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The Yankee Express

Q & A with The Car Doctor

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years’ experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. He will answer reader’s questions each week You can find the Car Doctor podcast at or other popular podcast sites. Email your car questions to [email protected] Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on facebook mrjohnfpaul

Q.   My son has a 2021 Honda HR-V, with all-wheel-drive. He is interested in adding a hitch with a Thule bicycle carrier. He recently purchased an electric bike that weighs about 85-92 pounds. Does this vehicle have enough towing capacity to carry an e-bike of this weight?

A.   According to Honda the towing capacity of the HR-V is 1500 pounds, and the tongue weight is 150 pounds. In this case the trailer tongue weight (the weight on the hitch itself) is the more important number. Factor in the weight of the bike carrier which is about 50 pounds and the 90-pound bike, the combined total weight is close to the limit but still under the 150-pound maximum togue weight.  

Q.   I purchased the Hyundai Kona EV new a little over two years ago and it has been a good car for me. I consulted with you before purchasing and a Charge Point charger for our garage as well. Hyundai recalled my EV battery a while ago. They asked us first to charge the car outside and not in a garage and then after a visit to the dealer to reduce the charging capacity to 80 percent (and we could resume charging inside) while they figured things out. The dealer now wants me to return to have the battery retested. What do you know about this situation?  I certainly would prefer to have a battery at 100 percent capacity, and a safe one to boot. Is this a negotiable situation or do I follow their lead?

A.    At this point you need to continue to work with the dealer and Hyundai. You purchased a car with a certain range (battery degradation accepted) and recharge capability and that is what you should have. Limiting the battery charge to 80 percent (similar to Level III high speed charging) is kinder to the battery and assuming safer. Combined with Hyundai extensive powertrain warranty and lifetime battery warranty I would be patient and let Hyundai find the proper solution to the battery issue. 

Q.   My 2015 Subaru outback will not go back to idle once it is fully warmed up if I coast in neutral. It stays at 1500 RPM until I come near to stopping. If the A/C is on, it will go to 1000 RPM coasting. Before warmup it goes to 750 RPM coasting. 

A.   Is this something new with the car? Many cars will hold a higher idle to keep vehicle emission lower and improve battery charging. When the throttle is closed quickly, vehicle emissions go up and alternators provide less charging output. Keeping the engine speed a little higher until the vehicle speed slows down minimizes this. The idle speed is only measured when stopped, with the engine fully warmed up. The idle speed in neutral without the A/C on is 700 RPM-plus or minus 100 RPM. With the A/C on the RPM is about 900 RPM. If this is something new, then the issue could be a sticking/damaged throttle plate. 

Q.   My Chrysler 300 gets 19 miles per gallon and I’m currently paying about $3.99 per gallon for 91 octane gasoline. Now that I am driving back and forth to work, what can I do to improve fuel economy and lower my weekly fuel costs?

A.   The old adage of easy on the gas and brake are still true. Anytime you accelerate quickly or brake aggressively you are wasting energy/fuel. Maintenance is also important. Check tire pressure at least once per month. According to the EPA, keeping tires properly inflated can improve fuel economy by up to three percent. Speeding also reduces fuel economy, reducing your speed by five to ten MPH can improve fuel economy by 7-14 percent. Combine trips to be more efficient and look at your overall driving habits and try to save 10-15 miles per week, the fuel saving adds up. Finally, if your car’s manufacturer recommends and doesn’t require premium fuel, save money and use 87 octane.