Q: I have been reading about the "must haves" for 2020. Several articles have stated that portable car diagnostic tools are one of them. When I go to my dealer or gas station, they use a large diagnostic device to tell me what is wrong. Can these portable tools do the same thing? Bottom line: Are they worth the money?
A: These tools are probably not worth it for the typical car owner. Lower-priced units are not reliable, and upper-end tools have features most people will never use.
The devices provide readouts of the trouble codes for whatever it is that is triggering the check engine light. But the numbers by themselves do you no good. You need to decode the codes, and that means going to your computer and logging onto the product's website.
Most auto parts stores will lend you a reader for free. The staff might even look up the code.
Q: I was given a Volkswagen that was sitting in a barn for 22 years. There is no title. Of course, it doesn't run. Before I sink any money into it, I'd like to have a title. Any idea as to how to obtain one?
A: The first step is to contact the state DMV. Have the vehicle identification number (VIN) handy. You also need to prove that you own the car. Typically, a bill of sale or canceled check suffices. But because you were given the car, you'll need something to prove that signed by the previous owner,
The DMV will tell you if you are eligible for a bonded title. You can get a bond from companies such as Surety Solutions. You may have some leg work to do, but it isn't as hard as it sounds.
This isn't all wet
Q: I have used Rain-X on all my windows for 40 years. The visibility is dramatically improved. In your opinion, how does Rain-X stack up against its competitors?
A: I have been using glass treatments for nearly that long after getting a sample of a precursor of Rain-X that was developed for use on aircraft. Today, there are nearly a dozen products, and all I have tried worked well. I don't plan to rate them in this column, but for those who have never used a rain repellent, try it.
Push aside this idea
Q: When I started to drive, it was very common to start a car by pushing it and then engaging the transmission to turn over the engine. Automatic transmissions put an end to this. I now own a 2018 Subaru Forester with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) and wonder if that car could be started by pushing?
A: Today's engines need enough electrical power to run the engine control module (computer), fuel pump and fuel injectors. If your battery is dead, no amount of pushing, even downhill with a tailwind, will get it started.
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.