Weekly auto column, with tire tips, Car Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week


Fewer than 8 percent of vehicles have four properly inflated tires, according to a Rubber Manufacturers Association-sponsored national tire pressure survey. Worse, at least 20 percent of vehicles were found to have at least one tire under-inflated by at least 8 psi.


Driving on under-inflated tires can significantly affect fuel economy and safety. The U.S. Department of Energy says that properly inflated tires can improve fuel economy by 3.3 percent and help you save 9 cents per gallon at the pump. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) estimates that under-inflated tires contribute to more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries a year.


To help keep your car and tires road-worthy, follow these tips and play your "P.A.R.T." That stands for pressure, alignment, rotation and tread, which are the key elements of monthly tire maintenance.


- Pressure: Check tire pressure monthly before you drive with a tire gauge and inflate to vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure.


- Alignment: Misalignment of wheels can cause uneven and rapid tread wear.


- Rotation: Rotate every 5,000 to 8,000 miles to help you achieve more uniform wear.


- Tread: Bald tires are dangerous. Insert a penny, head first, into the tread groove. If you see all of Lincoln's head, it's time for a new tire.


- ARA


The List


According to www.kbb.com, here are the coolest cars that you can get for less than $18,000:


- 2011 Ford Fiesta


- 2010 Honda Civic


- 2010 Honda Fit


- 2010 Hyundai Elantra Touring


- 2010 Kia Soul


- 2010 Mazda MAZDA3


- 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer


- 2010 Nissan Cube


- 2010 Scion xB


- 2010 Suzuki SX4


Did You Know


Nissan’s electric car, the Leaf, has already received 13,000 preorders, according to the company. To preorder yours, contact your local Nissan dealer. A $99 deposit is required.


Car Q&A


Q: I recently took my 2007 Chevrolet Impala to the selling dealer because my check-engine light was on and I needed the New York state inspection sticker. The dealer repaired the car and flushed both the engine cooling system, transmission and fuel injectors for a sum of $1,400. I did not approve all the work to be done. What can I do?


A: The dealer is obligated to inform you of any repair or maintenance work to be done before the service is performed. In reading your letter it does not indicate you were notified and the service repair order was not signed by you. Check with the dealer for a partial refund. If they will not comply, if you paid for the service with a credit card you can follow the instructions to put the bill in contest. If you paid in cash or check you will have to go to the small claims court in your local town. You can also notify the local consumer agencies and write to Chevrolet motor division.


- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist


GateHouse News Service