid on my 2011 Toyota Camry. There is no transmission dipstick and the car has 48,000 miles on it.  My question is, when should it be done, and where? Is the dealer better for this than an independent auto repair service center? I also heard flushing out the transmission is better than a drain and refill since you never completely drain all of the fluid from the transmission. Any answers would be helpful.

A. Both an independent shop r dealer could change the fluid in your Toyota, only Toyota fluid should be used. Personally, I prefer a fluid exchange over a partial drain and refill. That being said, unless the transmission is leaking fluid or the car is used as a taxi, I wouldn’t change the fluid. Under “the normal maintenance table Toyota doesn’t list a mileage to replace the fluid and only periodic checks of fluid level.

Q. I have always thought that cruise control should not be used when raining or snowing. I have a new Acura RDX with all-wheel drive and the service department said that was no longer true. What is your advice regarding cruise control use in poor weather conditions? 

A. The newer vehicles like your Acura have sensors that will detect wheel spin limiting cruise control operation, but still I would never advise anyone to use cruise control in poor weather/limited traction conditions. In these driving scenarios, you need to be 100 percent focused on driving. Even just a slight amount of wheel spin at highway speeds can lead to loss of traction and potential skidding. Here is a quote from Acura about their advanced cruise control (ACC) in the 2020 models “ACC should not be used in heavy traffic, poor weather, or on winding roads. The driver remains responsible for safely operating the vehicle and avoiding collisions.

Q. Good to see your still out helping the public, I was wondering if you can remember anything good or bad about the Chevy HHR. I have retired and just looking at them as an errand type vehicle. My friend has had one for a few years and is happy with his. What are your thoughts on the HHR? 

A. The Chevrolet HHR never captured the publics’ attention like it was supposed to. When introduced it was designed to pay homage to the early sedan-delivery vehicles from General Motors. The HHR is nimble enough, has great cargo space and rides and handles pretty well. 2011 was the last year of the HHR and if I was looking for an HHR newer is always better. Look for suspension issues, air conditioner, and some electrical problems. As with any used car, have it inspected prior to purchase.

Q. My Cadillac XT5 does not have a spare, just a repair kit. This is the first vehicle I ever owned that came with no spare tire. I am nervous that if I hit a pothole or curbed and slash the tire, this kit is useless. If the vehicle manufactures want to save weight to give us better gas mileage (which I believe baloney) they could give us a very light duty wheel and deflated tire and an inflator. What do you think and what about buying a spare?

A. Back in the early 1970’s many manufacturers used a deflated-space saver spare. These were replaced with fully inflated compact spare tires. I have driven dozens of vehicles with no spare tire but always get a bit nervous for all the reasons you mention. You can put together a spare tire kit (tire, wheel, jack, lug-wrench). Checking on GM parts online you will spend about $400. You could also try a salvage yard and try to find something that would work.  

 

John Paul is AAA’s Car Doctor. He is an automotive expert who has been writing and talking about cars for more than 30 years. He also hosts the Car Doctor radio program on WROL radio in Boston. Email John at jpaul [at] aaanortheast.com.

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