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Rusting Hyundai, Noisy Belts and Driving for Seniors

Posted by John Paul  April 24, 2012 01:27 PM

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Q. Three years ago, my 2004 Hyundai XG350 was recalled due to sub frame rotting. The dealer drilled holes in the frame and applied an anticorrosive, according to manufacturer's guidelines. Last week, the car started pulling to the right and sliding across the road when I hit small bumps. I thought it needed an alignment, but when it got on the lift, turns out the entire sub frame had rotted from the inside out. The dealer is replacing sub frame at his cost, but I am worried about the stability of the fix, whether or not the car will be right once it is repaired. What would you do?

A. If the rust is confined to the sub frame only, once the sub frame is replaced then the car should be fine. From everything I have seen and read the sub frame was designed in such a way that water would enter and not drain, causing the corrosion problem. The new design frame has additional drain holes as well as superior anti-corrosion treatment.

Q. For most of my first 40 years of driving, I cannot remember ever having a problem with my car's belts making noise like my current Honda Civic. Suddenly, in the last few years, the belts squeal, no matter how much they are tightened. I have even had the belts changed but it still happens, more so with the A/C on. I even hear other cars on the road do this. What's going on here, all of a sudden?

A. I have found that if the drive belts and the belt adjustment or tensioner are good, the belts should be silent. One area that is often overlooked is the alignment of the belts. A good technician will usually take a straight-edge and check for proper pulley alignment. In addition, some Honda Civics have had a problem with the water pump pulley coming loose.

Q. I’m in Canada and read your column on-line. We have a 2004 Pontiac Vibe with 92,700 KM (about 68,000 miles) on it, of which we generally have had good luck. It's going to need about $1200 in brakes and tires later this year, and the CD player is shot. Otherwise, it's fine, in great shape with no accidents, and never had any problems. We are considering a 2012 Toyota Matrix. I’m sort of semi-retired and money is very tight. My dilemma is this: whether to get the new vehicle, or to drive the Vibe until it quits. A new and better vehicle seems pretty attractive, what’s your advice?

A. The Pontiac Vibe, as you may know, is the twin to the Toyota Matrix. The reliability has been very good. One problem is trade-in. Although the car is reliable, trading in a car that is not made any more is going to severely affect its value. Although a new car seems attractive, my feeling is that it is always cheaper to keep an old reliable car than buy a new one.

Q. When buying a new car, where can I find out important information such as how much oil the engine holds, if it has a timing belt, when that belt needs changing, and other important information? Over the years I have found both the dealer and the owner’s manuals to be wrong.

A. The owner’s manual is usually a good place to start, but like you, I have seen wrong information (misprints). I use AllData, a technical database. What I like about this system as opposed to print material is that it is internet based, and if there is wrong information, it can be corrected almost immediately. AllData ( does have a consumer version which can be purchased for one make of car and is quite inexpensive.

Q.This isn’t really a car question but more about driving. My mother is 88 years old and still drives. Does AAA have any resources that I can sit down with my mom and access her driving skills? I looked into some actual driving evaluations, but they are very pricey.

A. AAA has a new website the focuses only on senior driving. It has a variety of online tools, suggestions and material that you may both benefit from. Subjects include night driving, technical questions, transportation assistance and a ask the expert section. The website is

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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.
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