Motoring Q&A: Driver who doesn't wear his seatbelt is asking for trouble

Failure to utilize this critical safety system by not buckling up disables virtually all of the extensive passive and active safety systems engineered into a modern automobile.

QUESTION: I have an '07 GMC Sierra 1500 with 80,000 miles. The other day my radio went off for no reason and I also noticed that my seatbelt warning light was not on as well (I don't wear my seatbelt). Yesterday I shut off the truck and the radio and the door alarm ping stayed on after I shut the door. Any suggestions here?

ANSWER: Absolutely – wear your seatbelt! It is beyond my understanding how any rational human being can choose not to utilize the fundamental component of automotive safety – the seatbelt. Failure to utilize this critical safety system by not buckling up disables virtually all of the extensive passive and active safety systems engineered into a modern automobile.

There are only four primary causes of injury or death in an automobile crash; the human body impacting the interior of the cabin, the cabin being crushed, an outside object penetrating the cabin, and fire. Car makers spend millions of dollars engineering and building crash management systems into today's vehicles that absolutely minimize these possibilities – all predicated on use of the seatbelt. But of course, if the driver or occupants don't buckle up, these safety systems are severely compromised.

If you don't care enough to protect yourself and others in case of a crash, I don't care to answer your question.

Q: I purchased a 2011 Subaru Forester last July. It got 22 to 23 mpg in driving, half highway and half city. I drove from North Carolina to Minnesota last September and got 27.5 to 28.9 mpg on the highway. Throughout the very cold winter here, I have been getting 14.8 to 16.8 mpg. The car is garaged, half my driving is highway, and the car is warmed up frequently. I'm not happy about this and wonder if it is to be expected and I should stop complaining.

A: Welcome to the frozen north. You should probably stop complaining. Compare the 22-23 mpg mileage in warmer weather to the 15-17 mpg in this extremely cold winter. When temperatures are low, more fuel is burned in starting and bringing the engine and drivetrain up to normal operating temperatures.

I would expect your mileage to return to 22 to 23 mpg as warm weather returns.

Q: I have a 2001 Oldsmobile Aurora purchased in 1999. I replaced the battery for the second time since new at a GM shop in January. I purchased a Delco battery but four weeks later, after 88 miles, the battery was dead again. After putting the charger on for a half-hour it started. The shop said the alternator was good, no drainage of juice, battery was good and that I wasn't driving it enough. In years past when a battery was new it would start a car after months of sitting without starting it every day. What gives?

A: I would be more suspicious of the battery's state-of-charge when you purchased it. I don't know how long that battery sat on the dealer's parts shelf or whether the dealership charged it before installing it in your vehicle, but if it wasn't fully charged at the time of installation and you only drove 88 miles over the next month, I'm not surprised it needed to be recharged to start you vehicle. In fact, I would have preferred you charge it with an automatic battery charger for 24 hours to make sure it is fully charged.

I'm sure this battery is still covered by its original warranty, so if there's any further issue with its performance, ask the dealer to replace it under warranty.



Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., 55488 or via email at Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.


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