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Car Doctor: Recycled oil may prove popular

Posted by John Paul  May 30, 2011 10:43 PM

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Q. I just finished reading your column about recycled motor oil. I’m a shade tree mechanic, and I’ve never considered using anything other than new lubes in my cars. You indicated that you use synthetic oil in your cars. When I first changed the oil in my Miata, I put in Pennzoil synthetic 5W-20. I’ve heard many opinions as to how many miles I should go between changes. One mechanic said that “motor oil is motor oil and should be changed after no more than 3,000 miles, even if it’s synthetic.” I decided that was too often and change oil and filter after 5,000 miles. Is this too often with synthetic oil?

A. Both cars in my family have recommended oil change intervals of 7,500 miles, and I try to never exceed this mileage even when using synthetic oil. I continue to check the oil every 1,000 miles, and change it every 7,500 miles. Regarding recycled oil, I have never used it, at least not yet. The concept of recycled oil is not new; the military has been using it for years. Recently, Valvoline introduced 50 percent recycled oil that meets and exceeds all industry standards. If this proves to be a success, I’m sure other oil companies will follow.

Q. I have a 1997 Ford Ranger with 115,000 miles on it and the original clutch. I do 90 percent of my driving around town and I believe I’m pretty easy on the clutch. How long can a clutch last?

A. A clutch, like brakes, is one of the few repairs in a vehicle that is truly related to the driver. I have seen a clutch last from as little as 5,000 miles to more than 150,000 miles. A high performance sports car like a Porsche, when driven aggressively, may get only 500-700 miles before needing replacement. At 14 years old and 115,000 miles, your clutch will probably need replacement in the near future.

Q. I want to buy a scan tool that will read clear codes for cars and light trucks. I have less than $100 to spend, what would you buy?

A. Years ago scan tools and even code readers were quite costly; today they have come down in price considerably. There are several code-readers that can read and erase fault codes for less than $75. But if I were shopping for an inexpensive tool, I would look for one that not only reads codes but also determines if the various emissions monitors have been set. This is a handy feature if you have performed a repair to pass a state emissions inspection test.

Q. I have a 2006 Subaru WRX with its original factory battery. Recently, during an oil change at the dealer, they tested it (an up-sell I’m sure) and found it to be at 65 percent capacity. I’m not sure what that means exactly, but they recommended replacement. I did not have any starting issues this past winter, or at any other time. What are your recommendations for changing the car battery, and what are the implications of waiting until next winter?

A. The typical life of a battery is three to five years. With a battery at 65 percent capacity, its life could be best described as marginal. Although most people think that batteries work hardest in winter, it is actually the hot weather that shows a battery’s weakness. Considering the battery in your car is five years old, replacing it is most likely money well spent.

Q. I have a 2001 Caddy, and it will stall from time to time. I had it repaired at a local garage and they replaced one of the crank shaft sensors. I thought the car was fixed, but about a week ago it stalled again. What do you think could be wrong?

A. I think your repair shop was on the right track. The most common problem with intermittent stalling is a faulty crank shaft sensor. The problem is there are two sensors, and General Motors recommends replacing both sensors with an updated part.

Q. On television I always see celebrities driving Range Rovers. Is it just a status thing or are these vehicles really capable of handling more than Beverly Hills traffic?

A. I have driven several Range Rovers and find them comfortable, powerful, and able to handle serious off-road driving challenges. In Beverly Hills, though, I suspect it is all about image and not the ability for a vehicle to drive over a fallen tree and through streams, mud, and snow.

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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