×

Automotive quality: You get what you pay for

Dear Doctor: I have a question about the price of engine oil. When I shop in stores with my wife I like to stroll down the automotive aisles. I notice the prices on items, such as wiper blades and motor oil, seem inexpensive compared to the local repair shop and dealerships. Are these automotive supplies poor quality for the lower prices?

– Phillip

Dear Phillip: When you see a name brand item that carries the same part number as repair shops and dealerships, then you can be assured of the product’s quality. If you are buying engine oil, make sure it meets the specifications of your vehicle. For testing purposes, my shop purchased some discounted items, such as light bulbs, wiper blades, black electrical tape, duct tape, drill bits, lubrication spray and hand tools. My conclusion: You get what you pay for. The light bulbs had a short life, the wiper blades chattered and did not clean, both tapes had very poor adhesion and did not stick, the drill bits had a hard time drilling through wood, the lubrication dried out on the metal work bench and the hand tools were just as bad. Bottom line: Always buy quality products and watch for the quality item to go on sale.

Dear Doctor: I own a 2007 Toyota Camry. I had trouble with the speedometer and the ABS light. I took the car to the shop and the technician said the problem is the electronic brake control module. The module replacement cost is $2,100. I have not had the repairs made yet. Are there other repair or replacement options I can consider?

– Kathy

Dear Kathy: The replacement cost for an electronic brake control module is around $2,100. At my shop, we send out all electronic components for overhaul and rebuild – with great success. Ask your technician to remove the faulty module and send it to a company in Georgia called “My Air Bags.” The average repair cost of the brake module is under $200 and repair time is only a couple of days. You can still drive the car with the module removed. By the way, there are many companies that rebuild dash clusters, heater/air conditioning display panels, radios, and navigation screens.

Dear Doctor: I recently purchased a 2014 Mazda Miata with the automatic transmission and want to have a remote starter installed. The used car salesman said he does not recommend remote starters, because they can cause electrical problems. Do you agree?

– Jason

Dear Jason: I have had remote starters in all of my vehicles for many years and have never had a problem. Do not buy a cheap unit from a discount box store. Go to the local radio shop or automotive electronic store and have a professional expert install the remote start unit. Most remote start units have a one-year warranty – and some even have a lifetime warranty.

Dear Doctor: What is your opinion on buying an extended warranty? I got a letter in the mail offering to extend my warranty as my new car factory warranty is expiring in two months. I’ve also received phone calls offering extended warranties.

– Kurt

Dear Kurt: As many of my readers know I own two repair shops in Massachusetts and in my experience with warranty companies some will offer to pay – or supply the cheapest non-factory part or used part they can find. Some warranty companies only pay up to $50 per hour labor, leaving the car owner to pay the balance. Other terms may include a maximum pay out per claim or total amount. I advise to never purchase an extended warranty from companies through the Internet, phone or mail. Check with the dealer for any warranties they provide – and contact your local AAA office for suggestions.

Dear Doctor: I’m considering buying a Subaru BRZ. have you driven this car, and do you have any advice on it?

– Matt

Dear Matt: Unlike other Subaru vehicles equipped with all-wheel-drive, the BRZ is a rear-wheel-drive sports car with limited-slip differential and a standard six-speed manual transmission. It’s a fine car for a young person. Personally, I found it hard to get into. The BRZ sits low to the ground and features 17-inch summer performance tires. This is not a car for driving in the snow, unless snow tires are installed. My 2016 test-drive vehicle was priced at $28,485. This is a fun, affordable car for the young – and young at heart. The BRZ is powered by a 200-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder with EPA returns of 22/30 mpg.