Q: I am going to be purchasing a new car. Unfortunately, it might not be garage-kept. I was reading about an extra process that you can get done at various shops called a ceramic coat. Do you think it is needed or worth the extra expense? I am trying to keep it looking good for as long as possible. I live in South Florida, if that makes any difference as far as the sun taking a toll on the paint.
N.B., Davie, Fla.
A: Like anything else, there are good ceramic coatings and poor ones. In essence, they are very similar to wax, but much longer-lasting. And, like wax, they must be reapplied occasionally. Better protection is provided by wrapping the entire vehicle. The wrap, sometimes called a clear bra, is similar to plastic food wrap. Paint protection film protects the vehicle body better and much longer than ceramic coatings. It is also easily removed by peeling it off by hand. Graphic films are often used on commercial vehicles instead of painted graphics. Think about all of the trucks you see that appear to have photographed scenes on them. Of course, film is much more expensive than spray-on ceramic. To save a few bucks you may decide to wrap sections such as the frontal area and rocker panels. Touchless car washes are suggested for either one.
Q: I like doing my own work, in part because I know what's been done. I stopped going to my local dealer after getting my new car back with a lug nut tightened to over 150 foot-pounds and the oil filter cap at 70 foot-pounds. There's no excuse for such sloppy work.
W.O., Wadsworth, Ill
A: We agree. This is particularly wrong since only one of the lug nuts was overtorqued. Uneven lug nut torque is a major cause of warped brake rotors. FYI: We measure torque in pound-feet. A pound-foot is the energy needed to move 1 pound along a radius of 1 foot. Foot-pound is a measure of energy needed to move 1 pound for 1 foot. Yeah, we still say "foot-pounds" too, though.
Q: Recently, I took my car into my independent service station for service and told the manager where the wheel lug wrench is stored. He answered, "We don't need your wrench any longer, we can remove/replace the keyed lugs without your wrench." After the service, I checked to see if any damage was done to my wheels and/or lugs and they were all fine. I can only assume there now is a universal key wrench tool. Do you know what it is? God, if this is true, why even use locks? Thieves will have them for sure!
A: We regret to report that universal socket tools are available to remove locking lug nuts. No longer must the shop call the customer for the key or, with the customer's permission, destroy the locking nut in order to proceed with a brake job. Yes, if there is a will, there is a way to steal your stuff. But locking lug nuts may at least slow down a potential wheel thief.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and Master Auto Technician.