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Same Tires on the Minivan

Q: My wife has a front-wheel drive 2006 Toyota Sienna that gets only about 35,000 miles per set of tires. We install Michelins on the minivan. I use the same model on my 2000 Subaru Legacy wagon and got almost 80,000 miles on my last set. Do the 35,000 miles seem unreasonably short to you? Do some vehicle models just eat tires? Or is there something we can do to get better mileage out of the them?

A: Tires today often don't last as long as they used to because the vehicles we drive are heavier—often 1,000 to 2,000 pounds heavier—than the cars we drove 20 or 30 years ago. This is especially so for SUVs and vans. Their weight puts stress on tires, yet their suspensions are set up to handle corners at high speeds more like sports cars. All of that acceleration, braking and turning can wear out tires quickly even with what seems like low-stress, everyday driving.

Q: Recently, I had the misfortune of replacing a headlight and running light on my 2008 Audi A6. Having paid my local mechanic $185 to replace the other headlight last year, I was bracing for a big bill from the Audi dealer, but not $528 for the bulb and labor. Am I getting hosed or should anyone with xenon headlights expect to pay $300, $400, or more than $500, as I did, to replace a burned-out headlight?

A: Headlights are expensive and the super-bright xenon type are especially so. You can cut the bill by having a non-dealer mechanic track down the parts and do the work. The result will be less costly, but still not cheap. Remember when you could buy a round headlight for almost any car at the auto-supply store for $10 or $20?

Q: I am considering making a trip of 5,000 miles in my 2001 Toyota Sienna XLE. I have had no problems with the vehicle and given it regular maintenance. It has 120,000 miles on it. The mileage is mostly city driving, with about 50,000 highway miles. Should I be concerned about taking a long trip in a 12-year-old vehicle? Are there other items that should be evaluated/replaced before I make this trip?

A: By today's standards, your Sienna is still fairly young and shouldn't pose much of a risk on a long road trip. Still, you should make an appointment with your mechanic to check it over to make sure there are no looming problems. A fresh oil change, air filter, cooling-system check and undercarriage inspection should cover it.

Q: My wife and I own a 2004 Saab 9-3 Aero and a 2007 Saab 9-3 convertible, with 86,000 and 74,000 miles, respectively. The cars are in excellent condition. We're debating whether to trade in/sell or hold on to them. Does the termination of the Saab brand translate to a higher or lower market value for these vehicles?

A: The Saab brand's demise hurts the resale or trade-in value of its existing vehicles. However, parts and service are still available, so you are better off hanging onto your cars. You can extract more value from them on the road than at the dealer's lot.

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