Q: I am due for new brake pads for my 2011 Cadillac SRX. Searching brake shops, I find a wide range of prices starting at $99 per axle from a national chain to $199 from a Cadillac dealer. What should I be asking for?
A: Brake friction materials must comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. That said, many low-cost brake pads wear quicker than higher-priced ones. They also might produce more brake dust that deposits on your wheels. I prefer to go with ceramic brake pads that tend to fade less than organic or semi-metallic pads.
Dust in the wind
Q: I have experienced a problem on several trucks with the outside of tires, usually on the driver's side. A rust-colored film, like dirt, will cover part of the tire and sometimes the whole tire. It can't be cleaned with soap, water and a brush. I have to use a tire cleaner and scrub it until it disappears. It happens frequently. Any ideas?
A: See the mention above of brake dust. It is tenacious. Soap and water seldom do the job. Use a good wheel cleaner. Avoid acid cleaners that can damage alloy wheels. Rinse the stuff off pronto.
A power move
Q: I learned an important lesson after buying an inexpensive cigarette lighter air compressor. These pumps draw a lot of power from the outlet. Based on my experience, you want to turn off things like the headlights and even the radio to allow enough juice to be available for the air compressor.
A: Many new cars come without a spare tire. Instead, they have a kit containing a can of tire sealer and a 12-volt compressor. These compressors are much more efficient than the cheap ones.
Q: Several years ago I had the constant problem of one or two inches of water in the trunk. I punched a hole in the floor of the trunk. Worked perfectly.
A: Back in the olden days, car trunks had drain holes with rubber plugs. If you decide to make your own holes, I suggest you put stoppers in them or you might find even more water in the trunk after driving though a deep puddle. Better yet, find and seal the leak that let in water in the first place.
All it's cracked up to be
Q: I own a 2006 Ford Mustang, and within a couple of months of my owning it, a small rock hit the windshield and made a little crack. I went to the car dealership and they used some kind of glue or whatever to fix it. It worked. The crack never got bigger.
A: What you had was a bull's-eye chip. Chips can be filled with a UV-activated resin that prevents a chip from becoming a crack. Auto glass companies offer this service, typically for less than $100. And insurance coverage often pays all of it.
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.