How to remove an abandoned car — legally

Dear Car Talk:

Recently, a policeman pulled over a young driver in a Chevy Sonic right near our house, which has on-street parking. Backup was called in case things got serious, which they did not. I don’t know what crimes might have been committed, but the young man was soon picked up by a third party, the police left the scene, and this car has been sitting near our house for over a week.

A close look through the windows indicates a lot of empty fast-food containers, pizza boxes, and CDs by artists whose names bring to mind medieval weapons. I did notice the lack of a license plate and a temporary tag that had expired two months ago. I believe the car is now abandoned. We contacted the police, but they said it is legally parked, and they can’t do anything.

An idea has occurred to me to help create a sense of urgency to remove the car: If I could roll it backward about 40 feet, it would be on the yellow part of the curb, which would make it illegally parked. Is there a way I can disengage the wheels or enter the car without doing (much) damage to it so I can put it in neutral and roll it?

— Bob

Well, I can’t recommend you break into someone else’s car, Bob. That would be illegal. Even if there’s still uneaten pizza to be had.

So, I would start by calling your town or city and asking for their policy on abandoned vehicles. Most municipalities have one. They’ll consider a vehicle abandoned after it’s sat, unmoved, on a public street for a certain amount of time. And at that point, you can ask for it to be removed. That won’t be the quickest way to get rid of it, but it would be the most law-abiding.

Just for your information, we move cars at the garage all the time without driving them. We have something called a floor jack. It’s a hydraulic jack on wheels, and it rolls underneath the front or back end of the car and then lifts that entire end off the ground.

That Chevy Sonic is front-wheel-drive. So, theoretically, if you lifted up the front wheels with a floor jack, and the handbrake was not applied, you could then roll the car to wherever you want to. But I can’t, in good conscience, recommend you move another person’s car without their permission.

So, here’s plan B: Buy a can of yellow paint. And paint the curb next to the car yellow. Voila! Instant no-parking zone. Good luck, Bob.

Dear Car Talk:

After getting dealer service on my 2016 Toyota Corolla with 16,000 miles, the car started to shake at 60 mph. I drove for a couple more months, but the shaking did not go away.

I finally checked, and the tires were over-pressurized to 51 psi, 19 psi higher than indicated on the door pillar. The dealer evidently inflated the tires to what was the maximum pressure indicated on the tire itself, rather than the recommended pressure.

I had them look at it again and they recommended new tires because I still had the original tires from the factory. I declined, opting instead to have the tires rebalanced. I spoke to the manager, who insisted that over-pressurization would not result in increased vibration, and that 7-year-old tires should be replaced anyway because they are easily damaged. He also emphasized that driving the car as little as I do can make the tires worse.

A couple of questions:

1. Should I replace a 7-year-old set of tires with very low mileage on them? The treads are almost brand new.

2. Could over-pressurizing an old set of tires result in the wheels needing to be rebalanced?

Thank you so much, Ray!

— Sam

I’m less worried about your tires than I am about how many fillings you lost driving with tires filled to 51 psi.

Let’s start with your high-speed shaking. Inflating tires to their maximum allowable pressure will not damage them or cause a vibration. But it will cause a very hard ride.

The most likely explanation for the vibration is that your tires were so overinflated that when you hit a pothole, the hard impact knocked off a wheel weight or two, causing your tires to go out of balance.

Did rebalancing the tires stop the high-speed shaking? If so, that’s what happened. And honestly, the dealer should have rebalanced your tires for free, since he was responsible for grossly overinflating them, which probably contributed to the loss of wheel weights and your corrective dental work.

Should your tires be replaced at 7 years old? Probably. Your dealer is right that over time, the rubber will start to degrade, even if there’s still useful tread left.

Why does that happen? Mostly because ozone in the air degrades rubber. Tire manufacturers say, to be safe, tires should be replaced after six years. Obviously, they’ve got a vested interest in getting you to buy new tires.

But even if you assume they’re erring on the side of caution (and tire sales), I think 7- or 8-year-old tires should probably be replaced. As should any tires showing signs of dry rot or cracking on the sidewalls

So, your dealer gets a grade of “C” overall. “A” for his information on replacing older tires, and “A” for knowing that maximum inflation would not have caused your vibration. But we’re going to dock him for letting you drive away with 51 psi in your tires and for telling you that not driving enough somehow makes your tires worse. That’s nonsense. So, we hope he studies hard before you have to go in again, Sam.