Q This question isn't about bad road conditions, dangerous interchanges or rude drivers. But I hope you can answer it for me.

I was told that the MPG shown on new car stickers is never attainable by California drivers because tests are run under very controlled conditions designed to maximize the MPG rating, and these tests do not use our California "special" blend of gasoline, which averages a lower MPG than blends of gas used in other parts of the country.

Please say it ain't so, Mr. Roadshow!!

Susan Cohl

Union City

A It can be so, but mileage estimates are better than a few years ago, as the federal government has insisted that factors like city driving, going up hills and how drivers actually behave behind the wheel be considered in MPG reports beginning with 2008 models. City mileage estimates dropped 10 percent to 20 percent and highway estimates fell 5 percent to 15 percent for most vehicles after that edict went in. The Automobile Club of Southern California found that 90 percent of the 41 vehicles it examined got worse mileage under the new Environmental Protection Agency rules. Go to www.fueleconomy.gov, which offers MPG ratings for current models.


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Carmakers conduct MPG tests themselves, and the EPA has the power to check those numbers. The testing is based on the "certification fuel" used. So for vehicles certified for sale in California, the number is typically based on the use of California fuel.

John-the-State-Air-Board-Man says: "Even though California is not responsible for these ratings, we recommend that purchasers use them only as a relative guide when making a decision. Like the disclaimer says, actual mileage will vary. The newer EPA testing procedures more accurately reflect real world driving, but in the end it is still a test and not the real world."

Q I am considering buying an electric car or a plug-in hybrid. Where can I locate charging stations?

Chris Newman

San Jose

A Go to www.mychargepoint.net/find-stations.php to find available sites.

Q Ah, the law of unintended circumstance strikes again. I guess government did not see the problem with mandating high MPG cars and the loss of gas tax to maintain the roads. How about charging the cars that are electric or get high mileage more to register to make up for the loss of revenue and leave everybody else alone?

Jeffrey Novick

Scottsdale, Ariz.

A You raise a valid point and one that will get more serious in decades to come as more electric vehicles are sold. The state of Washington charges a $100 fee for electric vehicles to make up a small portion of lost gas tax revenue.

Q I just bought a 2012 Camry Hybrid and have about 1,500 miles on it. How long before I see somewhere around the 40 MPG the manufacturer advertises? Currently, I'm averaging about 32 MPG.

Kirk Miller

A You should be seeing higher mileage soon. Most car experts say it takes about 1,500 miles to break a car in.

Q I have a 10-year-old car and my kids are old enough to sit in the front, where the air bags are located. Should the air bags be replaced on a car this old?

Nancy Reyes

A Each vehicle with an air bag has a computer and "self-checks" each time the car is turned on. If this reveals a problem, the air bag light will illuminate.

Q A compliment for a change. I read in your column how to report potholes, looked up San Jose's website and called the appropriate phone number. After a couple of rings, a real and pleasant human being answered and I reported a pothole that has bugged me and others near my work in San Jose where Junction Avenue meets Zanker Road. She thanked me for the report. I hung up thinking I would keep an eye out over the coming months to see if it was fixed but didn't expect much more. That same evening, lo and behold, the pothole was filled!

Bruce Clarke

Los Altos

A Bruce's response: "WOW."

Look for Gary Richards at Facebook.com/mr.roadshow or contact him at mrroadshow@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5335.