Sportwagen recall presents opportunity to upgrade

Dear Car Talk:

I bought a used 2014 VW Jetta Sportwagen, which is subject to the recall on diesels (buyback or emissions system repair). It's a car model that I really enjoy driving, with excellent handling and acceleration. It's also a size I like and is bike-friendly to transport my road bike. My question is whether to keep the car and go for the repair and warrantied emissions system, or take the money and buy something else? I had a hard time finding a model I like this much and that is very comfortable on long drives. I also have a used Subaru Outback 2006, which is nowhere near as comfortable. I find that VW models seem to fit me better, ergonomically, than do Japanese models. My instinct is to turn in the car unless they are warrantying the whole vehicle for the 100,000 miles. Your thoughts? – Kris

RAY: There are some diesel nuts out there who buy these cars because they must have a diesel engine. They figure that when the zombie apocalypse comes, they'll be the only ones still driving around, taking all the free chips and sodas they want from the abandoned 7-Elevens.

But you seem to like this car for other reasons. You like its size, its versatility and the way it fits you. So I’d recommend that you take the incentives VW is offering, and buy a new VW Golf Sportwagen (or VW Alltrack, which is an all-wheel-drive Golf Sportwagen with plastic cladding on the wheel wells).

Last we heard, VW was giving you the pre-scandal trade-in value of your car, plus thousands of dollars in “mea culpa” money. And then there are further incentives to turn around and drop all that cash on a new VW. Take advantage of it.

We like the Sportwagen. It’s pleasant to drive, it’s got particularly simple controls and notably good visibility – especially out the back. That’s rare these days.

The Golf Sportwagen is pretty much the same car you have now, with a few updates. And – crucially – one of the updates is the availability of automatic emergency braking, a game-changing safety feature that we recommend for everybody buying a new car.

You’ll find that the size of the car is the same, the versatility is the same and the seats are the same. The primary differences are safety features, a better infotainment interface and a gasoline engine that isn’t spewing noxious diesel emissions.

Sound good, Kris? Good luck.

When it comes to transmission fluid, flushing beats changing

Dear Car Talk:

I own a 2000 Jeep Cherokee. It needs fresh transmission fluid. What would your honest answer be about the benefits of "flushing" the transmission versus a transmission fluid "change"? Thanks! – Francois

RAY: Well, I wouldn't flush the whole transmission yet, Francois. But you should flush the transmission fluid.

When you just remove the drain plug and rely on gravity to remove your transmission fluid, only a little more than half of it comes out. All of the dirty fluid that’s sitting in the torque converter, and many of the passages, just stays there and contaminates the new fluid.

So a flush is a better alternative. We use a machine at the garage that connects to the transmission cooler lines. And, while the engine is running, it sends new fluid in and captures the old fluid coming out.

And because it pushes out the old fluid with the new fluid, you get a complete change of fluid. If your transmission holds, for example, 14 quarts of transmission fluid, 14 new quarts go in and 14 old, dirty quarts come out.

It costs about twice as much as just opening the drain plug, but it’s at least twice as good. Plus, someone has to pay for that expensive machine we bought!

But if you’re going to go through the trouble of changing your transmission fluid, you might as well actually change all of it, right?

Unless your transmission has social anxiety, Francois. Then you might want to just change half of the fluid and give your transmission a chance to get to know the new fluid better first.

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