Weekly auto rail, with tips for females, Q&A with Junior Damato and more.

Tip of the Week

For many of the 49.7 million single women in the U.S., car care can be a pain. Owning a car comes with a lot of responsibility, and it's sometimes hard to know what needs a mechanic's attention. For a gal on a budget, calling an auto repair shop for everything just isn't an option. Lucky for car owners today, there are simple things anyone can do to help maintain their car.

- It's recommended drivers change their wiper blades every six months. Wiper blades are easy and affordable to fix on your own. Simply know your car's make and model and visit a local auto store to find a match.

- Perhaps even easier than changing your own wiper blades is replacing your windshield wash fluid. It's important to keep the container filled, because you never know when you'll return to a car to find dusty windows.

- Another great way to save money on unnecessary vehicle expenses, such as calling a tow truck for a jump, is to be prepared for an emergency. And nowadays, you don’t even need jumper cables. Items like Peak’s Car-to-Car Charger fit in the palm of your hand and can jump a car without even opening the hood. These devices connect through your vehicle’s cigarette lighters or accessory outlets.

-- ARA

The List

Here are the least-expensive vehicles as judged by ownership costs over five years, as analyzed by ConsumerReports.org:

- Toyota Yaris (man.): $24,750
- Toyota Prius (base): $27,750
- Toyota RAV4 (base, 4-cyl): $34,500
- Acura TSX: $42,000
- Hyundai Santa Fe Ltd. (3.3): $46,250
- Saturn Outlook: $51,750
- Volvo S80 (6-cyl): $58,250

Did You Know

Luxury automaker Porsche reported a 15 percent drop in profit over the past nine months.

Car Q&A

Question: I own a 1992 Chevrolet S-10 pick up with only 72,000 hot sunny miles in Arizona. It has two problems. First, the windshield wipers will start by themselves and shut off, and sometimes I have to help them get started. The second problem is the speedometer stopped working. The technician said the speedometer sender is working. Any ideas?

Answer: The windshield wiper circuit board has been a problem for many years, causing the motor to come on when the ignition key is turned on. Before replacing any part, always check power and ground connections, not to mention the trouble flow chart at Alldata.com. As for the speedometer problem, a simple check with a good scan tool to monitor the speed signal that goes from the transmission via the computer to the speedometer should help. I have replaced a lot of speedometer clusters. You can check with the local salvage yards in your area. You will be stuck with whatever the mileage is on the used speedometer if you go the used route. The other option is to send your speedometer out to a factory Delco service center for repair via any GM dealer parts department.

-- Junior Damato, Talking Cars columnist

GateHouse News Service