Q: We have a Mercedes C300 with 55,000 miles. Every time the car is serviced, I'll ask for a brake check even if it's not part of the service code. My adviser has told me repeatedly that there will be a dashboard "idiot light" indicating when it's time to replace the brakes, but it hasn't happened. Occasionally, I'll feel the front wheels pulsing (as to indicate wear or warp), but it diminishes as quickly as it appeared.
I've never had a car that has gone this long without brake work of some kind. Are Mercedes' pads so much better? Does the "always insist on genuine parts" really mean something?
A: You can always rely on the original equipment parts. And, yes, Mercedes' pads are good, but how aggressively you use your brakes also impacts their life span. We like to replace the pads when the lining wears down to 4 to 5 mm. Your car is equipped with wear sensors that will trigger a reminder light when it is due for brakes. That pulsing you feel probably is surface rust on the rotors that gets wiped off by the brakes after a few applications.
A non-converting convertible
Q: I have a 2004 Chevy SSR on which the convertible top will not retract. It has only 25,000 miles. The Chevy dealership said that the pump motor needs to be replaced but the part has been discontinued and there was nothing they can do. So now I have a vehicle that I can't use or sell with the top down. I have interested buyers, but not if the top is inoperable. Is there nowhere to find a new motor? The car is in pristine condition otherwise.
A: We googled SSR convertible top motors and got numerous returns. Some were professional rebuilders, and some were used motors on eBay. One was a wholesale GM parts company.
Q: I have a 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe with one of those fancy heated windshields. I need to replace it because of cracks and chips. What would be a $150 replacement of a normal windshield is $275. Can I decline the heated windshield and just get a regular one? Will the shop let me do this, or are they legally required to replace like-for-like?
A: Most small chips such as stone damage are reliably repairable. And most insurance companies will cover the repairs with no deductible. If the damage is severe enough that a new windshield is necessary, yes, you can replace it with a non-heated one.
A hot topic
Q: Cars have a fan that blows heated/cooled air into the passenger area. Why couldn't this fan be reversible? When inside temperature hits 90 degrees, the fan could reverse to pull out the hot air.
A: That's a cool idea, but then the fan wouldn't be able to blow AC air into the car, which will cool it faster. We suggest turning the fan on high and opening the windows an inch so the hot air can escape.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.