Q: I own a 2000 Honda Accord. It constantly shows a warning light on the dash for the brakes. I had the brakes checked twice, and everything is in good condition. How can I correct this?
A: Your car has a brake lamp warning system. Should a brake light burn out, a warning is triggered. Sometimes the light is fine, but a weak ground or dirty contacts will cause a change in the sensed voltage on the circuit similar to a burned-out bulb.
Diagnosing the diagnostic fee
Q: A few months ago, I brought my Nissan in for service and I asked them to check on a problem I was having. They said they would have to charge me a $160 diagnostic fee. Is the diagnostic fee a new charge everyone is charging? Does the diagnostic fee go toward the cost of any repair that might be needed, or is it just an extra charge?
A: Most auto service shops charge a diagnostic fee. They have to pay the technicians for their time. And, yes, the fee generally is rolled into the repair if you decide to have the work done.
Keep an eye on oil
Q: I drive a 2014 Prius and put on only about 6,000 miles a year. My manual says I need to change the oil every year or 10,000 miles. However, after changing my oil religiously every 3,000 miles or three months most of my life, it makes me feel very uncomfortable to go that long between changes. My car does not have an oil life indicator readout, so I regularly check the oil level and look to see if it is changing color. Is there any better way to accurately monitor oil quality between changes?
A: To get an analysis of motor oil, you have to send it away to a lab. It is not terribly expensive, just inconvenient. But your Prius engine doesn't do as much work as a non-hybrid car's engine. Back in the olden days, 3,000-mile oil changes were necessary because the oil suffered from gasoline contamination and other stuff. Today's oils are far superior to the former ones and engine tolerances are much tighter. You are doing the right thing by routinely checking the oil level.
Q: I have a 2020 Hyundai Tucson. Periodically, while driving, I hear a chime and a message appears on the dashboard. The message lasts for only a few seconds, not long enough for me to be able to make out exactly what it says. I'm thinking it might say "keep hands on the wheel." Does that make sense?
A: Yes. Your car has lane-keeping assist. Cameras see the lane lines on the road, and, if you drift too far to either side, a warning is issued. If it really bothers you, you can turn off the system. Check your owner's manual for how to do that.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to email@example.com.