The Car Doc on noisy brakes and extreme weather, tricky transmissions, and more

John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,” answers readers’ car-related questions.
John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,” answers readers’ car-related questions.
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Q. Could you please advise me of a good choice for an automobile purchase? I currently have a six-year-old Nissan Altima which I have enjoyed. I would like your input for a Toyota Camry or Ford Fusion. My other thought is a used Infiniti, what do you think?

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A. The Ford Fusion is a very nice and stylish car and with the availability of all-wheel-drive makes it a better choice for Northeast winters. If you were comparing a front wheel drive Fusion and a Camry, the Toyota historically is a better choice, due to reliability and resale value. Regarding the Infiniti, it will have a bit more technology and be a bit more luxurious. Keep in mind it is used car and you can expect some repairs and a shorter warranty, but it might look better in your driveway.

Q. My 2009 Nissan Altima with very low miles has a problem with the brakes; they grind in extreme heat and extreme cold. This noise disappears after driving for just a short distance. I had the brakes checked twice and the dealer says they are okay. Does this sound right?

A. The original front brake pads on some Nissan products are prone to squeaking and noise. The remedy is to replace the pads with an updated set. If this car still has the original brakes after all this time the pads could be the problem. Talk to your dealer about performing the update or replacing the pads with a high-quality aftermarket brake pad..

Q. Have you had a chance to look at the Chevy Malibu? My Chevy Impala lease is almost over and I’m thinking of buying a Malibu as my retirement car. What if anything would you compare it with?

A. The Chevy Malibu is a much better car than the last generation car. The ride is quite good, the handling better than expected, the fuel economy is quite good and performance should more than satisfy most drivers. In addition the interior borders on some of the best quality from Europe. I would shop the Malibu against the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry. Any of these cars would have trounced the previous generation Malibu. That has all changed with this latest model based on my last road test I would put the redesigned Malibu at the top of the list.

Q. I’m getting a little older and wonder about changing a flat tire, especially getting the wheel lose. Today the lug wrenches are very small and I’m not sure I have the strength to get everything loose. Any suggestions?

A.The cheapest solution is to get a long breaker bar and deep socket. This should give you the extra leverage you need to get the lugs loose. Recently I have been testing a 12 volt LI-ION battery powered cordless impact gun. It is lightweight and is strong enough to loosen and tighten most lug-nuts and also has a handy built in LED light. Check out this tool and others at

Q. I have a 2007 Chevy Tahoe with 83,000 miles on it. Last night when leaving a parking lot and pulling onto road the transmission came out of gear and the engine revved up. I let off the gas and took it out of drive. When I put it in D or 3 it won’t move but, if I put it in 2 it will take off and then I can shift up to D and run fine. When I put it in D or 3 it won’t take off. It won’t downshift when I slow down. The fluids are fine and everything looks hooked up from a visual inspection. What the heck happened?

A. There certainly could be several answers to this problem depending on which transmission is in your vehicle. More than likely one of the clutches has failed. The transmission will need to be disassembled and inspected to find the problem.

Q. My car would not start. AAA came by and the jumpstart turned the engine but it would not stay on, the battery tested out to be OK. My questions are; could it be the alternator or is it something simpler? The car is a 1997 Saturn with only 64,000 miles. Should I think about a replacement car?

A. The problem is more than likely a faulty alternator, fuse or wiring problem. Considering the low mileage, it is hard to imagine not having it repaired. Regarding is it time for replacement, a newer car will most likely be more dependable, more economical and produce lower emissions and have the latest safety features. One issue that you need to think about is that Saturn is no longer making cars which could make future repairs a bit more difficult, not impossible but could take longer than normal.