Automatic Collision systems, towing power and fuel economy and scheduled maintenance

Q. I purchased a 2018 Toyota Camry in September of 2017 and the car is equipped with all the advanced safety items that are designed to keep the occupants safe and prevent collisions. On a recent trip to Connecticut during a heavy rainstorm, a warning light came on telling me the pre-collision system turned off. After parking for a few hours, the system was back to normal. Later during a recent snow storm, the same thing happened. I went into the dealer to have the car’s oil changed and explained the issue with the car. When I got the car back they told me that there were no codes and the system seemed normal. Since then the light has come on at least one more time. Can you offer me any help with this problem or should I call Toyota directly?

A. Like many newer cars, the pre-collision system uses a system of sensors, cameras or a combination of both. When these systems get blocked by snow, heavy rain and in some cases even bright sunlight, they shut down. This is not a fault of the car but an engineering limitation of the system. I have driven many different makes and models and automatic emergency braking systems can become disabled during inclement weather. It is unfortunate that the dealer didn’t explain this to you rather than have you think something may be wrong with the car.

Q. I currently own a 10-year old Chevrolet Suburban which I am planning on replacing later this year. Currently, the truck is only used to tow a 22-foot camping trailer. I have a small car for everyday driving and the truck for towing, my plan is new vehicle will replace both old vehicles. What I’m looking for is a vehicle that can tow and delivers fuel efficiency and power. I may also upgrade to a bigger trailer at some point as well. Does this vehicle exist or am I looking for a unicorn?

A. Combining towing and fuel efficiency can be a tough equation. There are a couple of choices that could work, such as the Ram pickup with a diesel and the latest Ford F-150 with a diesel. Both can tow much more than you need to and return decent fuel economy. Keep in mind you will pay a premium for the diesel engine as well as the additional cost of diesel fuel. The Ford F-150 with the 6-cylinder Eco-Boost engine is a possibility, the fuel economy is a bit less, but the overall cost of the truck is also less. There are also other good choices with SUVs that may work. At this point since this will be your everyday driver, test vehicles that you will like to spend time in and then look at towing capacity and fuel economy.

Q. I have a car that has a wind noise at highway speeds with my passenger listening it seems to be coming from the passenger side door near the windshield pillar. I asked a local body shop to look at, but they didn’t seem interested. Is there anything I can do to find and fix the problem such as replacing the weather strip

A. first thing to do is determine where the noise is coming from. Using masking tape, tape around the door where you think the noise is going from. Once it is quiet, remove the tape a little bit at a time until you have found the source of the noise. I would try shimming the existing weatherstrip. Sometimes a small thin piece of self-adhesive foam placed under the existing weather strip is all it takes to quiet the noise.

Q. I took your wise advice and bought a brand new Subaru Crosstrek last October.  Never having had a new car before I have a “new-car” question. Do I need to have it serviced at a Subaru dealership and if so for how long?  I am having the first 6-month checkup next week because it’s free!  And, I know I’ll be pressured to keep going to them but, I love my former mechanics at my local station, they treat me like family – as they should since I’ve been going to them for about 40 years.

A. To maintain the warranty of any new car you only need to follow the factory maintenance schedule and use quality parts. Having a long term trusted relationship with a garage to me is better than finding a good doctor. Keep all your receipts and if ever something comes up during the warranty period you can prove the car was maintained as it should have been.

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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