Q: As parking and red-light camera tickets only identify the vehicle, rather than the driver, will the owner's insurance be affected by a conviction for these offences?
A: James Geuzebroek, spokesperson for the Insurance Bureau of Canada, replies:
Because these convictions are not charged to a specific driver's licence, they will not appear on your driving record and will not affect your insurance rating or acceptability.
Q: Is it proper etiquette to tip the people who give us complimentary rides from/to the auto shop? Is it expected to tip?
A: If you're unsure of an individual company's tipping policy, I don't think it's ever considered rude to offer a tip to the driver â€“ unless it's insultingly low, of course. (Rather than offer a tip below $2, you might instead offer to buy coffee on the trip home.)
Ultimately, it's up to the driver to accept any gratuity offered with thanks or to decline politely.
Q: I'm a backyard mechanic looking for information on gas torches before buying one. Namely, how do you loosen seized nuts with a torch, and which type works best for this?
Which type is needed to join auto body panels (brazing)? And which type is needed for cutting exhaust pipes?
A: Chris Davenport, product manager at Bernzomatic (bernzomatic.com), replies:
Heat applied directly to a seized fastener for a short period of time will break the bond between the metals and allow it to be removed.
Simply heat the nut/bolt with a torch, then turn it with a wrench/socket while still hot. Quenching with cold water is not recommended as this can cause the metal to become brittle and break.
A propylene (yellow cylinder) torch will provide ample heat for this task.
I generally wouldn't advise using a hotter fuel here as excessive heat could cause the metals to soften, creating a much larger problem. You just want enough heat to break the bond between the metals.
To join metal body panels, you need a torch that uses oxygen combined with propylene fuel to create a flame hot enough to weld auto panels together.
Welding creates a much stronger bond than brazing.
For cutting exhaust pipes, you could also use the above type. This multipurpose torch can cut metal, braze and weld. Just adjust the amount of oxygen introduced to the propylene flame to suit each task.
Eric Lai adds:
Be sure to follow all precautions and wear proper safety equipment, including eye protection and gloves, when using torches.
Most store-brand torches sold in major consumer hardware chains are actually made by Bernzomatic.
For example, you'll find a stamped, name-brand Bernzomatic torch inside Canadian Tire's "Mastercraft" packaging, so if one or the other can save you a few dollars, go for it.
GET MESSAGE OUT:
I'm not normally one for gimmicks but the new ePlate electronic licence plate frame just might be the ultimate bumper sticker.
The $49 gadget, which I bought on sale for half-price at Canadian Tire, is a 3 cm high, scrolling LED screen that displays your personalized message whenever the brakes come on.
It holds five messages; each up to 256 characters long. It installs easily and is highly visible even in daylight.
Judging from the smiles in my rear-view mirror, it's definitely a crowd pleaser at stoplights.
Some buyer reviews on Canadian Tire's website (canadiantire.ca) report malfunctions, which in all fairness could be due to impact damage, road salt or overtightening the screws during installation.
But others say they just love it.
The product includes a 90-day warranty.
I haven't experienced any problems but perhaps installing a clear plate cover to protect the unit from road hazards might be a smart precaution.
Hmmm, maybe I'll put that on my ePlate message.
Email your non-mechanical questions
to Eric Lai at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to the volume of mail, personal
replies cannot be provided.