Q: What is different about the paint jobs on new cars? It looks distinctively different than that on all older cars — like a hard-shell coating.
A: I have noticed the same thing but haven't given it much thought. After all, I'm a nuts-and-bolts guy. So I turned to PPG for help.
"A traditional automotive paint process begins with the application of pretreatment and electrocoat followed by a primer layer. After the primer layer is cured, a topcoat layer of basecoat and clearcoat is applied and cured. The result is a five-layer lustrous and durable paint finish," PPG's Mark Silvey told me.
"Innovations across all five layers of coatings on new cars have enabled automotive manufacturers to continually enhance the appearance of cars, make the coatings more durable and scratch-resistant."
By the book
Q: I own a 2023 Toyota Camry that came with a maintenance plan for the first two years. The first scheduled oil change is not until 10,000 miles (it has synthetic oil). I don't put a lot of miles on the car — 4,000 in the first six months. Is there a time limit for oil if you are below the mileage limit? Also, do you think that 10,000 miles is an excessive amount to wait between oil changes?
A: Full synthetic oil doesn't break down as quickly as semi-syn or regular motor oil. You are safe to follow the book and/or the oil change reminder light.
New disc pads?
Q: Is it necessary to replace brake discs each time the pads are replaced?
A: Rotors (the discs of disc brakes) used to be quite beefy. During a brake job, the mechanic machined them to remove any grooves and other imperfections. Now, rotors are so thin and inexpensive that replacement with a brake job is common.
Q: At 196,000 miles, the check engine light in my four-cylinder Equinox is on with a P0014 and a P0016 code. I'm told I need a timing belt replacement. But no one wants to do it because they tell me the engines aren't designed to last more than 200,000 miles. Chevy recommends a replacement engine for $12,000 (ridiculous!). I'm not ready for the investment in a new car. Is a rebuilt engine a viable option?
A: I have installed many rebuilt engines over the years. They are a considerably less expensive option than new ones. Often, a short block is all you need. The other components get transferred to it.
But your codes are related to the camshaft actuator position sensor, and I would replace that before I'd invest in replacing the engine. If that solves the problem, you still should replace the timing belt soon.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to email@example.com.