Q. I purchased a new Toyota Sequoia with leather seats in January. It still has a rather strong "new-car smell," so much so that after 10 minutes I get headaches and have trouble breathing even with windows down.
The dealer says the odor is normal and should fade. The SUV has only 1,500 miles on it because I get sick when I drive it. Is it the leather seats? What can I do?
A. The smell is so bad it makes you sick within 10 minutes, yet you didn't notice it when you took a test drive? You did take a test drive? Whether you buy a vehicle in stock or one delivered later, get in; make sure you got all the equipment you paid for; that all buttons, dials and levers work; and then take it for a drive to ensure all is well. If you had done this, you would have spotted the problem in January.
The so-called "new car smell" doesn't last this long. Did the dealer use any liquid treatments on the seats, dash, trim or carpets that could cause lingering odors or did you add rustproofing or exterior body sealants whose odor makes you ill? Check the bill of sale to see whether any such treatment was added that could be the cause and, if so, ask the dealer to professionally remove it.
Q. I received a letter from a friend in Ireland about the Honda Accord diesel offered there, a 2.2-liter 4-cylinder that averages about 52 m.p.g. in the city and 61 m.p.g. on the highway. It makes me want to hold off buying an Accord until the diesel is offered here in 2009. Now I understand why Honda is pursuing diesel technology rather than concentrating on hybrids.
D.T., Elwood, Ill.
A. Hold on. Don't rule out diesel/electric hybrids to conserve diesel fuel. As for your letter, any vehicle that can get 52/61 without the added cost of hybrid power would be attractive. Honda is bringing a 4-cylinder diesel here in 2009, but Ireland has different roads and different fuel prices than the U.S. so the diesel here may be calibrated for a little more performance and a little less mileage. You are sold on diesel now, but when more of a barrel of crude goes into making home heating fuel than gas or diesel fuel, diesel will cost a dime or two more than gas.
Q. I just purchased two new tires for a 1999 Chevy Malibu. The tire store said I should put the two new tires on the rear. I've always heard to put the new tires on the drive wheels, in this case the front. What do you suggest?
A. Bill VandeWater, director of consumer products for Bridgestone Firestone, gave us a lengthy, detailed and somewhat complex reply to your question regarding the effects of traction and wheel slippage when trying to make a sudden turn on wet pavement. Let's just say VandeWater says the new tires should go on the rear. By putting the tires with the better traction upfront you are increasing the likelihood of oversteer in a panic situation and "when in oversteer your natural reaction is to slam on the brakes which makes the situation worse." Putting the new tires on the rear can create understeer, "which is much more manageable," he said.
Readers swamped us with suggestions for the motorist looking for a universal signal to say they're sorry. A tiny sampling:
Q. There are two simple signals -- holding thumb and forefinger to your temple in a mock gesture of shooting yourself or a mock slashing of your throat.
J.K., Bloomington, Ind.
A. Let's emphasize "mock" because the roads are clogged, and we don't need any more needless idling.
Q. I read some years ago that using the "peace sign" is a good way to convey an apology when you do something dumb while driving.
A. Yes, if the driver offended remembers the sign.
Q. When I make a stupid driving mistake, I'll bang my fist against the top of my head above an ear.
A. Hope you don't make mistakes often.
Q. To signal an apology, I raise both hands, as in surrender, and duck my head.
L.G., Buffalo Grove
A. While traveling at 65 m.p.h.?
Q. The car backed rapidly out of the parking space and almost hit me. A frightened child looked out of the window at me as the mother saw my car. She smacked her forehead with the palm of her right hand. I laughed in relief.
A. Hope her kid got a chuckle.
Q. The most obvious thing to do is catch up to the "victim," mouth "my fault" and shrug my shoulders.
A. Racing to catch up to the car you just violated seems an honorable, but risky move, as does shrugging your shoulders, which some might mistake as a "so what" on your part.
Thanks to all who wrote.
Send questions about cars and trucks to Jim Mateja, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., 4th Floor, Chicago IL 60611, or send e-mail with name and hometown to transportation @tribune.com.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times