Q: My wife and I are loyal Chrysler customers. She is driving our fourth Town & Country minivan. I currently have a Charger R/T. On a recent vacation we rented a new Pacifica minivan. It was very nice, with many improvements, but we will never buy one because of the shifter! It is a knob! It has very light detents and has no shape to give the driver a position. Unlike our current Chryslers, it has no feel for reverse or drive. When I back out of the driveway or a parking spot, I am looking at the traffic. I pull the shifter into gear. The Chrysler rep said that there are markings at the knob and on the instrument panel. If I look there, I'm not looking at the road or the traffic. Searching for the gear is dangerous!
J.M. Geneva, Ill.
A: We must agree that many of the current electronic shifter designs provide poor operator feedback. In general, interior real estate is becoming more precious so reducing sizes and numbers of components becomes important. The Fiat Chrysler America monostable shifter found in several models of vehicles that have the 3.6-liter engine was worse than the dial shifter. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration even opened an investigation. There are other designs and Cars.com has passionately panned one from Acura. Carmakers are seeking ways to save space and simplify manufacturing. Consumers can vote by walking — walking away from systems that do not suit them.
Q: I have noticed that many cars do not have headlights lit in the evening. A similar problem seems to occur when it rains. State law requires lights to be on when wipers are operating. Can the problem be that the dash lights are on and the operator assumes that the headlights are on? My 2002 VW Jetta has lights on when driven and my 2014 Nissan shows a green light icon on dash when headlights are on.
R.D., Downers Grove, Ill.
A: You are probably right about the instrument panel lights leading drivers to assume that their headlights are on. That is why carmakers now are providing the green idiot light to indicate when the headlights are on. Many newer cars have an automatic headlight setting that switches them on based on ambient light. Many also turn on the lights whenever the wipers are activated. Blinking your lights at oncoming cars is still a useful reminder.
Q: My wife and I own a 2001 Chevy 1500 passenger van and we're having brake rubbing problems. It seems to occur when the van's hot under the hood (when we're in stop-and-go traffic). The rear brakes will rub the drums, causing noise and warping the drums. We replaced everything on all of the axles, but still have the rubbing issue. The rear brakes were renewed for the second time. When the engine compartment cools, the rubbing goes away.
A: We do not think that the problem is at the wheel's brakes, but in the brake master cylinder. When you release the brake pedal, the brake fluid is supposed to return to the master cylinder reservoir. If it does not, the brakes will remain applied, at least partially. The master cylinder may be bad or there could be debris blocking the return hole. Other, less likely, culprits could be the brake power booster or the brake pedal push rod.
Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to email@example.com.