Don’t ruin road trip squeezing out every last mile from Toyota

Credit: Charles Krupa

Credit: Charles Krupa

Dear Car Talk:

Get ready for this! I’m going to take my 92-year-old dad on a six-week, gazillion mile trek from one side of the country to the other, then back again, with many stops along the way.

While that might sound exciting, the real thrill is that we plan to make this journey in my fabulously maintained 2005 Toyota Corolla with 331,000 miles on it. OK, OK, I can already hear your groans, so let me elaborate.

Before leaving, I’ll tuck the vehicle’s title in the glove box, in the unlikely event of a fatal, mechanical issue. If necessary, I’ll trade the title for a tow and call it even. Then, I’d head to the closest dealership and buy a new car and be back on our way.

I was thinking -- just thinking, mind you -- of checking out a few vehicles before the big adventure, so I’d know exactly what to buy, you know, on the outside chance I needed another vehicle somewhere along the way.

Oh, I should add that I love my dad! -- Barry

RAY: Barry, your dad has written to us three times now begging us to tell you to get a new car. Look, I know you’re a cheapskate, Barry. I got to study your species at close range by observing my own brother for 60 years. So I understand that it’s important to you to get every last mile out of your car. But at 331,000, you’ve come darned close enough. Declare victory and put it on Craigslist.

By getting the new car now, you won’t have to give a second thought to breaking down in the middle of nowhere and having to synthesize dad’s Lipitor out of cactus leaves.

You’ll both be more comfortable. Newer cars -- even small cars -- are more comfortable, roomier and quieter than ever. They also ride and handle better. Your air conditioning will work well, and you might even have heated and cooled seats. Wait, you’d never spring for those, Barry. Scratch that.

Most importantly, you guys will have all of the modern-day safety equipment. There’s been a revolution in automotive safety since you bought your 2005 Corolla.

You’ll get more sophisticated airbags, seatbelt pretensioners, precollision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning and even adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from the car in front of you. That’s going to come in handy when you’re driving 7,500 miles in six weeks. And you should absolutely get all of that stuff, because it’ll help keep you safe for the next 300,000 miles.

Finally, whatever you do, I was going to suggest you remember to stop frequently, not just for the car, but for your own sanity. But then I remembered you’ll have your 92-year-old dad in the car, and he’ll have to pee every half hour, so that won’t be a problem.

Have a wonderful trip, Barry. And give our best to Dad.

Service shop’s games has Ridgeline owner rethinking repair

Dear Car Talk:

The left CV boot on my 2007 Honda Ridgeline is leaking. There’s a 3-inch-diameter spot of grease on the garage floor. There’s no noise coming from the front axle and no difference in the performance.

A shop quoted $870 to replace both boots and axles, and said they would not do boots only. The dealer quoted $400 per side to replace the boots and axles, $300 per side boots only. The service adviser also indicated that there would be some labor savings for doing both at the same time.

I made an appointment with the dealer. On arrival, the same service adviser told me it would be $1,066 + tax and fees = $1,200. I backed out of the deal, even after speaking to the general manager and receiving a lowered price of $1,000.

The truck is a spare vehicle used for only 4,000 miles per year. Is it OK to drive for a while? I would appreciate your comments. -- Bill

RAY: I wouldn’t drive it for too long, Bill. The CV boot covers the CV joint, which is part of the axle. And if you keep driving it without proper lubrication, you will ruin the axle.

But given how little you drive this Ridgeline, I would fix only what’s actually broken right now. While it’s fairly common to replace the axle along with a torn boot, it’s not necessary. The reason we do it is because we make more money that way.

No, actually the reason we do it is because the extra labor involved in replacing the axle, once you have the boot off, is trivial. And for people who drive 15,000 miles a year, it makes sense to preemptively replace the axle rather than have to duplicate the labor six, 12 or 18 months later. But since you’re driving 4,000 miles a year, you might not need an axle for five years. Or ever.

What you want a mechanic to do is remove that outer CV joint whose boot has torn open. You want him to soak that CV joint in parts cleaner and get all the gunk out of it that he can. Then he can examine it. It’s possible that the joint is damaged now, due to driving it with the damaged boot. But if it’s not making a clackety noise on turns, it’s probably just fine.

If it looks OK, he can then put a new boot on it, and then repack the new boot with grease. And it should be as good as new. That should cost you $200-$300.

But before you go back to the dealer, look around for another shop. They were clearly playing games with you -- manipulating the price and telling you there’s some efficiency to doing both sides at the same time. There’s not. They’re separate jobs.

So go to, enter your ZIP code and look for a highly recommended shop in your area. Give them a call, tell them you need one CV boot replaced, that the axle seems fine and ask them for an estimate. When you find a shop that says they’ll do that at a fair price, go there.

Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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