Change brake, steering fluids and oil

Dear Doctor: My 2008 Chrysler PT Cruiser has 26,000 miles. I went for a routine oil change and was told I should also have a brake fluid flush performed. Why would this need to be done?

— Richard

Dear Richard: Brake fluid does attract moisture. At my shop, we recommend that when the brake pads are changed that we also remove brake fluid through the master cylinder fill hole. Compressing the brake calipers pushes the fluid into the reservoir. Flushing the entire hydraulic system should be done when contamination has entered the system. We also check the power steering fluid condition and if it is discolored or has a burned smell we use a suction tool to remove that fluid (never use the steering fluid suction tool to remove brake fluid).

Dear Doctor: I have a 2012 Kia Sportage with the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission with 70,000 miles. The Downhill Brake Control red indicator light came on in the instrumentation panel. I’ve been told to take it to the dealer. Will there be damage to the brake system, or transmission, or engine if I can’t get to the dealer in a timely matter?

— Brian

Dear Brian: I’m aware of the newer vehicles with similar concerns with warning lights coming on. In many cases, the system will reset itself when the ignition is cycled on-and-off. I would not be concerned at this time. You can disconnect the battery for a couple of hours to clear any intermittent fault codes and clear the computer memory. I would suggest trying this before spending any money on the system.

Dear Doctor: Why isn’t there a warning for car batteries that seem to fail without notice? There are plenty of warnings that tell a driver when something should be replaced or evaluated, such as with tire pressure, oil or brakes. Why not a battery warning? Are there any cars on the market with such a feature?

— Mark

Dear Mark: Car batteries should be checked at three years and older. Most shops use a hand-held continuity tester, which is a non-load tester. However, a load tester, which takes longer to test, is very accurate unlike the small continuity tester. The main reason for sudden battery failure is because the batteries are seldom checked. I’m not aware of any cars on the market at this time with a low battery light indicator as you describe.

Dear Doctor: I have a 2010 Mazda5 with 145,000 miles and no major repairs to date. While the car runs reasonably well its high-mileage is taking a toll, as there is some rough idle, as well as occasional stalling upon coming to a stop. I’m also getting persistent banging / clunking from the front suspension, and increased oil consumption with some leaking on the driveway. At what point should I consider putting money into this car, or consider purchasing a new one? The local dealer offered me a $1,500 trade-in value.

— Don

Dear Don: You have to make up your own mind on whether to take care of the oil leak, suspension noises and engine repairs or to trade it in and purchase a new vehicle. Do some math on maintenance costs and ask yourself if it would be worth repairing and keeping the Mazda5 a bit longer, or making a new or used car purchase.

Dear Doctor: When I owned my old Chevy Blazer I had a really nice steering wheel cover for it, which was made of either carbon fiber or Kevlar. It was hard and clipped over the wheel forming a half shell around it. I want to get one for my Honda CR-V, but can’t find one. Do you know if they’re still manufactured and where I might be able to find one?

— George

Dear George: The best place to locate what you’re looking for would be a big auto box store so that you can touch and feel the steering wheel cover of your preference for that particular vehicle.

Junior Damato is an ASE-certified Master Technician. E-mail questions for publication to Mail questions to: Motor Matters, PO Box 3305, Wilmington, DE 19804.