Q: Have to disagree with your assertion that the fuel filler should be on the driver's side of a vehicle. Nothing I disliked more than pulling up to a pump island in the wife's old Volvo close enough to use the too-short hoses and finding it nearly impossible to exit the car without banging the door into the steel bollards used to protect the pumps from clueless morons, or the pump itself. Her new Cruze and my old Mercedes CLK have the filler properly placed on the passenger side, allowing me to exit the car without fear of damage, and parking closer to the pump, thereby allowing more room for someone needing to get around my parked vehicle.
P.R., Grayslake, Ill.
Q: I enjoy reading your car column weekly (but) want to take issue with your recent blithe statement that fuel fillers should be on the driver's side. Yes, this is common in the U.S. and it is convenient. However, especially in Europe, most fillers are on the passenger side. The rear passenger side is statistically the least likely corner of a car to be hit in a collision, reducing the risk of fire. Also, if a car runs out of fuel and is stopped on the shoulder, it's safer to fill it on the passenger side than on the driver's side where other cars are speeding by. I'm sure neither of these arguments will convince you, LOL. Perhaps the controversy will go away in a few decades when we're all driving around in battery-powered cars that recharge wirelessly.
A: We have received about a half-dozen letters in favor of the fuel filler being on the right (passenger) side of the car because one can get closer to the pumps, rear-end collisions are less likely on the right corner and filling an out-of-gas car on the highway risks personal rear-end damage. However, if one pulls too close to the pump island (and pumps, hoses and bollards), one must only give oneself more space. Fuel tanks are now located in safer, more protected places on the vehicle and we have not seen a rear-ender result in an explosion since ... never. Pulling up to the pump head-on with another car (different-side filler) means that someone will have to back away rather than simply pulling through and out. Playing chicken? The filler pipe belongs on the left side, no matter your political leaning. And, darn it, it is just more convenient for lazy people such as us who don't want to walk around the car.
Q: I've had two Caravans (1987 and 1992) modified by my mechanic to fix the "drive belt falling off" condition. Both times the belt fell off in rainy/slushy/snowy days in the winter months. I do not exactly remember the contents or the manufacturer of the kit, but it was an aftermarket item. It had an idler pulley with an edge to capture the belt and prevent it from slipping. Once these kits were installed, both vans ran trouble-free with respect to water/slush/snow for their lifetimes.
B.T., Downers Grove, Ill.
A: You are absolutely right. We had forgotten that a technical service bulletin had been issued regarding the problem. But we want to remind our readers that misaligned pulleys can also cause accessory drive belts to jump off.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and Master Auto Technician.