My Toyota Avalon’s high beam bulbs shatter

Q. I have a 2008 Toyota Avalon, 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. The problem is Toyota will only honor the original three year, 36,000 mile warranty. 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. At this it couldn’t hurt to file a complaint with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on their website: Perhaps if enough consumers do this it could trigger a recall.

Q. Before I lost my original car key to my 2005 Ford Mustang, I had a duplicate made at a local store. The duplicate key starts and runs the car with no problem.  Now, for some reason the original key is lost, so I went to the same store to make another duplicate (just-in-case) with the non original key. When I went to start the car, the duplicate key and the first duplicate failed to start the car. Mind you, I drove the car to the store to make the key with no problem. Have you ever heard of anything like this? My question is how do I get a new car key made without it costing me an arm and a leg?

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A. Your Mustang, like many other cars, has an anti-theft system that is tied into the key called PATS (passive anti-theft system). To add an additional key you need to have two original keys to program the replacement key. At this point I believe you will need to visit a Ford dealer or a full service locksmith to get the programming sorted out.

Q. I am hoping that you can help me with a malfunctioning convertible hardtop on a 1998 Mercedes Benz SLK 230. My parents bought the aforementioned car new but very seldom drove it or opened the convertible hardtop. The car currently has approximately 15,000 miles on it. The problem is that the convertible hardtop has never worked consistently. Sometimes it will go up and down but other times it will get stuck halfway or not work at all but. Sometimes if you let it sit overnight it may work the next day.  I had an occasion where I had to drive it with the trunk halfway open and the top half way up because it stopped midway. I have had it serviced over six times at authorized Mercedes dealerships and by private individual certified Mercedes mechanics. I have replaced 4 of what I am told of what I am told are approximately 26 electrical sensors that relate to the convertible top. I’m not using the convertible hardtop for fear that it will not go back up. I was told by the mechanic that there is no recall on the car but that there is a technical service bulletin regarding the convertible hardtop. I would appreciate any advice that you can give me to fix this very annoying problem.

A. Hardtop convertibles are extremely complex and it is not a huge surprise because as these systems age, they can have some problems. The dealer is correct, there are many sensors and motors that run this system and they are very difficult to diagnose. The most common issue seems to be a problem with the front micro-switches. A technician will need to do some disassembly of the roof to inspect the switches.

Q. I own a 2001 Lexus RX300 that has developed oil gelling. There was a recall notice that once stated if you had problems with oil consumption to see a dealer. This recall came in 2002 and I never had any problems till now. The recall only gave me protection for eight years from the time I purchased the car back in 2001. Now that I have this problem is there anything I can do about it. I have heard about putting additives into the oil or using synthetic oil to help prevent my engine from being damaged. What should I do?  

A. Oil gelling happens generally from the heating and oxidation of oil. Over time the oil will then turn into a gooey sludge. Indicators on your next course of repair would be how much sludge there is in the engine and if there is any damage. Regarding Toyota standing by their product, even though Toyota settled a class action suit in 2007, I don’t see them offering any relief on an 11 year old vehicle. You could try to use an additive such as Toyota’s engine oil cleaner or SeaFoam. Then change the oil while it is hot to allow any sludge to drain while it is held in suspension in the hot oil. Using synthetic oil has the advantage of having superior cleaning properties. The possible down side of synthetic oil and additives is that depending on engine condition, washing away sludge may cause some oil leaks.