No need to reinvent the wheel, or overpay, for cosmetic issue

FILE - This Feb. 14, 2013, file photo, shows a Honda logo on the trunk of a Honda automobile at the Pittsburgh Auto Show, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)
Caption
FILE - This Feb. 14, 2013, file photo, shows a Honda logo on the trunk of a Honda automobile at the Pittsburgh Auto Show, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Credit: Gene J. Puskar

Dear Car Talk:

I’m a loyal reader and grateful for your respect for women readers and their questions!

I own a 2005 Honda CR-V with 125,425 miles. It’s in good shape. The worst feature on the car right now is rusted wheels. I have fairly new tires and am wondering if it’s worth replacing the wheels before I need new tires again.

My mechanic says the wheels haven’t rusted all the way through, but they look bad. I don’t want a safety issue with wheels rusting all the way through. Is it important to get original Honda parts?

This has been a great car, and I don’t want to get rid of it. But is it worth making this investment in a 16-year-old car? -- Rita

Ray Magliozzi
Caption
Ray Magliozzi

RAY: This is probably just a cosmetic issue, not a safety issue, Rita. Kind of like my four chins. Based on your mechanic’s comments, my guess is you have a bunch of surface rust on your wheels, and it looks ugly. You want it to look better.

Since they’re rusting, I assume you have steel wheels, rather than the optional alloy wheels. So, you have several options.

The cheapest solution would be to have your mechanic sand your existing wheels and spray paint them silver. If you really want to go cheap, he could do it without even removing the tires. But then you might have to use a Sharpie to cover up the excess silver splotches on your tires. And the front fenders.

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So, to do it right, he should remove the tires, have the wheels sand-blasted and painted and then remount the tires once the paint is dry. And those wheels will look 95% better than they do now. From a distance, they might even look perfect.

But for not much more, you can buy a brand-new set of after-market wheels. If you Google “original steel wheels for 2005 Honda CR-V,” you’ll find perfect replicas of your original wheels for prices ranging from about $75 to $100 per wheel.

We found a good selection at CARiD.com, and all you have to do is pick the ones that match the size and style of your current wheels. I’m sure your mechanic would help you pick the right ones if you ask him. When you factor in shipping and tire mounting, you’re probably talking about $500, give or take.

There’s no reason to buy them from Honda, if Honda even sells these wheels anymore. As you know, the wheel was invented some time ago, so other companies have had plenty of time to perfect it.

And, if you love the car, and the rusty wheels bother you, you should absolutely make the investment. It’ll make you happy every time you walk up to the car, and that’s worth $500, isn’t it?

Shiny dashboards are a common plague of newer cars

Dear Car Talk:

Toyota recently had a recall on Toyota Camrys for melting dashboards. I did not respond to the recall, because my car did not have this problem. However, now that the recall has ended, my 2019 Camry has started having it.

I don’t want go to the expense of treating the dashboard. My main concern is that the melting dash reflects onto the windshield and obstructs my vision.

Is it possible to tint the windshield and alleviate this problem? -- Olivia

RAY: I’m not sure your dashboard is melting, Olivia.

Toyota and Lexus had a problem with dashboards that would crack, melt, ooze and stink in extremely hot weather. But all the cars we know about that were affected were made between 2003 and 2011. After a bunch of people sued, Toyota initiated a “customer support program” and agreed to replace these Salvador Dali dashes.

So, if your 2019 Camry’s dashboard is actually melting, Toyota is going to be very upset, because they’re quite convinced that they fixed it years ago.

If your main complaint is the reflection of the dashboard onto the windshield, that’s a different story. That’s a problem that plagues a lot of cars whose dashboards are not melting. It’s worse than it used to be, because most windshields are now installed at a steeper angle, for better aerodynamics. That makes for more reflection off the dashboard.

The biggest offenders are dashboards that aren’t black. The worst one we ever experienced was a Chevy Bolt from a few years ago that had a black and white dashboard. It was like trying to see the road through a game of chess.

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So, what can you do?

Number one, keep the windshield clean. You want to clean the outside and inside of your windshield. A film of grime and out-gassed vinyl will build up on the inside of your windshield, a little at a time, and you don’t notice it until the reflections nearly blind you. So clean both sides regularly.

Second, try polarized sunglasses to cut the glare. The glare is often worse at certain times of the day, when the sun is beating down at a certain angle. Try keeping a pair of polarized sunglasses in the car and see if they help.

Third, don’t clean your dashboard. One thing that makes windshield glare much worse is cleaning the top of the dash with a product like Armor All, which is designed to make surfaces shine. Shiny surfaces are your mortal enemy, Olivia.

So, if you recently had the interior cleaned, that could be the problem. Try removing the shiny residue with soap and warm water and see if you can get it back to a matte finish.

Finally, there are some people who recommend dashboard covers, sometimes called “dash mats.” It’s basically a non-shiny cloth that covers the top of your dashboard. We’ve never tried one, and I’m not sure it’ll make much of a difference, but you can experiment with a piece of dark cloth. If that helps, you can buy one that fits. Just make sure you leave room for your dashboard defroster vents. And don’t go for the shag carpet dash mat. That’s very 2019.

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 www.cartalk.com.