motormouth bob weber

Q: In a recent column, you stated that if a company demands that you use their oil filter, they have to provide it for free. Can you explain that more? I have a Subaru and have been purchasing their oil filters for my Forester. I'm seeing dollar signs now.

R.S., Chicago

A: If a company demands that you use only their original parts or risk losing your warranty, it must supply said parts. The following is directly from the Federal Trade Commission website.

"Do I have to use the dealer for repairs and maintenance to keep my warranty in effect?

"No. An independent mechanic, a retail chain shop, or even you yourself can do routine maintenance and repairs on your vehicle. In fact, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, which is enforced by the FTC, makes it illegal for manufacturers or dealers to claim that your warranty is void or to deny coverage under your warranty simply because someone other than the dealer did the work. The manufacturer or dealer can, however, require consumers to use select repair facilities if the repair services are provided to consumers free of charge under the warranty.

"That said, there may be certain situations where a repair may not be covered. For example, if you or your mechanic replaced a belt improperly and your engine is damaged as a result, your manufacturer or dealer may deny responsibility for fixing the engine under the warranty. However, according to the FTC, the manufacturer or dealer must be able to demonstrate that it was the improper belt replacement — rather than some other defect — that caused the damage to your engine. The warranty would still be in effect for other parts of your car."

To see the whole document, go to

Q: Do all vehicles (U.S. or foreign) now only come with floor shifts these days? If not, can one still order a vehicle with a shift on the steering column? Or which model years (preferably Avalon) still offer shift on the steering column?

R.D., Park Ridge, Ill.

A: Ah, the old "three on the tree" (three-speed transmission with gear shift lever mounted on the steering column). We have not seen one in years. They were a complex of rods, joints, bell-cranks and such connected to the two shifter cranks on the side of the tranny. Putting the shifter right into the transmission is way simpler.

Q: Every car has a fan that blows heat/cool into passenger area. Why couldn't this fan be made reversible? When inside temperature hits 90 degrees or so the fan starts in reverse trying to cool the interior, protecting pets, babies, etc.

W.S., Lake Forest, Ill.

A: That's a cool idea, but it ain't gonna happen. We suggest turning the fan on high and opening the windows about an inch or two. It works well, even when you turn on Max Air.

Q: With all the extra equipment on automobile's dashboards today, could they not put something in the dashboard to tell us when a brake light is burned out? We have been in that predicament until someone let us know about ours being out.

R.B., Chicago

A: A warning light to alert you that a light bulb is out does exist, just on more expensive cars. Check out BMW.

Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician.