My 11-year-old car needs a new oil drain plug

How To

John Paul, AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who always changes their own oil.

The Car Doctor answers a question from a reader who always changes their own oil. AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File

Q.I have a 2013 Subaru I’ve owned since new and have always changed the oil myself. Over the years the drain plug has started to round off. I know I can just buy another one. I was thinking about trying to find the same size with a bigger bolt/head size to avoid this in the future. I plan to keep this car until the wheels fall off.

A.This drain plug issue was a common problem, so much so that Subaru came out with a new design drain plug. The new drain plug is 17mm, whereas your car’s original drain plug used a 14mm wrench. This bigger size should improve the life of the drain plug. Any Subaru dealer should have the revised drain plug in stock.

Q.I have a Honda Accord and it will need brakes soon. I know I should lubricate the brake caliper pins. Is there a certain lubricant I should use?

A.Honda and many other manufacturers recommend ATE Plastilube (available online or at some auto parts stores). You would use this on the guide pins, guide surfaces of the calipers, and the back of the brake pads. This will help prevent corrosion and squeaking.

Q.I belong to a local library group, and we meet periodically to discuss issues and interests. The topics could be anything from health care to real estate. Many people have expressed an interest in electric cars. Do you know where we could find a speaker to come and talk with us?

A.You never mentioned where you are located, but if you are within AAA Northeast club territory, you can email me at [email protected], and I will get your request to someone local who would be happy to come visit with your group.

Q.The tires on my car seem to be wearing faster than expected. The dealer recommends tire rotation every 6,000 miles. This seems excessive to me and it gets expensive. Is this necessary and what is the proper rotation these days? Is it front to back or X-pattern?

A.Most vehicle manufacturers as well as tire manufacturers recommend tire rotation twice a year. Rotating tires periodically helps reduce tire wear and is also a good excuse to check items such as brakes and suspension. As for rotation, if the tires are directional, move them front to back. If the tires are not directional, move the left front to the right rear, right rear to right front and right front to the left rear, left rear to the left front.

Q.I left my sunroof open, and it rained for hours, and the car got wet. I wet-vacuumed the seats and carpets, but the car still smells like a wet dog. What can I do? This is my only car and I need it to go to work.

A.You may need to remove the seats and take the carpet out to get to the padding and dry or replace the pad. The jute material is very heat resistant and a good insulator, but also absorbs water. Remove the carpet and let it air out in the sun, replace the underlayment and then once clean, purchase a carbon/charcoal cabin air filter as a replacement for the standard paper filter.

Q.I have a chance to buy a 2013 Tesla Model S 60. It is in good condition, but has 169,000 miles on it. The dealer has it for $16,000, which looks like a decent price and under my budget. What do you think? Is this a wise buy?

A.Buying an 11-year-old car always has the potential for problems. Buying an 11-year-old luxury car that happens to be all electric can be even more challenging. The S 60 had a range of about 210 miles when new, and over the past decade likely has some battery degradation. The range may be 10 to 20 percent less than it was new. Ask to see the car with a fully charged battery to determine how the battery has changed. Also, electronics can grow finicky as they age. Before I purchased this car, I would bring it to an EV specialist who is familiar with Tesla vehicles for an evaluation. I would also put the $16,000 price slightly above market value. If I were to spend $16,000 to $18,000 for an EV, I would look for a newer Model 3 – not as luxurious, but likely a car with less potential for problems.

Q.I have a new VW Jetta and it has brake vibration. I took it to the dealer, and they resurfaced the brake rotors. The car stops smoothly, but I have read your articles for years and you have stated that once you remove too much metal from the rotors, they are more likely to warp again. What should I do?

A.Volkswagen allows resurfacing of brake rotors if the vehicle is less than 12 months/12,000 miles old, providing they show no signs of corrosion, high heat discoloration, or cracking. The brake rotor thickness measurement must exceed the minimum specification after the machining process is completed to be re-used. If the brake rotor thickness measurement did not meet this requirement after machining, the dealer would have replaced the brake rotors.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your Car Doctor question to[email protected]. Listen to the Car Doctor podcast atjohnfpaul.podbean.com.


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