Dear Car Coach: We have a 2008 Chevy; I’m wondering if it’s necessary to add weight for winter. Since it’s a front-wheel drive, I was of the belief it doesn’t need any. I use snow tires, and my car has traction control, which is on all the time unless the button is depressed to disable it.

We live in the Southtowns in Elma. I was brought up old school about front wheel drives so I probably need some “up with the times” schooling. If you recommend weight, how much over each rear wheel? Thanks.

– C.B., Elma

Dear C.B.: For front-wheel and all-wheel drive cars, do not use extra weight in the back of the car. Having snow or winter tires are one of the smartest things you can do to get through the winter safely.

I recommend using sandbags, kitty litter or extra weight only on cars with rear-wheel drive.

If other readers have rear-drive vehicles, during the winter put a few sandbags directly over the rear axle if – and only if – you have a rear-drive vehicle.

However, this isn’t the safest idea. The weight of the sand provides more pressure on tires to provide better traction, but the added weight in the rear of your car can decrease maneuverability and braking because the added weight will increase momentum and if too much is added it could “sling” the rear of the car out in a turn. The sand or kitty litter in the bags could be used to provide traction when you’re stuck by pouring some sand in front of the slipping tires.

When they’re in your car, tie them down if they’re in the passenger area so that they don’t move or fly around if you do end up swerving.


Dear Car Coach: I went to the Buffalo Auto Show and saw a 2013 Buick Verano. My wife fell in love with the brochure, but online the Buick website says to use only premium gas. I’m Mr. Cheap!

Could I use regular grade gas without hurting the engine? Would it make sense to add octane booster to regular gas to avoid the high cost premium? Thank you.

– R.M.

Dear R.M. (Mr. Cheap): I understand your concern with the price of gasoline these days. Some manufacturers have stated that if you use the lower-grade gasoline, which includes E15, that you can void the engine warranty. I’d contact the sales and service departments if you choose to use other than the proper gasoline.

As for additives, they are great but cost the same as a gallon of gasoline, so at that point you might as well run the proper gas.


Dear Car Coach: We have had this recurring problem with the heater on the 2007 Impala since the car was new. There is absolutely no heat when the car is idling. The car is outside all night, and I go out to start it for my wife before she leaves for work. The car will not warm up when it’s at idle, but once the car is moving, the heat works, as it should, according to my wife. Every year we have had it in for service on this same problem, and I do mean every year. For three years, the dealer told us it was the crossover pipe (not really sure what this is, but it does seem to solve the problem). The heat is seldom or ever used in the summer, so we aren’t sure when the problem shows up. The last time the dealer told us that the radiator cap was bad and was not keeping pressure in the cooling system. Again I had my skepticism, but had the cap replaced. Now once again, the cold weather arrives, and once more, no heat. I am at a loss, so I hope you can give me some ideas as to what I can look for to correct the problem for good. Help me, Lauren! Thanks. – B.K.

Dear B.K.: First, the problem is not the exhaust crossover pipe; a crossover pipe synchronizes the balance of the exhaust pulses from each bank of cylinders of the engine. This has nothing to do with the heating issue.

A radiator cap could have been the problem. Instead of just replacing parts at will, I’d suggest you have the heating/cooling system pressure tested, and that can help diagnose the problem.

Normally a car will provide heat when sitting. There are several possible reasons why it might not produce heat. If there is a vacuum leak, it may not function properly or there could be low coolant/antifreeze or air in the system from a recent coolant change.

There are no technical service bulletins on this issue, but usually, low coolant levels can cause a car not to heat up at idle.