What’s causing my car to hesitate?

Dovie Salais

Q. I bought a 2017 Hyundai Elantra in August. The car seems to lag back while driving. In other words, it tends to hesitate after braking and then giving it the gas. I had a Hyundai dealer look at it and was told the car was fine after performing a […]

Q. I bought a 2017 Hyundai Elantra in August. The car seems to lag back while driving. In other words, it tends to hesitate after braking and then giving it the gas. I had a Hyundai dealer look at it and was told the car was fine after performing a diagnostic test. No codes showed up on the test. The car has a newer-style transmission, and the dealer stated that the car drives as designed. Two weeks later I returned with the same problem. They drove the car and tested it again. They performed an adaptive reset on the engine and transmission, and took care of an update on the vehicle. They mentioned that the car had a software update. How would I know of any updates?  I do check for recalls and have not seen any for this car. I still feel the hesitation when driving.

A. Vehicle recalls are something you will or should be informed about. That is not the case with technical updates. Some cars will go 200,000 miles and never need a software update. In other models a software update may be appropriate to correct a customer’s concerns. The transmission in your car is a dual-clutch type and has an odd shift feel. Although there have been no recalls on this transmission, there is at least one class-action lawsuit. At this point the best thing to do is see if you can find the exact same car and road test it to determine if it is an issue or a characteristic. This style transmission is designed to be more economical than a conventional automatic or even a manual transmission. Many of today’s cars are designed to cut off engine power if the brake and gas are applied at the same time. If you are a two-footed driver, this safety system could be kicking in and causing a lag in performance. 

Q. I have never been completely happy with the 4-cylinder engine in my 2015 Honda CRV. It may be because my previous car was a Toyota Solara with a more powerful 6-cylinder engine. I prefer the Toyota product and was looking at the RAV4, but it’s only being made with the 4-cylinder engine. The salespeople say you can get more power from the engine than some 6-cylinder engines, but I’m not sure. What smaller 6-cylinder SUV would you recommend?   The Toyota Highlander is too big for me, and I looked at the Lexus, but it’s kind of pricey. I like the idea of being up high and not having to travel in the breakdown lane for a half mile before the car has enough power to merge into traffic.

A. Ten years ago, the RAV4 was available with a V-6 engine similar to the engine in your Solara. In the last few years, the RAV4 and most other compact SUVs are 4-cylinder only. The engine in the RAV4 now develops 203 horsepower, about 18 more than the CR-V. In addition to the horsepower, the newest Toyota engine develops more torque. Torque is what makes the engine feel powerful when pulling away from a stop. An additional option may be a hybrid version of either vehicle. The hybrid drivetrains in both the RAV4 and CR-V are the most powerful offered and are very good performers. One other vehicle to look at is the Kia Sorento. It is seven inches shorter than the Toyota Highlander and about seven inches bigger than your current vehicle. The Sorento with the V-6 engine also develops a very healthy 290 horsepower. 

Q. I have a 2011 Honda CRV, all-wheel drive with only 105,000 miles. Heat and air are fine, but the fan does not come completely on. There is no air flow from middle vents, and very little from the side and front defroster vent. Occasionally it will come on full throttle. I am hoping it was a stuck acorn that was preventing the air flow, but I think this might be an electrical issue. What do you think? 

A. Your Honda CR-V uses a series of electric motors that run the duct system. Like all electrical things these days, there is a computer scan that can be run to help determine the problem. I suspect the door actuator or controller motor is failing. Until a technician disassembles the dash — which could take up to 90 minutes of labor — you will not know exactly what it is wrong or how much it will cost to repair it. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.

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