Q: I have a 2010 Hyundai Elantra. The Oil Express guy says I need four new tires. Should I do some comparative shopping around for a good price? They gave me a list of two or three brands with an average total price of about $528 for the four. Are the tires from Sam's Club, Pep Boys and Just Tires all the same quality? I'm a senior grandma and not well informed on this matter.
A: You need not be a senior grandma to be baffled by tires. Although they are all round and black, not all tires are the same. Some provide all-weather convenience. Some provide superior traction for drivers who push the limit. Even many everyday tires provide differing ride softness or firmness. Three important measures when comparing tires are temperature, tread wear and traction ratings, shown on all tires as required by federal law. For a copy of the NHTSA Uniform Tire Quality Grading information, click here: www.safercar.gov/staticfiles/safercar/pdf/812325-UniformTireQualityGrading-2016.pdf.
Q: I replaced the charcoal canister after an SUV drove full-speed through a rain-filled viaduct, almost drowning my 1998 Toyota Corolla. Six years later, the check engine light came on and I had to replace the canister again. The mechanic said there was liquid in it and said to avoid topping off when getting gas. Since then I have been careful not to drive though flooded viaducts and to not top off the tank. What do you think is causing the repeated failures?
A: The charcoal canister is designed to hold only fuel vapors, not liquids such as gas or water. Continue to do what you have been doing and you should not have another failure on your classic car.
Q: My car started smelling like burnt plastic, inside and out, after I drove it for a while. I discovered a half-melted plastic bag hanging under the car. I fished the bag out with a stick, but the residue is melted onto some part. Is breathing this stinky stuff going to harm me? How can I get the remainder off?
D.H., Worth, Ill.
A: We had a similar thing happen to our Harley. A fellow rider suggested trying oven cleaner. We bought some Easy Off and, voila, the problematic plastic was gone. Use only as directed, if you can manage to climb under your car. We don't think the vapors are harmful in such small concentrations.
Q: I live in the city and only use my car once every one or two weeks. I do make certain to "exercise" it well when I do use it. Maybe because it is parked outside, I notice the rotors have a rust buildup unlike those on other cars that are used regularly. Is that a longer-range concern?
A: Surface rust is not a major concern. After a few brake applications, it will get worn off. Granted, those first few applications may make some noise and feel weird. This is an especially common problem for owners living near the ocean and saltwater.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and Master Automobile Technician.