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Car Doctor, help me pick out a new truck!

Posted by John Paul  May 22, 2012 08:58 AM

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Q. I’m considering a new full sized pickup truck but the choices are dizzying. When I was growing up, you purchased a Chevy for a car and a Ford for a truck. Now, with pickups from Toyota, Nissan, Ford, Dodge and Chevy, I’m a bit confused. Of the five most popular makes, is there one that you like better than the other?

A. The reality is that you can’t go wrong with any of these choices, they are all good trucks. I have had the opportunity to drive all of the full sized trucks, and the one that is the clear winner to me is the Chevrolet, or its stable-mate the GMC. I recently drove the four-door short bed Silverado 1500. I found it to be as comfortable as any sedan with every available creature comfort you would find in any passenger car. This model happened to be four wheel drive, and it handled poor weather well, with first rate ride and handling. Although I never hit the EPA fuel economy numbers, I did average about 16 MPG. If you are thinking used, recently the Chevrolet pick-up truck won The Wheels TV previous owned vehicle of the year award.

Q. I own and drive a 2009 VW Jetta and the tire pressure warning light comes on way too often. The dealer tells me this is an ongoing problem with this car. Do I consider my car a lemon and get rid of it or find an independent shop that might have the answer?

A. I have not heard of any on-going problems with the tire pressure monitoring system in your Volkswagen. You never mentioned if there is an issue with air pressure or if the light is just coming on. Most tire pressure monitoring systems will signal a warning if the tire pressure is just a few pounds below the manufactures specifications. At this point, I would be diligent and check the air pressure every few weeks using a tire gauge to determine if the problem is with the tires or the monitoring system. I wouldn’t get rid of a vehicle that you otherwise like just because the TPMS light is coming on.

Q. I read recently that you would help readers decide if the timing belt in their car’s engine needs replacing. I don’t have a fancy computer but thought you still could help. My car is a 2003 Nissan Altima and it only has 44,000 miles on it. It has a six-cylinder engine. And it has been well maintained.

A. The 3.5 liter engine that is in your Altima and popular in many Nissan models uses a timing chain and not a timing belt. Generally, a timing chain requires no regular maintenance.

Q. I have a 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid that I purchased used. It was advertised as getting 34 mpg, doing better in city driving than highway. I've actually been getting about 24 mpg ever since I bought the car. I recently read your tips for better fuel economy, and I pretty much drive according to your suggestions. I've written to Ford and have received no advice other than checking with the service department at my local Ford dealer, which is where I always have my car serviced. The mechanics can't help me, either. Have you any advice?

A. The mileage does seem a bit low but mileage can vary depending on how you drive. Looking at the website, the EPA rates your vehicle at 29 miles per gallon in the city and 27 miles per gallon on the highway. Readers have reported mileage that ranges from 23 miles per gallon to 38 miles per gallon. The last Escape hybrid that I drove averaged 27 miles per gallon. At this point, I would ask the dealer to perform a fuel economy check just to verify the mileage.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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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.
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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.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
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