Viewer-submitted questions for The Car Doctor:

Recall responsibility

Q. I have a 2015 Kia Optima that, at the time of purchase from a used car dealer, had 52,373 miles. The car now has 116,824 miles. This car has been recalled due to an engine problem and the dealer did not complete the recall and I never received a recall notice. As a result of the recall not being completed, the engine seized and needs to be replaced. Is the dealer responsible for the cost of the engine replacement, or am I?

A. The recall was for a knock sensor which, when updated, would alert the driver that the engine was failing and would reduce engine power to minimize damage and prevent potential fires. The recall really did not address the problem of a defective engine. At this point, you are well beyond the used car warranty and unless you can prove that all the maintenance was performed for the 116,824 miles, I don’t even see the latest warranty extension helping out. At this point, you can call Kia customer assistance and explain your situation, but I believe you will be responsible for the repairs. Readers, it always makes sense to actively check for recalls. The NHTSA website and app are easy to navigate and worth checking.

Drying your car

Q. As I am writing this email, I’m watching my neighbor drying off his truck with a leaf blower. Is that a good idea?

A. Using an electric leaf blower is a decent way to dry off a vehicle and will blow out any accumulated debris hidden in nooks and crannies you may have missed while washing it. My only advice is to be thoughtful of your neighbors, not everyone likes the sound of a leaf blower.

Gas quality

Q. I own a 2021 Acura RDX and use regular gas at half a tank. Sometimes I fill up with premium mixing the two octane fuels together. Are there any advantages to spending more money on more expensive gas?

A. According to the Acura owner’s manual the preferred/recommended fuel is 91 octane, which will deliver the best performance and fuel economy. The engine technology will let you use 87-octane fuel without any possibility of engine damage. I would do a little comparison testing. Fill the car with 91 or higher-octane gas and use the onboard computer system to check the miles per gallon. Then fill with 87-octane fuel and try to drive in the same conditions. If the fuel economy is close and the performance has not changed, save money with 87-octane fuel.

Honda wiring

Q. I have a few questions about the insulation used in Honda car wiring. From what I understand, the insulation of Honda car wiring is soy-based. I’ve been the victim of critters eating the wiring of my Honda car and bearing the expense of getting it repaired. Now that Honda knows that little animals like to eat their soy-based wiring insulation, has the company switched to an alternative wiring insulation, or are they still manufacturing new Honda cars with wiring they know will be eaten by critters?

A. I, too, thought the soy-based wiring was an issue, but after talking to engineers at Honda, Ford, and Toyota, found out that while the insulation is soy-based it is not a food-grade material. The previous material was petroleum-based, and the soy-based material was developed to be more environmentally friendly. (In many cars, the seat cushions are also soy-based.) Recently, one of our AAA vans wouldn’t start, and the issue was a huge nest under the hood. In this case, based on the nest, it was likely an opossum. Since rodents and squirrels chew through house and commercial wiring, walls, and other building materials, I don’t believe insulation is the issue. I think the rodent problem is just that – a rodent problem. As we build more and take over open space, these destructive critters move into our vehicles and there’s little we can do but check frequently.

Weird car noise

Q. I have a 2009 two-door Pontiac GT with 138,000 miles. I’ve noticed a little squeal or sort of rubbing sound when I start out and turn left. I had the rack and pinion steering unit replaced a few years ago. Could that be happening again?

A. It is unlikely the steering rack is making noise. It is possible that the drive belt or tensioner is the source. When the engine is started the alternator works harder and the belt may be slipping slightly.

Rattling while accelerating speed

Q. I have a 2014 CRV and it has an odd rattle when driving 22-28mph. It sounds like a ball bearing is out of sync. When you accelerate more it goes away.

A. The first thing to do is go on a road test with a technician so you can demonstrate the noise, that way you’re both on the same page. Some possible causes could be a faulty wheel bearing, a worn tire or something that is vibrating. Once the tires and bearing are ruled out as possible causes, then look for a loose exhaust heat shield or underbody cladding. These items can vibrate and sound like a worn bearing noise. Lastly, the rear differential can get noisy if the fluid isn’t changed. (Note, when changing the fluid, be sure to use only Honda-specified fluid.) 

If you’d like more information, head to AAA Northeast.