QUESTION: I've been told that the air conditioner in my car burns gas and that I should wait until I really need it before turning the A/C on.
Another friend told me that opening a window caused the car to work harder to get through the air and that using the air conditioner is cheaper.
Who is right? - Karen
ANSWER: They both are - partially.
The air-conditioning system does not actually "burn gas." The system uses a compressor operated by a belt connected to and turned by the crankshaft. The amount of extra power required to operate the compressor is minute.
Your vehicle was designed with aerodynamics in mind and probably tested in a wind tunnel to tweak the design so it slides through the air as easily as possible. This is done with the windows closed so opening a window can create extra drag and force the engine to work harder - but again the difference is so slight as to be all but immeasurable.
This is also only likely to come into play at very high speeds, certainly not around town. The Society of Automotive Engineers has conducted tests on this issue and found that the more aerodynamic the vehicle, the more opening a window created additional drag.
QUESTION: I am attracted by the price of new cars during these troubled times, especially those from companies that are up for sale or going out of business like Pontiac, Saturn and Saab.
Are these deals as good as they look? - Bert
ANSWER: Yes, they are.
All manufacturers are trying to keep factories and dealers going at a time when the economy casts doubts on short-term buying and makes borrowing difficult. I am not a financial adviser, nor would I want to be one at this time but I do know something about cars and think a Saab 9-3 or Saturn Astra, for example, are two great examples of GM's European engineering - i.e. Opel of Germany.
Just because their respective companies are for sale does not detract from the engineering and construction that makes them good cars. Whether it be a Chrysler, GM or other product, you have to separate the vehicle from the financial issues.
To my mind there are three factors to consider:
1) Retained value
3) How long are you going to keep the vehicle.
First of all, let's look at the financial side. As you have already pointed out the prices for these vehicles have dropped considerably, which takes care of some of the depreciation.
Depending on the outcome for the respective company, depreciation could become even worse or improve. Chrysler has already been purchased and Saturn and Saab are both likely to be bought. The new owners are buying a brand and a sales network. They will have a vested interest in getting you in the dealership for repairs both to keep the dealer busy, and to encourage you to buy whatever they are selling.
And even if your vehicle is discontinued or the company ceases to exist, there are hundreds of thousands or even millions of them on the road and thousands of mechanics and service facilities trained and equipped to service them.
On top of this, the federal governments in Canada and the U.S. are backing warranties. Buying one of these vehicles will provide, on average, years of trouble-free motoring provided you perform regular maintenance.