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Motormouth: Pulling the plug on AM

Q: I’ve had 11 Volvos since 1974, and I’m looking to replace my 2016 XC70 with another Volvo, probably the V60 XC. Did I hear my dealer correctly that the 2021′s do not have AM radio built into the standard audio system? How do I listen to my news, traffic, weather and sports talk as I drive or station surf while on driving trips? Say it isn’t so!

B.T., Wheaton, Illinois

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A: It is so. According to InsideRadio.com, AM radio stations reach nearly 58.8 million people during a given week, according to the latest Nielsen data based on the ratings company’s June 2017 RADAR estimates. But that is just one in five (21%) radio users. By comparison, Nielsen says 86% of radio listeners tuned into an FM station. AM broadcasting is already suffering from loss of advertising. Electric cars may put the final nail in the coffin. Electric motors generate radio frequency interference (RFI) in the same wavelengths as amplitude modulation (AM) signals. All you would hear from an AM radio is static.

Q: What are those 5- to 6-inch spikes on the front wheels of semis? Do they help them cut through ice and snow? They look dangerous. They remind me of something out of “Ben-Hur” or “Thunderball.”

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M.J., Chicago, Illinois

A: Why do semitruck drivers install those spikes? To look dangerous! Although some may claim that the spikes keep other drivers at a safe distance, they are simply a cosmetic affectation. You can even buy plastic ones.

Q: My 2015 VW GTI is the first car I’ve had with alloy wheels and low-profile tires. Consequently, where I used to rub a curb with the tire, I now have a case of curb rash. I’ve looked for a place that would polish my wheels but found none. The last place I checked, they recommended a truck tire facility. Any tips?

G.G., Orland Park, Illinois

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A: For a do-it-yourselfer: Sand the scratches down somewhat, apply automotive body filler such as Bondo, sand smooth when dry, and then finish with metallic spray paint. However, I don’t know how long that repair will hold up. A better alternative is to take the wheels to a professional. Automotive wheel restoration is usually under $200 per wheel for repairs, according to Rich Heuer of Chicago Wheel Service in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. You can even leave tires on. I suggest you look for a restorer in your area.

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Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber’s work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.

Send questions along with name and town to motormouth.tribune@gmail.com.

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