Motormouth: Hitting the brakes
Q: With the advent of adaptive cruise control, my question is, do the brake lights come on when the system detects a need to slow down, especially when it is somewhat abrupt?
— S.M., Round Rock, Texas
A: Yes, they do. Any time the brakes are applied, either by you or the computer, the brake lamps will illuminate. Adaptive cruise control (ACC) will apply the brakes when exceeding the cruise setting when going downhill and the brake lights will illuminate. If the car slows down using engine compression (lifting your foot from the gas) the brake lights will not come on.
Q: Your recent column discussed downshifting vs. braking. Without braking on either a car or motorcycle, the brake lights don’t illuminate. A friend, a closet engineer, helped his son install an inertia switch that lights up the brake light on his motorcycle, so when he downshifts to slow down, common on motorcycles, he is warning followers. Should be standard, I would think.
— D.H., Willow Brook, Ill.
A: Cool idea but probably not approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Q: When my daughter complained about her painful headrest, I remembered my teen years and all those beautiful hot rods the guys were creating. I suggested taking her car to an auto upholstery shop. They were able to peel off the seat back covers and readjust the headrest.
— E.R., Bloomington, Minn.
A: Auto upholstery shops can not only repair ripped, torn and stained stuff, they are the best source of custom work such as rolled and pleated seats. They are also often a less expensive option than factory installed leather.
Q: I have a 2020 Civic and was using the lane assist feature. The main road took a long sweeping curve to the left, but there was also a Y with a much smaller road straight ahead. The solid white line on the right shoulder was painted about 80% across the smaller road’s right lane. When I crossed over the solid white line going straight, the lane assist feature almost ripped the steering wheel out of my hand and slammed on the brakes.
— C.B., Emmaus, Pa.
A: Lane departure warning (LDW) systems provide an audible and/or tactile warning. Lane keeping assist (LKA) takes control of the steering. A Honda CR-V owner wrote to Consumer Reports, saying that LKA is unreliable. “A lot of times it refuses to detect the highway lanes especially at nighttime and even in rainy weather. It's also unpredictable with some moderate turns on the highway.” A Honda Odyssey driver added, “I have found the lane assist feature troublesome. It detects lane departures when there are none and gets confused by some line markings.” You can deactivate the Honda lane keeping assist system by pressing the “main” button on the steering wheel until LKAS is displayed.
Q: My wife and I want to take a 3,500-mile road trip in November in our Lexus 470 that has 160,000 miles on it. Although the vehicle has been well maintained over the years, I am concerned about certain parts failing like ignition, fuel pump, water pump, hoses, etc. Can you provide some advice as to whether I should or shouldn’t take the vehicle and if so, what I should I have my mechanic do to prepare for the trip?
— T.M., North Barrington, Ill.
A: Today, 160,000 miles is nothing. Parts and components seemingly last forever, at least 200,000 miles. The only thing I would suggest is an oil change, so you won’t have to interrupt your trip if the reminder comes on.
(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.)