Q: Do people still install kill switches on their cars? We will travel to many places and probably cover 3,000 to 4,000 miles. Our drive will take us through many states and will have many stops. We’re a little concerned about car theft.
A: Hidden ignition or fuel pump switches were once quite popular and were fairly easy to install.
Today, many cars have built-in anti-theft systems. “Old fashioned” kill switches just aren’t very common. A better option would be to add an aftermarket alarm or vehicle tracking system to prevent theft.
I’m concerned about cutting a wiring harness to add a switch which could potentially cause a problem later on.
I recently drove about 1,600 miles in three days and followed the advice of all police forces: remove or hide valuables, park in well-lit areas, lock the car and take the keys.
Q: What do you think of electric driving in the snow/winter? I know that I left my fully charged cell phone in the car overnight, only to have it almost empty in the morning.
A: Electric cars lose up to 40% of their battery capacity in very cold weather. Although this is not a problem for most EV drivers. Most EV drivers charge their cars every night and many – depending on the car – will prepare the battery and the car before heading out. This method allows you to get into a warm car and maximize battery capacity even when it is cold.
In Norway, where they have quite cold winters, 65% of the cars sold last year were electric.
Q: Any idea about a “PO299” check engine code on a 2017 Chevrolet Malibu and on a 2018 Malibu? This occurs when used in minus-10 degree weather and the indicator light and the reduced power lights are on.
A: The code indicates under-boost of the turbo. The most common problem is dirt, debris and even moisture in the mass air flow sensor.
At those temperatures, the moisture can also freeze when air enters the air intake.
The problem can be solved by cleaning the mass airflow sensor. If not, a closer inspection of the turbocharger is warranted.
Q: My neighbor recently noticed that my driver side brake light on my 2013 Cadillac XTS was not working.
I called my Cadillac dealer and asked if I should bring the car in for a repair or if I could easily handle it myself. After a long pause, the service guy asked me to sit down and told me the bulb was not replaceable and that I would have to replace the entire taillight for over $800, including removing the rear bumper to access it. How so?
A: The LED lamp set can be replaced separately from the entire rear light. The dealer may have wanted to replace the entire assembly from experience that many of these Cadillac bulbs have a water ingress problem causing moisture to get into the taillights.
The typical dealer price for the LED bulbs is about $250, and aftermarket parts can be had for less. Even the original GM part can be purchased online for $125.
There are several YouTube videos you can watch that explain the setup.
Q: I own a 2008 BMW 328 with a 6 cylinder engine that runs through oil. My mechanic tells me it burns a little oil, too little to be noticed by smoke coming out the rear. It seems to consume about a liter every 1500 miles.
The oil gauge also doesn’t seem to be working properly as it rarely reads a full gallon but actually reads ¼ gallon even when my mechanic is changing the oil. I have no doubt that he will put in the full required amount. The car does not seem to be leaking oil.
Six months ago the engine was repaired by the local BMW dealer, whereby the oil filter housing gasket, the oil sump gasket and the cylinder head gasket were replaced.
Given this information, can you give me an idea of the cause of the oil problem?
A: There is probably nothing more than a little wear and tear on the engine. BMW considers a liter of oil consumption in 1,500 miles to be “normal”.
If this was my 14 year old car, I would continue to monitor oil consumption and top up if necessary.
John Paul is the AAA Northeast Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE certified Master Technician. Write to John Paul, The Car Doctor, at 110 Royal Little Drive, Providence, RI 02904. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org and write “Car Doctor” in the subject field. Follow him on Twitter @johnfpaul or on Facebook.
This article originally appeared in The Providence Journal: Can I Add a Kill Switch to Prevent Car Theft?