Synthetic oil, washer doesn’t squirt and could the gas cap be the problem?

Q.I drive a 2014 Honda Accord that has 50,000 miles from a daily commute from Massachusetts to Rhode Island each day. At my last oil change, I switched to full synthetic oil. How often should I be getting oil changes and is it safe to disregard the old rule of 3,000 miles or three months? Does this oil really last longer than conventional oil and are the benefits worth the cost?

A.Over the years I have been become a believer in synthetic oil in my family vehicles and found the benefits outweigh the coasts. Your Honda uses a maintenance indicator system that uses a wrench icon to let you know when the car needs service. Under normal driving conditions, the oil could remain in the engine for 10,000 miles or one year whichever comes first. These long service intervals don’t mean you never have to check the engine oil. Any engine as part of the combustion process can use some oil and the level should be checked every 500-1000 miles.

Q.I have an old car and I can’t get the wiper fluid to squirt. I have checked the pump and even tried a used one from a junkyard (I can’t find a new one) and it still won’t work. The hoses and switch all work and the pump makes noise. Why can I get the washers to squirt?

A.This is a simple system, a switched circuit, pump and hoses. I would start by making sure the hoses and nozzles are clear. Then test the pump, not that it just makes noise, but has the ability to pull fluid from the reservoir and push it to the washer nozzles. If all else fails you can easily purchase a universal washer pump or and entire kit that even includes the fluid reservoir.

Q.On my way home from Florida my car lost power and the engine light came on. I pulled over to check all the fluids and everything was fine. I then thought maybe the gas gauge had broken and I was running low on gas. I called AAA and when the driver came out and removed the gas cap to add gas there was a rush of air. He added a gallon of gas and I drove home without any problems. The car has been running fine, but I am concerned that something is wrong, and it could happen again.

A.It sounds as if the gas tank is developing an excess vacuum and causing a fuel stoppage. This is usually related to the evaporative emissions system. The issue could be as simple as a faulty gas cap or a failing evaporative solenoid. At this point, if it were my car I would replace the gas cap and let time see if this simple repair solved the problem.

Q.Every weekend I open the hood in all four of our family cars and check all the fluids. When I was checking the fluid level in one car I must have got distracted and never put the transmission dipstick back in place. Did I cause the transmission any harm?

A.The only issue that I can think of, if any water down into the dipstick tube into the transmission. If the fluid looks cloudy or of there is any question of fluid contamination, have the transmission flushed out and the fluid replaced.

Q.My car’s tires are always needing air and according to my repair shop, the wheels have become porous. Short of buying new wheels is there anything I can do?

A.I have seen people sand the wheel smooth and then coat them with an acrylic paint and have some success. Although if you plan on keeping the car the best choice would be replacing the wheels. In fact if the car is going to need tires soon replacing the heels and tires as a set would most likely be the most cost-effective solution.

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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