Fusion issues, high-octane gas requirements, Jeep issues, Used Toyota Avalon

Q. I own a 2010 Ford Fusion and really enjoy the vehicle. However, its age and mileage have me seriously considering trading it in for a new 2018 or 2019 purchase. I’ve been looking at the Fusion Hybrid and would get all the bells and whistles except the park assist (I don’t parallel park enough to warrant spending $995).  Since Ford will be discontinuing the Fusion in the very near future do you think it’s a good idea for me to purchase another Fusion? If not, what comparably equipped hybrid sedan(s) should I consider?

A. Even though Ford has announced it will discontinue production of most of its sedans, I’m not sure that is enough of a reason to look at other vehicles. On the plus side the parts to repair just about anything with the car will be available for a long time. The question is resale value, depending on the public’s opinion of this move away from mid-sized sedans it could affect the trade in value both positively or negatively. Other hybrid mid-sized cars to look at are the Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and the Honda Accord.

Q. I have a 2010 Honda CR-V. It has the larger of the two engines offered. In the old days, I remember adding high octane gas every so often to clean or clear parts of the engine. Two months ago, I did just that and the performance issue cleared up nicely. Additionally, I noticed I got better mileage with the premium fuel. Last month we did an overnight road trip to northern Maine. I put in two-thirds of a tank of the highest-octane gas that was available at the Sunoco station.  Now I know that highway driving will improve my MPG, but when I got back I drove almost a week of city traffic and still did better than before. How bad is it to pay for the higher octane and better MPG?

A. As a general rule using premium fuel in a vehicle that doesn’t require it is a waste of money. There are some cars that “recommend” using premium fuel to maximize both the efficiency and performance of the engine. AAA did controlled tests on some of those models and found that the mile per gallon increase didn’t offset the additional costs for higher octane fuel. What could have happened with your vehicle is that Sunoco and many other name brand fuels are considered TopTier fuel. TopTier fuel has additional additives mixed in with the fuel the clean fuel injectors and combustion chamber deposits. Your cleaner, smoother running engine will also result in fuel economy closer to when the car was new.

Q. I own a 2012 Jeep Wrangler, my third Jeep since 1995 and enjoyed them all. I went to go out the other night and the headlights did not turn on. I realized the next day that I had no directional or wipers. I went to my local repair shop thinking it was a fuse, but he informed me later that I needed the integrated power module (fuse box) replaced. I called the dealer where I purchased the jeep and the cost to replace this part is just under $1200 dollars. The jeep has 47,900 miles on it and is beyond the warranty. I’ve never had a problem like this with my other jeeps. Friends told me I’ve been lucky but how common is this problem or is it just my luck running out?

A. I have seen this problem several times with the Grand Cherokee in 2011 and older Wranglers. I’m surprised to see the problem is continuing in later models. At this point, you don’t have any choice other than get your Jeep repaired. After the repair it couldn’t hurt to write to Jeep customer assistance and ask for some help with the cost, based on your history with Jeeps and low mileage on your vehicle.

Q. I have a 2001 Toyota Avalon which has 121,000 miles. I purchased it new In October 2000 and now drive it only 1,200-1,500 miles a year.  I keep it well maintained. Last week the check engine light came on, although there was no change in how it performed.  I took it to my usual mechanic.  The code indicated a bad air/fuel ratio sensor.  He put in a new oxygen sensor for $473.00. One week and 35 miles later, the check engine light is on again, yet the car runs fine.  If it turns out to need the other oxygen sensor. I am very tempted to not bother replacing it, given the cost and my very limited use of the car.  Is there a downside to this?  I am not concerned with gas mileage, or with hurting the engine in the car. If it is the Bank 1 sensor needs replacing, is there a compelling reason to do so?

A. Although the car seems to be running okay, it isn’t. Chances are the emissions levels are higher than they should be, or the catalytic converter is not performing properly. Perhaps using a non-factory replacement part would help with the cost. A quick check online shows that a high-quality original equipment replacement part is about half the price of the factory part.

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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