Motormouth: Yes, adaptive cruise signals slowdowns with brake lights

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Q: While using adaptive cruise control at highway speeds, any vehicle that cuts in front of me can cause my car to slow down rather quickly. I can see that this could present a problem for any cars behind me. Are brake lights activated when ACC is slowing the car down to give a warning to cars directly behind me?

— J.L., Homer Glen, Ill.

A: Short answer: Yes. The brake pedal needn’t move as there is no switch connecting electricity to the bulbs in the back. Instead, the controller area network module sends a signal to the brake lights node to illuminate.

Q: I’m wondering about this new design that’s been around for years now. I don’t get how this lack of any bumper protection to the front of a new shiny car is acceptable by buyers. It could be so easily damaged on the first day.

— A.K., Skokie, Ill.

A: It may appear that the front of the car is simply a shapely body, but hidden underneath there is protection. Of course, all that body, trim and fancy lights will cost a lot to repair, but the driver, if not his pocketbook, is safe.

Q: I have a 2019 Ford Escape with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. The owner’s manual states oil should be changed every 10,000 miles, while the dealer states every 5,000 miles. I drive primarily highway miles, about 600 miles per week. What do you recommend for service intervals?

— S.P., McHenry, Ill.

A: Full synthetic 5W-30 motor oil is specified and it ain’t cheap. Why pay twice for more frequent oil changes than necessary? The Ford Motor Company wants you to be happy with your car and that is serves you well enough and long enough that you will buy another Ford when the time comes. Follow the manual.

Q: I bought a 2017 Toyota RAV4 with 24,300 miles in October, 2019. I took it for first oil change since then and service person said it needed a battery. When asked why a 3-year-old car with that few miles would need a new battery, he suggested because it wasn’t driven enough.

My wife drives a 2014 Ford Escape with less than 38,000 miles and the dealer has never said we needed a new battery. Do you have information about the quality of Toyota batteries? Would you recommend new a new dealer and get a second opinion?

— R.L., Bensenville, Ill.

A: I would always suggest getting a second opinion when something sounds fishy. I can’t vouch for the current battery or how it was maintained or abused, but since it still starts the vehicle, I would question the need. Most auto parts stores will gladly do a free battery test while you watch and give you the data (often as a printout) to help you decide. Many repair shops will do the same.

Q: Back in the ’50s my dad would say, “Let’s blow the carbon out” and we’d take a ride way out to O’Hare Field. We’d watch a plane land, or, on a big day, two planes, then head back home on the highway to give the car a run. Ever since, in our family. whenever someone was going to party hard they’d say, “I’m gonna blow the carbon out!”

— M.H., Chicago

A: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and loudly proclaiming, ‘Wow! What a Ride!’ ” ? Hunter S. Thompson



Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber’s work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.

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