Is Extra Care Worth It?, Oil Change After 1,000 Miles?, Hill Assist Assistance?, EV Roadside Assistance

Q. I am about to purchase a Certified Used 2016 Toyota Corolla LE with 44,400 miles on it.  The dealership is suggesting I purchase a Toyota Extra Care Platinum vehicle service contract and a Tire and Wheel Protection Platinum Plus Plan for a total cost of $2324.  I am retired and only drive 1,100 miles per year and hope to keep this vehicle as long as possible.  The loan I’m considering would be for six years.  I would like your opinion as to whether these agreements would be worth purchasing them.

A. The Toyota Corolla is a very dependable vehicle and considering the limited mileage you drive, I don’t see the extra coverage as necessary. Regarding the loan, if you financed $12,000 at 3.5 percent interest for six years you would pay $13,321 for the car. If you shorten the loan to three years you would pay $12,658. Only you can decide if lower payments are worth the extra overall cost.

Q. I just purchased a new Ford Ranger and made an appointment at the dealership to change the oil at 1,000 miles.   The dealer said no appointment needed, they didn’t want to see the truck until 10,000 miles or one year. I’ve always changed the oil on a new vehicle at 1,000 miles to get the metal particles out. I’m old; is this an old-fashioned idea?

A. The idea of changing the oil within the first 500-1000 miles made a lot of sense years ago for just the reasons you mentioned to remove any metal contamination from the oil that could cause long term wear. Today engines are run/tested and machine work and assembly are far superior than years ago. I would follow the recommendations in the vehicle owner’s manual and check the oil level on a monthly basis.

Q. I have a 2015 Subaru Forester. Occasionally, the “Hill Start Assist” warning light appears, when going uphill, in traffic. I think that it might be due to applying the brake, in stop and go traffic, and stepping on the gas pedal, almost at the same time. Does this act bring on the light? The light does not remain “on”, and doesn’t come on again, when traffic eases. Also, it never comes on when in traffic on level surfaces. Is this something that I need to have Subaru check out for a $139 diagnostic test?

A. The “hill-assist” system keeps the car from rolling when on a hill by applying the brakes for a few seconds. The system doesn’t work on flat roads because it isn’t necessary. From your description, it sounds as if the system may be malfunctioning. In the owner’s manual, there is a procedure to disable the hill-assist feature, although then the light is on at all times. If you don’t want to be annoyed by the hill-assist light, then it would make sense to have the condition diagnosed and repaired.

Q. I’m considering buying an electric car and I’m curious, do you provide road service any more often to people with electric cars? Do electric car driver’s run out of electricity more often than people with internal combustion cars? 

A. We provide road service to all types of vehicles and electric vehicle owners call us the majority of time for the same reasons the people who drive gasoline cars. The typical road service calls are for flat tires (many E/Vs don’t have a spare tire), keys locked in the car and road service after a traffic crash. The amount of battery-related calls are almost immeasurable.

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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