Saturday, August 12, 2017
DEAR CAR TALK: I have a new 2017 Honda Ridgeline. The speedometer is digital; it shows numerals only. It has no dial. However, it still has an analog tachometer. The transmission is an automatic 6-speed. Why do you need a tachometer with an automatic transmission? In the old days, the tachometer was a necessity for manual transmissions. With today's automatic computerized transmissions it seems to be of little value. I would much rather have a speedometer dial instead of a tachometer. What do you think?
DEAR BILL: There's no real reason a car with an automatic transmission needs a tachometer. You can drive that car 200,000 miles and never need to know what the engine speed is. Even if you shift it manually, the computer will prevent you from doing anything stupid, like over-revving the engine. It'll just cut off the fuel supply or spark when you approach the red line.
So why does it have a tach? Well, without it, there'd be a big hole in your dashboard. That wouldn't look good. They could put a clock there, but there's probably already a clock on the video screen.
I tend to agree with you. I prefer a speedometer dial to the digital readout. But you got what you got, Bill.
There's hope for the future, however, as more and more new cars are starting to come with customizable video displays instead of instrument clusters. So, instead of an analog speedometer, there's a high-definition LCD screen, and the computer creates an image of a speedometer that looks and acts like an analog speedometer, with a moving dial.
And with these displays, you can customize what you see on the instrument panel in front of you. You can make the speedometer and tachometer smaller, and see a large navigation map in the middle. Or you can see your entertainment system's choices. You can't see Judge Judy yet, but that's probably coming.
And there's nothing stopping the manufacturers from letting you choose which instruments you want to see, so you could have a speedometer instead of a tachometer, and your neighbor, Fred, could monitor his oil temperature in 7-inch grandeur. You'll be able to get that on your 2022 Ridgeline.
Actually, I find that there is one unsung advantage of a tachometer these days. Some cars are so quiet now that it's actually hard to tell if they're running. And with push-button ignition, you no longer remove the key after shutting off the ignition. So I'll admit to glancing at the tachometer from time to time to make sure I've turned off the engine before I get out.
DEAR CAR TALK: Where is my oil? Our 2013 Equinox with 52,000 miles has disappearing oil. Between the last three scheduled oil changes, we lost more than 2 quarts. Last week I checked the dipstick, and nothing registered. I added a quart, and it came up to three-sixteenths of an inch on the stick. Now the oil-change readout says 29 percent left until oil change. I took it to the dealer and they found nothing. They saw no drips, no signs of oil running down the outside of the engine, and when the car is running, they saw no smoke coming out of the tailpipe, and no smells. They are stumped, and so is this chump. So, what are your thoughts?
DEAR CHARLES: Well, unless some neighbor is sneaking into your driveway at night and siphoning out your oil, you're burning it. It just might not be enough to be visible yet.
If you lost about 2 1/2 quarts between each of your last three oil changes, that's not a good sign on a car with only 52,000 miles. But it's not "start fracking in the backyard"-level oil burning yet, either.
If you're a typical driver, you change your oil every 7,500 miles or so. Maybe more. So you're burning the equivalent of a quart every 3,000 miles.
Normally, people start complaining to us when they're burning a quart every 1,000 miles, or a quart every 500. My brother wouldn't even buy a car unless it was burning at least a quart every 250.
My more immediate concern is that you allowed the oil level to get more than a quart low before adding oil. So you need to be more vigilant and check it more often. Letting the engine run low on oil will only harm the rings and increase your oil burning.
Unfortunately, oil burning also tends to get worse over time. So your current rate doesn't bode well for this car's longevity without a rebuilt engine at some point. So if you're still under some sort of extended warranty, you want to be sure to have your dealer document the oil loss, even if they claim to be stumped by what's causing it.
They do that by sealing the system, so you can't tamper with it, and then having you come back in at certain intervals to document the oil loss. That may give you a better case to make, should the oil consumption take a sudden turn for the voluminous in the near future.
Or -- and this probably would be my approach -- since the dealer didn't see any blue smoke coming out of the tailpipe when you took the car in for service, you can assume they won't see any if you go back next week to trade in the car, Charles. Good luck.
Ray Magliozzi dispenses advice about cars in Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting
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