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Car Doctor: How do I minimize jolts SUV makes when hitting potholes?

Jun 23, 2023Jun 23, 2023

A: The Honda HR-V is a bit of a stiff-riding vehicle, more so than some other subcompact SUVs. That being said, the very first thing I would do is check the tire pressure. Slightly overinflated tires can cause a bumpy ride.

It is recommended to keep 32 pounds of pressure for front tires on the 2018 Honda HR-V, and 30 PSI for rear tires.

Some people — even professionals — make the mistake of inflating the tire to the pressure on the sidewall of the tire (36 PSI), which will cause a very harsh ride. Check the tire pressure with a gauge when the tires are cool and adjust the pressure as needed.

Q: Our second car is a 2010 Honda CR-V with about 65,000 miles. We always maintain the car according to factory recommendations and for the last few years have not used the local Honda dealer for service. The service center that we are comfortable and confident with uses Pennzoil synthetic "blend" as opposed to the synthetic that the Honda dealer uses. Is that OK?

A: If it is an API certified oil, then the 0W-20 synthetic blend is fine.

A bit of a dirty secret with synthetic blends is that you really do not know how much of the blended oil is considered synthetic. Since Honda recommended conventional oil in 2010, the blend does offer a bit of an upgrade. Although personally, for the once- or twice-per-year oil change, I pay the extra cost and buy full synthetic oil.

Q: Are aftermarket headlight assemblies any good? Which brands do you recommend? I have to drive with my high beams on just to see the road. Lights like mine should fail inspection.

A: Before changing headlights, you should check the condition of the headlight lenses. Faded, chalky lenses can cut up to 90% of the light transmission.

The other issue is the bulb itself. Although headlight bulbs may light for decades, they fade over time. After about three years, there is some significant reduction in light output.

Also, our eyes change. At year 40, you need twice as much light to see as you did when you were 20 years of age. At age 60, it is almost three times as much.

Some drivers opt to replace conventional lights with LED bulbs or complete headlight assemblies. These lights are brighter, but, like any performance product, they tend to have a shorter life.

Q: I am the original owner of a 2001 Toyota Camry sedan with 109,293 miles on it. The car has been serviced regularly over the years. Last year, I had the timing belt and exhaust system replaced. A few years ago, the serpentine belt was replaced, but still the check engine light remains on. No one seems to be able to come up with an answer for me, and now the inspection is due.

A: If the check engine light is on, there is a fault code stored in the computer. The code will point you in the right direction but will not tell the technician exactly what is wrong. That requires a bit more detective work and verification.

Typical on Toyota products, a solenoid in the evaporative emissions system will fail. The car will run fine but the light will come on.

If there is an EVAP code, the preferred method to test this is with a smoke machine. The system is filled with synthetic smoke, solenoids are energized, and the technician looks for smoke to escape.

Q: An acquaintance of mine is selling a 2000 Chevrolet Corvette C5 model with 23,500 miles. It has been kept in immaculate condition. The price seems to be right where it should be, based on my internet search. Are there any particular difficulties in maintaining a vehicle like this, besides having to garage it for half a year and the insurance issues that come with that?

A: There are a few characteristic issues: the harmonic balancer pully makes noise; the axle shaft bearing — sounds like brake noise – can be an issue; and the ignition switch does not recognize the key.

On higher mileage cars and those that have not been maintained, rocker arm bearing failure is a problem. Also, the antilock brake module can be faulty, resulting in a ABS light illuminating at highway speeds. The headlight motors may fail, and the driver’s seat rocks back and forth.

Given that it's 23 years old, even with the low miles, I would have a technician scan all the computer modules, look for pending codes, give the car a good visual inspection, and do a road test.

John Paul is the AAA Northeast Car Doctor. He has more than 40 years of experience in the automobile industry and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. Write to John Paul, The Car Doctor, at 110 Royal Little Drive, Providence, RI 02904. Or email [email protected] and put “Car Doctor” in the subject field. Follow him on Twitter @johnfpaul or on Facebook.