Q: Are insurance companies behind the all-wheel drive craze? It is getting much harder to find vehicles without it. That and I am always reading about being cautious buying older all-wheel-drive vehicles with high mileage because they are expensive to fix.
I have driven just fine for more than thirty years with front-wheel drive and it is time for a new car but I do not want or like the idea of being forced to buy all-wheel drive.
A: Vehicle manufacturers wouldn’t build all-wheel-drive vehicles if there was no demand for them. All-wheel drive improves handling in both dry and slippery conditions.
Does everyone need all-wheel drive? No. People have been successfully driving front-wheel as well as rear-wheel-drive vehicles for more than 100 years. Living in the northeast, many dealers stock more all-wheel-drive vehicles but that does not mean you can’t find a front-wheel drive version of the same vehicle, if it is available.
Regarding buying a used all-wheel-drive vehicle with high mileage: certainly some perform better than others. Any high-mileage vehicle should be thoroughly evaluated by a good repair shop before you consider purchasing it.
Q: I obtained financing through my local credit union to purchase a new vehicle. When I went to a major car dealership, they told me that they “Did not allow outside financing and needed to finance with them.” I was younger then, but it threw me because I really wanted the car and I reluctantly went with the dealership financing.
It is now time for another car and wanted to know can the dealer require in-house financing? Can I secure my own loan or pay cash? Are there dealers that flat out will not accept financing through another bank, or was it just a ploy to get me to use their financing?
A: I spoke with Ted Lyons, the director of financial services here at AAA and he said he hears of this frequently and in many cases, it just is not true. Now if the dealer in their advertising stipulates that the price is contingent on financing, then to get the advertised price you would need to accept their finance offer.
Ted suggests, looking at the vehicle manufacturers website for the latest offers and comparing those offers to the dealers. Ted has also seen many cases where buyers take advantage of the dealer’s price and then, after the first payment, buyers will refinance with AAA at what is typically a lower rate. He also warns that prior to signing any loan agreement, see if there are any penalties for paying off the loan early.
Q: I have a 1994 Toyota Camry with the V-6 engine and 190,000 miles on it. The car always ran great, but it recently needed a jumpstart — I may have left the parking lights on.
I drove the car for about an hour and the battery indicator light on the dash came on. I went to a local auto parts store and they tested the battery and the alternator. The alternator was putting out 12.96 volts and the battery voltage was 13 volts. They told me both failed and I should buy a battery and alternator.
Are these readings bad? Can I replace the alternator myself? Where can I find repair information? I have watched videos on replacement and it does not look that hard to do.
Since I seem to be working on my own car more to save money, is there a good source of repair information that is not too expensive? I remember my grandpa always had a repair manual the size of a New York phone book. Do these books still exist for newer cars as well as my old Camry?
A: The alternator on your Camry should produce between 14 to 15 volts. Although voltage is only part of the answer, the alternator should also be capable of generating up to 80 amperes of current. Since the alternator output was low, the battery voltage will also be low. The battery should be recharged using a battery charger and then retested to determine its true condition.
If you are replacing the alternator, carefully inspect the drive belt. If the belt is cracked or worn, replace it at the same time.
There was a time — with one repair manual — you could repair most any vehicle. Today, that is just not the case. I use AllData as one resource. AllData also has a DIY version where you can get all the professional data for one specific vehicle for about $30 per year.
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.