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The Yankee Express

Replacing low-profile tires might not be worth the expense

John Paul

Q. I own a 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring (80,850 miles). It has a rough ride for an old guy like me. Would higher profile tires improve my riding comfort? My car tires are 195/65 on 15” rims. Should I get 195/70 or 195/75 tires on 14” rims?

A. The low-profile tires are one of the reasons your car has a stiff, rough ride, but that model also has a stiffer touring suspension. Replacing the wheels and tires may give you a slightly better ride, but in my opinion would not be worth the extra cost. In addition, at 13 years old the suspension has likely started to sag adding to the rough ride. If it were my car, I would just live with it. 

Q. I just read an article about plugging tires and now I am confused. I have read that you only recommend a plug/patch combination, is that still the case? 

A. The approved method to repair a tire is to take it off the rim, inspect the tire for damage and then use a combination plug/patch. The patch seals the tire, the plug portion keeps water from entering the tire. Now, have I plugged a tire, yes, in an emergency (in fact I keep tire plug kits in my emergency kit in my cars). Once I am back on my way, I get to a good tire store and have the tire inspected and properly repaired. 

Q. I have been driving regularly on Interstate 95 between New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts during the evening hours. It has become increasingly dangerous due to vehicles driving without headlights and taillights engaged in the dark of night. How can we as a country mandate that vehicle manufacturers must always ensure that all exterior lights come on when a vehicle is turned on? Statistics indicate that we are at least ten percent safer day and night when front and back lights are on.

A. At AAA we recommend lights on for safety at all times, the vehicle is just that much more visible. Although there is no mandate for automatic headlights today many new cars have them. I road test and evaluate about 50 cars per year and cannot think of any vehicle that did not have a setting for automatic headlights. Even my 2018 Hyundai has an automatic headlight setting. My wife’s VW has daytime running lights and that is a problem because at night it seems as if the lights are on, but the rear lights are not on. But that car is eight years old. Since the average car on the road today is 12 years old and it will take many years until all cars have automatic headlights. So, at this point we are left with education and laws that require lights on in inclement weather and after sunset. 

Q. After my mechanic installs two new front struts on my 2002 Honda Accord should I get wheel alignment?

A. My opinion is, anytime a suspension part is replaced the wheel alignment should be checked. Even carefully marking the location of the old parts and matching up the new parts does not guarantee the wheel alignment will not change. 

Q. I bought a 2012 Nissan Leaf in Massachusetts from a used car place for $7,000 and I live in Rhode Island. It does not hold a charge and will only charge to 64 miles if it is on the charger for 24 hours. I took it in to my local Nissan dealer and they said the big battery needs to be changed out for $13,000. The place I bought it from tells me it is not a lemon because the check engine light is not on, and the battery change is just a suggestion.

A. Unfortunately, 60-70 miles range is pretty typical of a 10-year-old Leaf. The range was only 90 miles when new (although Nissan claimed 100 miles), as any rechargeable battery ages and this includes phones and power tools the battery capacity is reduced. With a 110 volt charge you may get about four miles of range per hour and should fully charge overnight. Without knowing more about your car, from your description this range sounds about normal. As a side note, we have Nissan Leaf at AAA for training purposes and the range is about 60 - 70 miles and somewhat less in wintry weather. 

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.