Skip to main content

The Yankee Express

When trailer lights are out, check wiring in tow vehicle as well as trailer

John Paul

ell as trailer
Q. I was working on my boat trailer, which I use only a couple of times per year and noticed the lights are not working. Some work and some don’t, where can I start and what else should I do to this trailer over the winter? 
A. The first place to start is to see if the trailer or the tow vehicle wiring is an issue. A simple 12-volt test light or an inexpensive trailer light testing tool is about all you need. Depending on the plug (flat four or round seven) the troubleshooting is about the same. Use your test light and see if the wiring will light the test light, if it does move onto the trailer wiring. The most common issues are related to corrosion of the lamp sockets. As for other repairs, check for rust, inspect the rollers or bunks, springs, shackles and remove, clean and repack the wheel bearings. 
Q. I have a Honda Accord and it was in for an oil change and they said the brake pads on the front were down to 3mm.  They were really busy and said they couldn’t relace the brakes for a couple of weeks. I like this shop and would like to have them do the work, replacing both the brake pads and brake rotors. Should I wait or find another shop? 
A. New brakes pads are generally about 10-12 millimeters thick. At 3 millimeters the brakes are just about worn out and should be replaced. Considering you are replacing the rotors, a couple more weeks of normal driving shouldn’t make a difference. If you hear scraping, bring the car in as soon as possible. 
Q. Recent articles seem to point out that the public has not fallen in love with electric cars. If fact I have seen discounts and electric cars sitting on dealer lots. What is your take on this? 
A. Electric cars are not for everyone. Buying an electric car depends on charging availability, budget and how far you drive. For my personal use a plug-in hybrid, that can charge on 120-volts, drive in electric or EV mode would suit my needs better than a pure electric car. But as the charging infrastructure changes and recharging becomes quicker, that could change. 
Q. I have a 2008 Toyota Avalon and it is the best car I have ever owned and want to keep it forever. The problem is the high beam bulbs have shattered or blown twice. My mechanic said Toyota had sent a bulletin to the dealers about the problem. It is my understanding that some 2008-2010 models have a problem with the bulb housing, not the bulbs and the fix is to replace the housing. To me it is a manufacturing or design defective, and the car should be recalled. I haven’t gotten anywhere with Toyota or the local dealer. Any suggestions?
A. As you stated, there is a technical service bulletin that describes the problem. The repair does in fact require replacing the housing and bulb. My only “guess” is this isn’t a recall since the low beam light will still function when the high beam light fails. If you decide to replace the housing, perhaps use an aftermarket part. If you go this route, look for a CAPA approved part. This certification tells you it is as good as the original or hopefully in the case of your Avalon better. 
Q. I own a 2001 Lexus RX300 that was recently given to me. Over the six months I have owned it, the engine has gotten noisy. My mechanic says the oil is like sludge. I looked online and found this was a defect. So, do I have any recourse?  
A. Oil gelling/sludge happens generally from the heating and oxidation of oil due to infrequent oil changes. Since you don’t have much invested in the vehicle you could try an oil flush. Over the years mechanics have used transmission fluid rather than oil, kerosene mixed with oil and dedicated oil flush products, such as Seafoam to remove sludge. Sometimes this works and removes accumulated sludge, other times the sludge just moves around and causes other issues.  Regarding Toyota standing by their product, I don’t see them offering any relief on an 23 year old car.

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.