What does that ECO button even do, anyways? (Autoblog).
Dear Car Coach,

I purchased a Honda 2013 Accord 4DR EX-L on Oct. 1, 2012. As time goes by, I have questions and concerns. When I'm driving and then I go to use the brake, the car hesitates or jumps a few times. Also the wheel has an annoying vibration I noticed while driving. When the accelerator is not in use, the vibration is not as bad but the wheel still vibrates. I called the dealer; they assured me this is how the vehicle operates. The car has 2,300 miles. I would like your input on this matter. IK.

Dear IK,

I have heard of this problem from other owners. Some notice the vibration when the engine warms up. The vibration has been consistent in the 1,600 to 1,800 RPM range. In addition, the message boards have lit up with distressed drivers complaining of their Honda Accord vibration problems. If your Honda Accord is shaking or vibrating, make sure you get to an authorized Honda dealership as soon as possible to have the service adviser diagnose and address the issue. I know your dealer says this is normal – but it's not.

If necessary, agree to go on a test drive with your service adviser. When the car is "fixed," make sure you receive a comprehensive repair invoice, which states the problem, the mileage, and what was done to fix the problem. Keep these invoices in a safe place. If they claim they cannot fix the problem, make sure they put that in writing as well. If your Honda Accord is back repeatedly for the vibration issue, it is important to look into your lemon-law rights. Depending on the repairs, you may be entitled to a new car or a complete repurchase and best of all, the representation is completely cost-free.

Dear Car Coach,

I purchased a 2011 Hyundai Sonata, which comes with the ECO system. I didn't understand how it works and neither did the sales person or service manager. When do you use it? For city or highway driving? They said to leave it on all the time. Can you explain it to me? Thank you, JWF

Dear JWF,

The 2011 Sonata has an active ECO system, which changes the operating characteristics of the car to provide improved fuel economy. If you leave it on all the time you will get the best-possible fuel economy. That improved fuel economy comes with a trade-off of less power and a sluggish response.

The "ECO" buttons on most cars does essentially two things:

1. Change the transmission shift points to better optimize fuel economy at the expense of drivability. In other words, the transmission will usually shift sooner to keep RPM's down.

2. For cars with electronic throttle control (such as the Sonata), change the calibration of the gas pedal. Generally, in ECO mode, you have to push the gas pedal down farther to open the throttle the same amount. This encourages drivers to leave the throttle more closed and keep out of power levels that require fuel enrichment. However, even with the ECO button on, the throttle will still open all the way if you floor it.

Some manufacturers will also play around a bit with the air conditioning settings to squeeze out a few more fractions of MPG at the expense of A/C performance. Depending on the manufacturer, there may be other minor engine calibration tweaks as well.

Basically, for stop-and-go city driving, the ECO button will make some difference in MPG for most drivers. If you are just rolling down the highway with the cruise control on, it won't make any difference in MPG.

Dear Car Coach,

Does leaving your wiper arms and blades in the up position, so they don't stick to the windshield, during a snowstorm, damage the spring in the wipers? DL.

Dear DL,

I understand the thought process behind leaving your wiper arms up during a snow storm. Some opponents say that leaving the wiper arms in the up position would stretch out the spring, potentially shortening its life, but I have never had an issue with a weakened spring.

Other options include winter wiper blades, which prevent ice and snow from adhering and clogging the wiper action. They're a simple change out. Another option is a "beam" or "flat blade" design, which is different than traditional metal superstructure on the outside. Instead, these premium flat blade designed blades hug the curve of your windshield to provide a clean wipe in any weather. The frameless technology prevents the buildup of snow and ice on the wiper blades.

Dear Car Coach,

Three months ago, I changed jobs, and now only drive a total of 3.4 miles round trip on local roads, at less than 40 mph. It takes me less than five minutes to get to and from work. Before that, for the last nine years, I drove 40 miles round trip. There's 110,000 on my 2004 Saturn Ion with the five-speed manual transmission, and I make sure it stays in excellent condition. I always use Valvoline full synthetic oil, and change the oil and filter every 5,000 miles. Given the major change in driving time, speed, and distance, do you recommend a change in the interval for oil and filter change, or oil type? Also, I note that MPG has dropped from 34-35 to around 28. I assume this is to be expected? Thanks! PM

Dear PM,

In order to get the longest life from your engine using high-quality synthetic oil and quality oil filters because they provide superior particle removal and prevent contaminants from circulating. Any high mileage car should use full synthetic oil to lengthen the life of your engine. Oil changes can be at 7,500 miles intervals. As for fuel economy, shorter trips will affect your fuel economy.

Dear Car Coach,

I've owned a 2005 Acura TL since it was new, and have really enjoyed it. Now I am looking to replace it with a crossover SUV and have narrowed it down to three. A 2013 Acura RDX, a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Turbo or a 2014 Kia Sorento.

Based on your experience, I would appreciate any thoughts or suggestions. I have driven all three, and the RDX has smooth power and everything seems to fit well. It will definitely be one of these three. Thank you, WC.

Dear WC,

I have also test driven all three vehicles. All are great choices, here are some things to consider when are narrowing down a new or used car choice. Besides looking at your payments, check with your insurance agent. That may help you make the final choice.

As for your choices here are my brief thoughts on each:

- 2013 Acura RDX: has intuitive interior controls, I agree with the smooth engine power, comfortable front and rear seats but it lacks optional safety features like blind-spot monitoring.

- 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Turbo: offers good performance for the price with many standard features, it has an outstanding warranty but I thought the steering felt a bit numb.

- 2014 KIA Sorento: I just test drove the new Sorento and really liked the new technology package with larger navigation screen. I prefer the performance of the six-cylinder the four-cylinder was low on power for my taste, fantastic fuel economy, lower base price with the long 10/100,000 warranty like the Hyundai.

Remember when buying any new car, never pay the price on the window sticker. Do your homework, shop around and compare dealers locally and on the internet to get your best price.

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