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Motormouth: An elusive owner's manual

Q: I read the item (about PDF owner's manuals) with interest. I was in that situation when I bought my 2019 Honda Accord. I wrote to Honda that, when I am on the road and find I need to refer to the manual for example to understand a warning light, I do not want to have to squint at a PDF on my phone to see what's what. I am not a Luddite, but I want a book I can open, find the index, and find what I need. They printed out a bound manual for me at no charge.

— M.H., Racine, Wis.

A: I too prefer hard copies. I am not a technophobe (and would not have joined a mob trying to burn down a stocking factory), yet when recently installing a mesh router, I printed out the manual — double sided, or course. My newspaper even arrives in a box near the road.

Q: About the small "owner's manual" in the glove compartment rather than the full deal, it's a trend for everything these days. One option is sending the PDF to one of the online print shops and get a hard copy made. I ask for "booklet" size (fits better with the gloves) and spiral bound (stays open to a particular page).

— J.D., West Dundee, Ill.

A: Great idea.

Q: My 2016 Lincoln MKC display says "system off to save battery." The dealer replaced the battery under warranty with a new one, but the same message appeared. I'm concerned it will appear again when out of warranty and this model vehicle is discontinued. Should I be concerned that this is a software problem and there is no download to update available from the manufacturer?

— R.M., Crystal Lake, Ill.

A: Your car is actually behaving normally. In order to prevent the battery from discharging to the point that you can no longer start the car, it shuts down nonessential systems. This happens mostly with cars that are not frequently driven, especially in very cold environments. One thing we would have checked, however, is the charging system. The battery needs to be at full charge when you shut down the engine.

Q: I own a 2006 Cadillac DTS with the Northstar V-8 and 98,000 miles. The vehicle runs exceptionally well and the engine has only been serviced by the Cadillac dealer. The vehicle has begun to cut off while in drive with no warning and no check engine light. It starts back up and runs perfectly for weeks or months. A mechanic did a diagnostic test but there were no code errors. What systems should I investigate?

— A.T., Chicago

A: Caddy dealers have very sophisticated testing equipment and in the hands of a well-trained technician it can provide a ton of information. Stuff like short term and long term fuel trim. Yeah, it is rocket science. Systems can be observed in real time as well as report older data. Not every problem sets a trouble code, only those that have something to do with emissions. Of course, that covers a lot of ground. If you dealer doesn't have techs with up-to-date training, seek another dealer.

Q: My Toyota Camry Solara convertible has 72,316 miles on it and I'm concerned about when I should replace the timing belt. I've been told in the past that the belt probably won't last for much longer than 72,000 mile and if it breaks, it will cause severe (expensive) damage. What are your thoughts on this?

— B.M., Wilmington, Mass.

A: The four-cylinder engines have timing chains and the V-6s have belts, so it depends on your engine. For belts, we suggest replacement sometime between 75,000 and 100,000 miles. It should be stated in your owner's manual, if you can find it.



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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