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The Yankee Express

April 23 - May 28

Q.
I sent my son to my local gas station for an annual Massachusetts vehicle inspection and while there he said there was a special for oil change. He called me and it sounded like a good idea, so I said okay.  When they finished he said the car did not pass inspection. I have never had a car that did not pass inspection. They also said that it would be another fee for reinspection. They also told me I should drive it for 30 miles at 55 mph and come back. Is this a rip-off and can I take it elsewhere for inspection at this point? Do I have any recourse? The car is a 2018 Acura with only 13,000 miles on it? 

A.
If the car failed an emissions system issue, you have 60 days to get it retested. If you go back to the same inspection facility within the 60 days, the re-test is free. The hint may be that the shop told you to drive the car at highway speeds for 30 miles, this sounds like the emissions monitors have not set. I am curious that when the oil change was performed, the mechanic cleared the computer memory rather than just resetting the oil change monitor. By doing this the monitors would need to be set before the car would pass the emissions testing. You can also contact the Massachusetts program administrator www.mavehiclecheck.com. I have called and emailed them in the past and found them very helpful.  

Q.
I don’t think you can answer my question, but I would like your professional opinion. In January, my 2011 Chevy Cruze with the 1.4 L turbo engine needed a new water pump. I noticed steam coming from under the hood. The car never overheated, just steam from coolant leaking on the engine. The car was at my local mechanic’s shop all day to replace the water pump and I just drove it home a couple of miles that evening. The next morning, I took it for a test drive to see if there was any steam and after a couple of miles I stopped at a red light and the transmission made an unusual clunking sound when I stopped. When the light turned green, the car wouldn’t move and the engine revved like it was in neutral. The transmission had completely failed, and the car only had 45,000 miles on it. So, my question is: could the mechanic have done something unintentional to cause the failure, like mistakenly draining the transmission fluid? I guess it could be a coincidence, but I find it odd that the transmission failed right after the water pump was replaced, and it had no previous indications of problems shifting.

A.
The water pump on the Cruze is a straightforward repair and replacing the water pump would have no impact on the transmission. Interesting to note, depending on when the car was purchased and when the water pump was replaced, it may have been under an extended warranty. Some Cruze models had water pumps that had a warranty for 10 years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first). It couldn’t hurt to send your repair receipt to GM customer relations to see if you can get reimbursed for the repair. The transmission, although somewhat problematic, has no such provision.
Q.
I heard your positive review of the Chevy Bolt and I am considering buying electric. I like the car, it’s small, nimble and still pretty roomy. My problem is spending $40,000 for a small car. Do you think prices will come down? 

A.
Just like anything that gets popular, prices will adjust. If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island, there are some great discounts with www.greenenergyconsumers.org. Once you are on their site, go to the “drive green” page. I saw a base model 2021 Chevrolet Bolt ($36,620 MSRP) at a local dealer with the variety of incentives stacked together selling for $15,995.  

Q.
I have a boat with a 2.5 liter four-cylinder Chevy engine. The engine runs great but has an oil leak. Unlike my old truck that leaks a little oil on the ground, I hate having oil leaking in the boat. What do you think of oil stop-leak products? 

A.
I am generally not a fan of “mechanic in a bottle” type products. That being said, working on a boat with an inboard engine isn’t fun. Readers have told me they have had some luck with Lucas Oil Stop Leak and AT 205. I have a 12-year-old VW with an oil leak and may try AT 205, stay tuned.