Dear Tom and Ray: We have a 2009 Toyota Camry. When our local mechanic was checking the brakes, he noted that the left rear strut was leaking fluid. He informed us of the issue, and since the car was still under warranty, I took it to the dealer. The dealer noted that it is normal for Camry struts to leak, and that unless it is gushing fluid, there is no issue. I then spoke with our mechanic, and he was very clear that struts are sealed, and that any leakage of fluid is very bad. What is your opinion? — Todd
RAY: Your mechanic is right. Struts are sealed, and the good ones never leak.
TOM: On the other hand, a small leak in a strut is not a sign of impending disaster. It’s just disappointing. And it’s a sign that the strut is going to get worse over time.
RAY: Right. It’s like having a new car that burns oil, and having the dealer say, “That’s normal.” Well, it might be normal, but it shouldn’t be normal, so it frosts your shorts.
TOM: So, since the car is still under warranty, I think you should go back to the Toyota dealer. Tell him that you’re disappointed. Explain that another mechanic you trust told you the strut is beginning to fail and really should be replaced. And ask him to replace it for you under warranty, in the interests of making you a happy customer.
RAY: When that doesn’t work, try crying, Todd.
TOM: He may argue that the shock still functions correctly, which probably is true. And that it’s not an immediate safety issue — even if you ignore it, you won’t have a disastrous or dangerous event while you’re driving; you’ll just need to replace it at some point.
RAY: But since we know it’s starting to fail now, and the car is relatively new, why shouldn’t Toyota take responsibility and fix it for you? Give it another shot, Todd. Push a little harder, and see if you can get him to help you out. Remind him that Toyota doesn’t need any more hits to its reputation for quality at the moment.
Don’t try this at home
Dear Tom and Ray: My son is taking a new job in Sioux Falls, S.D., about 850 miles away from our home near Detroit. The old man promised to help him move, even if it wrecks my 56-year-old back. Here’s the issue. He has a small apartment’s worth of furniture, plus three guitars. It should fit in a single-axle rental trailer. We’ll be pulling the trailer with a 2003 Jeep Liberty with the V-6 engine and 138,000 miles. Is this too much to expect from the aging Jeep? Should we rent a truck instead? My own judgment is questionable because I own a 1972 MGB. Thanks, boys. — Bill
RAY: I’m not worried about the Jeep, Bill.
TOM: Of course not. It’s not YOUR Jeep!
RAY: I don’t think Bill needs to worry about it either. But I am worried about Bill. And his kid.
TOM: Right. Towing a trailer, even a single-axle rental trailer, is tricky business. A trailer can make the car — even a car with the appropriate towing capacity, like this Jeep — handle very peculiarly.
RAY: And the handling is always made worse by an improperly balanced load, rain, snow, poor road conditions and gusty winds.
TOM: So if you do this, you have to get some good advice on how to pack the stuff into the trailer. You have to take the trip when no wind, rain or snow is forecast for the route, and you have plan to drive slower than other people on the highway — 55 maximum — for all 850 miles.
RAY: And you have to be extra careful to go very slowly on turns, leave more room to stop than you think you’ll need, and be careful not to make any quick maneuvers that could upset the trailer — even changing lanes too fast can do it.
TOM: If that sounds like more risk than you thought you were signing up for, you can always rent a whole truck. The same driving rules apply to a truck full of furniture, but due to the noise and vibration in the cab, you won’t accidentally forget that you’re carrying 1,500 pounds’ worth of furniture behind you.
RAY: And remember, whether you rent the trailer or the truck, YOU’LL have to drive it back empty, Bill, or pay a large one-way drop-off fee and buy a plane ticket home.
TOM: So, after considering all this, you might want to look at option C, Bill, which goes something like this: “Son, I’ve called Global Van Lines. They’re picking up your stuff on Tuesday. Here’s a bus ticket for you. Hope you make it home for the holidays!”