READER QUESTIONS: Driver has bright bulb moment
I have a 2015 Toyota Corolla Ascent Sport with halogen projector headlights with low and high beam incorporated into one. I do a lot of night driving and want to upgrade my lights. Is it possible to use bi-xenon or LEDs without replacing the whole headlight assembly, or are better halogen globes my only option?
Charlie Webster, email
Headlight tests have shown we shouldn't assume one globe technology is better than another - there are numerous variables. You definitely don't want to replace your assembly, so ask your local auto store to advise on the highest power globes available to fit your Corolla, and if they'd allow you to return them if you weren't satisfied. An alternative would be to fit an LED light bar (only about $100) as a back-up for your headlights.
Re pedal confusion among older drivers. Since the majority of today's cars are automatic, perhaps it would be smart to follow the instruction I got at an advanced driving course - use the left foot for braking and the right foot for acceleration. I've done this for 40 years and never had a "pedal confusion". I am 84 and have driven millions of miles over 60-plus years and would pit my ability against any mid-age range driver today.
James Aitken, email
I've been driving 54 years. My present car has its brake pedal further to the left than older cars, with the accelerator pedal closer to the centre rather than the right of the foot well, which I find very disconcerting. We have adjustable seats and steering wheels, why not adjustable pedals?
Walter Jackson, email
Interesting points, Walter. Some US pick-ups and SUVs have height adjustable pedals for shorter drivers - but, race cars apart, I don't know of any pedals that shift sideways. Some experts suggest driving with two feet in automatic cars could be safer (ie, left-foot braking), but that's another controversial subject.
After five days with my Mercedes on blocks in the garage, I'd advise anyone with run-flat tyres to buy a full-size spare. After struggling to drive home with a 100mm nail stuck in it I was told I needed a new tyre. There were no Continentals (as fitted) of that spec in Australia, so my alternative was two Pirellis (Australian Design Rules won't allow mixed tyres on the front apparently), with $100 extra for express delivery. My advice to anyone with run-flats is buy a spare and put it in the garage and if you drive more than 20km pack your luggage around it. When I put a full-size tyre in the back my insurance company cancelled my cover as they said it did not comply with the ADRs and could burst through the back in an accident and decapitate me. Strange how when I asked what to do with my 25kg suitcase the phone went dead. What's next, no boot in cars?
Tom Ainsworth, email
Before taking a test drive in a new car recently I was asked to sign a form agreeing to a $1000 excess in case of an accident. At least they told me about it. I wonder whether people realise the financial risk of these "complimentary" vehicles, especially if the excess is even greater than $1000?
David McIntosh, email
You're right, it pays to read the fine print. If the excess looks excessive I'd refuse to sign it. Dealers should be reluctant to lose a potential sale and be reasonable, but they of course have to protect their investment.
Re car industry secrecy. Your story quotes VW's Jason Bradshaw on the brand's "openness" by publishing on its website "performance of each dealer based on direct feedback of 80,000 customers annually". Having owned a VW for eight years, I almost fell off my chair laughing. There's no mention of what each star represents or whether five stars represents any form of customer satisfaction. Five stars may equate to 50 per cent satisfied. Only Volkswagen knows the rating criteria.
Don McCoole, email
The report has certainly sparked discussion. Of the car brands canvassed, only VW and Hyundai said they would share customer review results (as long as other brands did), which is praiseworthy. VW's dealer reviews on its website don't offer detail beyond overall star figures, which typically averages of 4.5 to 5 stars. As a Golf owner, I completed an online satisfaction survey post-service and gave it a high star rating. However, the same dealership did a phone survey and asked me: "Do you have any reason to not give five stars?" It was certainly a loaded question, to which most would reply "no".
I own a 2008 Kia Rio LX and the original battery is as strong as ever after 10 years. The handbook says it's calcium based and maintenance free; how is this different to other batteries and is this why it's been trouble-free for so long?
Gordon Higgins, email
Calcium batteries are still lead-acid batteries and typically sealed like your Kia's. Calcium is used in the plates to better resist corrosion and damage from higher temperatures, which should increase their life. Yours has done well; about six years is typical life expectancy.
A current TV commercial for the Toyota RAV4 ends with the description "auto CVT". Surely the transmission has to be one or the other. Which is it?
Mike Hepburn, email
A continuously variable transmission is automatic in that you don't need to change any gears yourself - just stick it in drive and press the accelerator. There are no set gear ratios as in a conventional automatic. So can a CVT really be classified as "automatic"? This has the makings of a good pub argument about semantics for the engineers out there.
In my new Holden Colorado, the outside temperature gauge appears to read up to
3 degrees higher than the true ambient temperature. Holden says it can't be fixed. If not, why not?
Michael Donaldson, email
Yes. Car thermometers (or thermistors to use the technical term; they also record coolant and oil temperatures) can't operate in the controlled way that meteorologists use to measure temperatures. Engine heat, road surface heat and direct sunlight all wreak havoc on readings. Generally it's more accurate when you're on the move or at night.
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