Q: My 2006 Kia Optima has 50,000 miles and the dealer has recommended maintenance that is over $2,000. Do you think it is a good idea to go along with the recommended maintenance? The list includes coolant flush, transmission service, power steering flush, fuel induction service, cabin filter, spark plugs, front struts, rear struts and air filter. The car is running just fine at the moment most likely due to low mileage and diligent maintenance on my part.

A: Let's break it down item by item. According to my ALLDATA automotive database, under "severe service" operating conditions Kia recommends coolant replacement at 90,000 miles, automatic transmission fluid replacement at 54,000 miles, air filter and cabin air filter replacement at 30,000-mile intervals, and new spark plugs at 100,000 miles. Some of the service intervals are longer under "normal service" operation. There is no specific recommendation for fuel/induction service, power steering fluid replacement or front/rear struts.

Look in your owner's manual and follow the specific maintenance recommendations from Kia. With the incredible quality of today's motor vehicles, I don't think there's a compelling reason to have additional services performed — especially front and rear strut replacement. Shocks and struts have far better durability than components from past decades. I would suggest you consider strut replacement on an as-needed basis — I doubt you'll feel a deterioration in ride quality and handling before the vehicle reaches 100,000 miles.

Would it be wrong to have the power steering system flushed and refilled now? Or a fuel injection/induction system cleaning performed? No, of course not. Historically I've been somewhat of an "over-maintainer" with the goal of keeping my higher-mileage vehicles running longer. But you have a relatively new vehicle with just 50,000 miles on. Have Kia's recommended maintenance done and keep on doing what you've been doing.

Q: I purchased a 2014 Buick LaCrosse two months ago and presently have 625 miles on it. I plan on driving the car to Naples, Fla., the end of December. Should I have the oil changed prior to my trip? I am concerned that there could be potential impurities in the oil during this "break-in period." The dealership says that there is no need due to improvements in engine design/builds that have taken place over the years. I have always followed this practice of changing oil after a break-in period with the purchase of new car. What do you think?

A: Not to worry. There's no reason to have the oil changed prior to your trip south. Your GM vehicle utilizes an oil life monitoring system that will let you know when it's time for an oil change. This system electronically monitors many factors including number of start-ups, oil and coolant temperatures, throttle setting, manifold pressure, etc. In other words, it monitors how hard the oil is working and notifies you via the oil service reminder when the oil approaches the end of its service life.

The concept of "break-in" for engines is virtually obsolete. Design metallurgy, manufacturing techniques and tolerances are far superior today, and the engine is run on a test stand before it's installed in your vehicle.

Q: My problem is that the A/C compressor on my 2009 Honda Civic is making a lot of noise. I cannot afford to fix it right now. Is there any way to disconnect it since its purpose is for air conditioning only?

A: The easiest short-term solution is to simply turn off the A/C. Leave the "A/C" and "Max A/C" buttons on the HVAC control in the "off" position and the compressor won't engage. The compressor will still engage when "defrost" is selected, but you'll need this function to keep the windshield clear this winter.

Before giving up on the compressor you might want to have the system's refrigerant and oil levels checked and its drive belt inspected — it might not be a serious problem.



Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., 55488 or via email at paulbrand@startribune.com. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.


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