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Car Doctor: Perhaps you saw a T-Rex?

Posted by John Paul  January 14, 2011 04:12 PM

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(Clifford Atiyeh/ Staff)

The Campagna T-Rex 14R, made in Montreal, spotted on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton last spring.

Q. I have an odd question for you. Twice in the last week I have seen two vehicles that look like a cross between a motorcycle and an oversized go-kart. This wasn't a microcar from the 1950s, it was modern-looking. I wasn't able to stop and ask the driver in either case. It was very cool looking. Any ideas?

A. There have been a few cars that match your description. If it looked like a fuselage of a fighter-jet it was a Pulse (no longer made). If it was open on the sides it was most likely a T-Rex. The T-Rex is built in Canada and is classified as a motorcycle and you need to wear a helmet to drive it. The T-Rex is very fast, but not cheap. You will need about $50,000 to own one.

Q. I had my car parked at the airport for five days over Christmas. When I went to drive the car home it was shaking violently. The next day I went out and it was just as bad. By day three I drove the car and it was fine. What could have happened?

More than likely it was nothing more than snow and ice frozen to the wheels. The ice caused the wheels to be out of balance. Once the weather warmed up and the ice melted, the tires were again balanced.

Q. I own a 2007 Mercury Milan with a V-6 engine and all-wheel-drive. During recent standard maintenance visits at two different dealerships I was told that my car was overdue for the 30,000 mile transmission fluid and filter change. Each time I rechecked my owner's manual and it said I only needed to "inspect" the fluid. It said nothing of changing it on the owner's website, either, yet the dealers said it was a necessity. I hope you can clear up the confusion on which is the correct action.

A. Certainly changing the transmission fluid can't hurt, but unless the fluid shows characteristics of overheating, it isn't necessary. Even if you use the severe service schedule provided by Ford/Mercury, the transmission fluid is not scheduled for a change until 60,000 miles. I believe this is strictly a recommendation by the servicing dealers and not one of Ford Motor Company.

Q. I have a 2008 Honda CRV and it is reaching 50,000 miles on its original tires. I read in your column that some brands of tires are more fuel-efficient than others. I think it was Michelin, but I am not sure. Do you have any recommendation for a good all-season tire that wears well, helps with fuel efficiency, and does not break the bank? The originals are Bridgestone and have worn well.

A. Considering you were happy with the Bridgestone tires, staying with them may be a good idea. Bridgestone does make a low rolling resistance tire. Some studies have shown that these tires could improve your vehicle's fuel economy by three to four percent without compromising handling or tread life.

Q. I have a Nissan pickup and the rear differential has started to make a clunking noise. I had it checked at a local garage and was told the entire differential needs replacing. When I asked about using a part from a junkyard, they told me the part wouldn't last and suggested only new parts. What do you think?

A. I see no reason why you couldn't use a used differential. Most good salvage yards will check out and guarantee the parts they sell.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at or on Twitter @johnfpaul.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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