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The Yankee Express

The car doctor

John Paul

… In search of a softer and quieter ride …

Q. I’ve worked for a GM car dealer for over 30-35 years in the parts department and am a former mechanic, so i know a little about cars.  Now I’ve retired and have a 2018 KIA Forte 5 SX and want a softer ride than the 40 series tires give. What can I do to get a softer and quieter ride?

A. I think you are stuck with the firm sport ride you have. The 40-series tire doesn’t give you much choice. On less sporty models, there is a 17-inch wheel 45-series tire and I’m not sure the money spent on new wheels would be worth it. The ride is more or less determined by the height of the sidewall. Moving to a 235/45R18 is only going to gain .3 or .4 of an inch of sidewall while still keeping about the same overall diameter and might give you a slight improvement in ride quality. When shopping for tires I would also look for reviews that specifically mention a quiet ride. 

Q. I have a 1998 Lexus ES with 155,000 miles on it. The timing belt was last changed 8 1/2 years and 40,000 miles ago. The manual calls for six years and 90,000 miles. Should I go by time or mileage to determine when to change it? The car is always garaged and goes about 6,000 miles a year.

A. It is entirely possible that the timing belt is in good condition, but there is no way to know unless you actually inspect it. Rubber timing belts (and many rubber parts) can fail due to mileage and age, if this were my 25-year-old Lexus and I planned on keeping it for a while, to be safe, and have a dependable car, I would replace the timing belt. 

Q. I have a few questions about the insulation used in Honda car wiring. From what I understand, the insulation of Honda car wiring is soy-based. I’ve been the victim of critters eating the wiring of my Honda car, and the expense of getting it repaired. Now that Honda knows that little animals like to eat their soy-based wiring insulation, has Honda switched to an alternative wiring insulation, or are they still manufacturing new Honda cars whose wiring they know will be eaten by critters? I suspect it’s a money thing. It must be cheaper to manufacture car’s wiring using soy-based insulation than whatever it was that was used previously (and never suffered critter nibbles). Is soy-based wiring used by any other car manufacturers? Is soy-based wiring still being used? I’m contemplating buying a new car, or at least a newer used car, which will be parked outside since I have no garage and I’d like to avoid buying a car whose wiring is so tasty to little critters. 

A. I too thought the soy-based wiring was an issue, but after talking to engineers at Honda, Ford and Toyota although the insulation is soy based it is not a food grade of material. The previous material was petroleum based and the soy-based material was developed to be more environmentally friendly than petroleum-based insulation. In many cars the seat cushions are also soy based. We recently had one of our AAA vans not start, and the issue was a huge nest under the hood. In this case based on the nest it was likely an opossum. Since rodents and squirrels chew through house and commercial wiring, walls and other building materials, I don’t think the insulation is the issue.  I think the rodent problem is just that, a rodent problem. As we build more and take over open space these destructive critters move into our vehicles.  

Q. I am having a problem with my 2018 Hyundai Tucson, it appears to be guzzling oil. Hyundai completed an oil consumption test and found it to be within range, so they will not fix it. As a result, I need to have my oil changed every 2000-2500 miles or it completely runs out. A quick Google search told me that there is a class action lawsuit from other Hyundai and Kia owners with the same problem, but Hyundai does not acknowledge that it is a problem. Any advice? Getting an oil change every two months is a huge inconvenience.

A. I would continue to work with Hyundai on this issue. Hyundai’s guideline on oil consumption is, that if the engine uses more than one quart of oil in 1000 miles, the engine is replaced. Based on your comments that the engine runs out of oil every 2500 miles, your car’s engine should qualify for engine replacement. In the interim, you don’t need to change the oil every 2500 miles, but you do need to check the oil periodically and add as necessary to keep the engine properly lubricated.
John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over forty years’ experience and is an ASE-certified master technician. He will answer readers’ questions each week. Email your questions to [email protected]. Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook at mrjohnfpaul.