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Believe in the value of wheel alignment

| Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, 9:12 p.m.

Question: I just purchased a new set of tires for my 2012 Camry and was told I should have the tires aligned. I was told the tires would wear out more quickly if I didn't. The car's original tires lasted 48,000 miles. I declined, but this is nagging at me. Should I go back?

Answer: Proper wheel alignment is extremely important for optimum tire wear and helps mitigate pulling and wandering. If your original tires wore evenly across the tread (compare all four), the steering wheel is straight and you haven't walloped any curbs, odds are the alignment of your wheels may be fine as is.

The most common signs of improper toe, an often-seen cause of wear, are a feathered edge on the tire tread and excessive wear on one side. A feathered edge can be detected by rubbing your hand in one direction and then the other across the tread.

Fourty-eight thousand miles is a respectable life for tires, and it's unlikely your front suspension components have worn to the point of needing replacement. If you live in an area with terrible pot holes, purchase really expensive custom tires or have any alignment symptoms, an alignment check would be a good choice.

Q: I've been considering changing the inside air filter on my 2013 Accord. My fan is louder than it used to be, and I was told a dirty air filter could be the cause. Is this something I can do myself?

A: It will take longer to write this response than it'll take you to change your filter.

Open the glove box, press the bottom of the damper lever forward (it's on the right side) to disengage it, press inward firmly at the upper corners of the drawer, then roll the box fully open and spill all the contents. The dust and pollen filter resides behind a 2-inch-by-12-inch black plastic cover easily visible inside the cavity. Press inward on the little tabs at each side to remove the cover, then wiggle the filter slightly to extract it from its slot. A new filter runs $12 to $20 and is readily available. Be sure to observe the airflow direction arrows on the old and new filters.

Q: I recently tore off the lower air flap on the front of my car on a parking bump. The clips tore through the original holes in the plastic and several are broken. How important is this part? Could I just leave it off?

A: There's a good chance this part is needed to help direct cooling air through the radiator, so it's best to reinstall it. Overheating symptoms at higher vehicle speeds or loads may occur as the weather warms. Universal replacement clips are readily available and perhaps new holes could be carefully drilled near the torn ones. Or fender washers from the hardware store could be used to straddle the torn-away holes in the deflector.

• Regarding heater use, Steve writes: Remember when in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Jaguar XK 120 owners had to run their heaters in the summer in an attempt to keep the engine from overheating. Went along with warm beer and Lucas refrigerators.

Brad Bergholdt is an automotive technology instructor at Evergreen Valley College in San Jose, Calif. Readers may send him email at under-the-hood@earthlink.net.

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