Fist-time dad car, oil pan location, no spare tire, cap-less gas tank, clinking steering wheel

Q. I recently got married and purchased a house, now I’m going to be a dad. I can’t resign myself to driving a minivan or SUV and I’m looking for a “speedy dad car”. My budget is $25-$35,000 and I’m looking new as opposed to used. Can you think of something that is practical, fun to drive and when you step on the gas moves?

A. Congratulations on all the changes in your life. I have never had kids, but I know they come with lots of stuff and as a child passenger safety technician and instructor you want a car that will easily accommodate a child restraint. The first car that comes to mind is a Volkswagen Golf GTI, these cars are roomy for their compact size, fun to drive especially with a manual transmission and with a 2.0-liter turbo-charged engine is quick. In the same vein are the Subaru WRX and Ford Focus ST, they are also fun and quick. Readers any suggestions?

Q. I recently purchased a 1974 Cadillac Eldorado from a neighbor for $1500 but it needs an oil pan among other things.  I haven’t been able to locate an oil pan. The oil pan isn’t rotted but has a hole/crack in it. Right now, it looks like someone epoxied the hole. My question is can the oil pan be welded?

A. There is no reason why the oil pan can’t be removed, cleaned and then welded. Over the years, I have seen badly damaged oil pans straightened, welded and painted up to be as good as new.

Q. I purchased a new BMW and when I got home I was looking through the car and noticed it doesn’t have a spare tire. The dealer did say the car had “run-flat” tires but I guess I just assumed the car had a spare tire. What would happen if I hit a pothole or curb hard enough to cut the tire, can I still drive on it or am I stuck?

A. The run-flat tires on your BMW will allow you to drive without air in them for a short period at a speed that typically doesn’t exceed 50 MPH. If the tire has a hole in the sidewall in some cases, you can still drive for limited periods but again it should be done slowly; handling and even braking will be compromised. Most manufacturers don’t recommend driving more than 25-75 miles with a damaged run-flat tire.   

Q. I ran out of gas with my 2017 Jeep Wrangler, fortunately, I was within walking distance of home. I got my gas can and walked back to my Jeep and found the I couldn’t get the spout in the “cap-less” gas tank. I was able to very slowly get enough gas in the tank to get the engine running and drive to the gas station. What is up with the stupid design

A. Several manufacturers are using cap-less fuel system, which makes filling easier while still preventing fumes from escaping to the air. You probably didn’t notice but somewhere in your vehicle there is a small funnel that will when pushed into the gas tank will release the flap and allows you to add fuel with a gas can.  

Q. I get a chatter/clicking feeling in the steering wheel of my 2002 Nissan Maxima when I’m driving around a curve or turning into a parking spot. This is the only time this happens, never while driving straight or on the highway.

A. The noise could be related to a worn wheel bearing, worn tire but most likely a worn constant velocity joint. Have a repair shop take a look at all of the steering and suspension components, paying particular attention to the wheel bearings and the C/V joints. If they do find a worn C/V joint it may be most economical to replace the entire axle.

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]

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