Can I upgrade my vehicle's radio to Bluetooth technology? | Car Doctor

Q: I use my cellphone a lot in my delivery business, but my van doesn’t have Bluetooth technology. Can I upgrade the radio, or should I just keep using my rechargeable (which I forget to recharge) AirPods?

A: First off, hands-free is not risk-free. Even though you may be keeping your hands on the wheel, your brain may be focusing on the call rather than on driving.

Yes, you can replace the radio with a unit that has full Bluetooth capability. Most any auto electronics shop can do this work.

Recently, I have been trying a headset by BlueTiger ( called the Solare. It has a single earpiece (in many states it is illegal to wear full headphones). The headband portion of the headset contains a solar panel that keeps the headset charged. It charges very well in sunlight but also charges pretty well with indoor lighting. The headset is comfortable, and the microphone cancels most background noise. This may be a good portable solution.

Q: My car has only 32,000 miles on it. When it was in for an oil change, I was told I would need two front tires and front brakes. The cost was going to be $770. They said I should have the work done before fall. Isn’t the mileage a little low for this kind of work?

A: Typically, tires and brakes will last 40,000 miles or more, but that is determined by how the car is driven. It is certainly possible that the car could need brakes and tires at 32,000 miles. If the car was driven primarily in the city, the tires and brakes would wear more quickly.

Whenever in doubt, always get a second opinion to verify the need for repairs.

Q: My car needs a new catalytic converter, since it didn’t pass inspection. My son was able to get the codes to clear and used some sort of adaptor on the exhaust sensor. He said he saw this repair in a YouTube video. You might want to include this in your column to save people thousands of dollars in repairs.

A: More than likely what your son did was use an old-time spark plug non-fouler and mount it in the exhaust to raise the oxygen sensor out of the exhaust stream. This method tricks the computer but doesn’t solve the problem, and it is actually considered tampering with the vehicle emissions system.

Q: I saw an article online that showed a new BMW where the hood can only be opened by a dealership technician. In the story it showed windshield washer fluid added through the BMW hood badge. Is this true?

A: This is unlikely, especially with Right to Repair Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by automakers.

I couldn’t find anything about BMW, but I did see an article about Mercedes-Benz and its electric car, which states something like, “The hood should be only opened by qualified repair technicians.” This is most likely due to the extreme high voltages in some electric cars. The word “should” is the key; it doesn’t state that it must be opened by dealer personnel.

Q: I read your column about car museums in New England, and you missed a couple. The Seal Cove Auto Museum in Maine; a little out of the way is the Northeast Classic Car Museum in Norwich, New York. There are also some great cruise nights that run into the fall.

A: You are correct. There are great cars everywhere. I have never been to the two you mentioned.

Another reader mentioned a small museum, ProNyne Motorsports, in Pawtucket that features some race cars.

Also worth the trip is the Cycles Classic Cafe Museum in Beverly, Massachusetts. It's  upstairs over a motorcycle dealership.

In addition, I just learned about the Saratoga Automobile Museum.

Q: Recently, while I was driving at 35 mph in my 2015 Volkswagen Jetta, the windshield just cracked. I didn’t see anything hit the window, but the crack ran across the entire windshield.

I have only owned this car for a couple of years, so I don’t know if the windshield was original or not. When I had the windshield replaced, the glass guy said this is fairly common with these cars. If it is, why?

A: Glass can shatter from stress (the body flexes), poor installation, defective product and — of course — impact.

A quick search online shows the incidence of cracked windshields in Jettas to be pretty common, at least in older models. In fact, many were cracked before the cars were even put in service. If the windshield is installed properly and the car is driven reasonably, there is no reason to think the replacement windshield shouldn’t last a long time.

AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul

John Paul is the AAA Northeast Car Doctor. He has more than 40 years of experience in the automobile industry and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. Write to John Paul, The Car Doctor, at 110 Royal Little Drive, Providence, RI 02904. Or email and put “Car Doctor” in the subject field. Follow him on Twitter @johnfpaul or on Facebook.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Can I upgrade my vehicle's radio to Bluetooth Technology? | Car Doctor