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The Yankee Express

Camry wins out as a dependable, fuel-efficient car

John Paul

Q.  I have a 2012 Infiniti M37x, when slowing down fast not to a complete stop and then reaccelerating the transmission will clunk, more in standard mode than in sport drive mode. Please analyze and recommend a remedy.

A.  Now certainly at 11 years old there could be some wear and tear to the transmission and axle shafts which is certainly worth checking. But interestingly Infiniti does have a technical service bulletin that could provide a solution. In some vehicles the axle shafts bind in the hubs and cause a clunk. The fix is to loosen the axle nut, push the axle back and lubricate the axle splines with an anti-seize lubricant.  I would give this a try before pursuing more costly repairs. 

Q.  I want to thank you for your advice. I was looking for a vehicle to replace my Chevy Traverse, that would be easy to get in and out, easy to drive and park but have some cargo carrying ability. I don’t carry anything heavy, groceries, plants, and flowers. You gave me a few recommendations and talked me out of a few as well. I settled on the Subaru Impreza, it has room, and it is easy to maneuver and fit in my budget.
A. The Subaru Impreza is an easy pick. For a compact car it has good room, the ride is comfortable, decent fuel economy, the overall handling is quite good and the all-wheel drive is a great choice for New England winters. 

Q.  I have a Toyota and the cooling fan comes on when the engine gets hot and runs just about all the time. The engine temperature is 210 degrees and I’m worried the engine is overheating. Where should I look for problems? 

A.  I would start with the basics, depending on the age of the car, the radiator could be partially clogged, the thermostat may not open fully, and the cooling fan may be starting to slow down due to age. Also keep in mind that 210 degrees is not overheating. A 50/50 mix of coolant and water and a pressurized radiator will boost the boiling point to over 250 degrees. 
Q.  I recently purchased a 1981 Chevy Malibu wagon for my beach house (a beach wagon) and the one odd issue is the air conditioner only blows air on the floor not out the dash vents, although occasionally, it does switch to defrost. It isn’t that big a deal, but it would be nice if the A/C worked properly. Any ideas? 

A.  These cars used vacuum operated controls and blend doors. To keep everything working properly while driving there was a vacuum reserve tank (looks like a black plastic softball). Check to see if there is a vacuum leak at the tank. At the same time, it may be a good idea to replace as many of the 42-year-old vacuum hoses as possible. 

Q.  I drive a Toyota Camry hybrid, it is good on gas, roomy for four adults and it is quiet on the highway. I was with a friend car shopping, and he was looking at an Audi A6, a nice car but it cost nearly twice as much as my Camry. He claims it is well worth the money and is a much better car. What do you think? 

A.  The Audi is a great car, the handling is quite good, the fuel economy isn’t too bad, the ride is somewhat firm but that adds to the handling and the cabin is very nicely finished. The Camry is one of the best and most dependable mid-sized sedans, the hybrid has fantastic fuel economy, the ride and handling is smooth and confident, but not sporty. The interior is comfortable but not as luxurious as an Audi. Is the Camry much better than the A6, it depends on what you are looking for in a car. If you are looking for a high-quality interior, sports sedan handling and luxury car prestige, yes, the Audi offers that. If you are looking for a dependable comfortable fuel-efficient car the Camry wins out over the Audi. 

Q.  I recently purchased a 2022 Kia Stinger, perhaps one of the best cars I have ever owned. My only disappointment is with the sound system. The sound isn’t as rich and deep as I would like. Is there a way to improve the sound? 

A.  Generally, the Harman Kardon system in the Stinger gets the same high marks that the rest of the car gets. In my opinion the Stinger is one of the best sedans on the road and I remember the radio to be very good, but I’m hardly an audiophile. I would start by making sure the 700 plus watt sound system is working properly. If it is, then a trip to a good car audio store would be my next step. This car has up to 15 speakers, perhaps upgrading some of the speakers may get the sound you are looking for. 

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.