Leak continues despite repeated attempts to fix the problem

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2016 Volkswagen SportWagen. It has a big sunroof, and a big leak. Ounces drip down from the overhead center console onto the stereo faceplate, around the headliner, down the front driver pillar and out the tweeter that’s mounted at the base of the pillar. This is the second time I’ve had it in for several days to be fixed, along with headliner replacement, sunshade replacement, etc.

The first time, they said the spot welds that hold the sunroof to the roof were too big, which left gaps where water would overflow the trough and into the car if it rained hard enough. This week they applied epoxy to seal up some metal areas. They thought it was fixed, but the subsequent water test has them dropping the headliner again today to do more sealing. My concern is that even if they fix the leak now, should I expect more problems (either leaks or electrical issues) down the road after the warranty ends? I usually keep a car 10 to 12 years. Perhaps I should cut my losses and trade it in? – Jeff

RAY: Wow. It sounds like one of those shower systems I've been coveting with 10 different shower heads that spray you from all directions. And VW threw this in for free!

This is a perfect candidate for a trade-in, Jeff. Who knows what’s wrong? We have seen lots of leaky VWs, but it’s often clogged drains or bad drain fittings. And they would have fixed your car already if it was either of those. So it sure sounds like it’s something structural. Maybe something got bent or twisted. Or dropped off the delivery truck.

What’s called for here is a calm but serious chat with the dealership’s general manager. Don’t just walk in and confront him. Make an appointment and say you need to speak to him about your car. Tell him you chose the car because it’s a good fit for you, and you planned to keep it for 10 years. But that the leaks they’ve been unable to fix have you very concerned about the long-term viability of the car, its body integrity and – given the gallons of water it has leaked – its electrical system and possible mold.

Tell him you’d rather not go through the hassle of making a lemon law claim (research it in your state in advance) or complaining about the car and the dealership on social media. But you would like a solution.

Suggest that perhaps he could work out something with you where he could give you a very good price on a trade-in, and a very good price on another new one – a 2017 or 2018. Or perhaps he has a used 2016 you can swap straight-up.

Make sure he knows you had no intention of buying another new car so soon, but this problem is embarrassing for everybody (especially you, since you drive your elderly mother to church every Sunday, and she’s allergic to water). Let him know that you’d really like to work out something amicable.

Do a little research in advance, not just on your state’s lemon law, but on the trade-in value and private-sale value of your car. Research the cost of a new one, too, so you’ll know if he’s really helping you, or just pouring more water in your sunroof, Jeff. Good luck.

Switch to synthetic oil should be a seamless transition

Dear Car Talk:

After some research a few years ago, I purchased a used 2006 Lexus ES 330 with 60,000 miles. It has been a really reliable and comfortable car (I used to be a truck gal). I have kept up all the regular maintenance and would like to keep it until it goes or I go.

I now have 112,000 miles on it. My question to you is about changing to synthetic oil at my next oil change. I have read many pros and cons on the subject and would like your opinion. Your thoughts? – Paula

RAY: There are a bunch of myths going around about synthetic oil, Paula. People say you can't switch to synthetic oil after using conventional, dinosaur-based oil – your car will reject the new fluid like a transplanted spleen from your annoying brother-in-law. They say you can't mix synthetic oil with conventional oil inside the engine – they'll react badly to each other, like two grouchy, old cats. And they say synthetic oil is lower in calories if you use it in salad dressing.

All of these claims are false, as far as we can tell. Although we haven’t tested the salad dressing as of yet. We’re really impressed with synthetic oil. It seems to lubricate better and last longer. And because you change it less frequently, there’s less waste oil that we have to dispose of or reprocess. So I wouldn’t hesitate to switch over to synthetic.

Otherwise, it sounds like you’re doing all the right things, Paula. You’re doing all the regular maintenance, even as the car gets older. And presumably, you’re driving it gently, which is a huge factor in automotive lifespan. So my only suggestion would be to get into an exercise routine, eat a diet rich in leafy greens and see which of you lasts longer. Even though we know you like the car, we’re rooting for you, Paula.

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