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The Car Doctor - January 24, 2008

Email|Print| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
January 24, 2008

Q. My husband has a 2004 VW Passat. Recently, the front and back windshields have been freezing on the inside of the car and taking a while to completely defrost. He has taken it to the dealer and, after a full day at the shop, they were unable to find anything wrong. What could cause this type of problem? There is a small crack in the front windshield, but nothing in the back.

A. The windows are freezing due to excessive moisture buildup in the interior of the car. This could be due to a minor window leak, body seam leak or even a clogged sunroof drain. If you don't detect moisture on the carpets after a driving rain storm, it is possible the air conditioner evaporator drain is clogged. This should be simple enough to check with the vehicle up on a hoist. One final note, whenever you have the car's defroster on, it should be in the fresh air mode - not recirculation. Using the air conditioner with the heat will also help dehumidify the cabin of the car and reduce condensation and frost in cold weather.

Q. We are considering a used four-door model that has proven engineering design and features. Our limited experience indicates a sedan would provide easier ingress and egress than an SUV. We are fairly tall; I'm six-foot-five and my wife is six-feet. We are looking at a budget limit of $5,000 to $10,000. I haven't bought a car since 1991, so I have no way of correlating my present budget target with my specifications. Any ideas?

A. Since head room and leg room are a priority along with your budget, there are limited choices. Based on track record, the Buick LeSabre may be a good choice. The drivetrains have been quite good and the bodies are holding up well. A 2000-2004 LeSabre would fit well within your budget. Other cars to consider are the Ford Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis.

Q. I purchased a 2000 Hyundai Accent new in 2000. I mostly use it on weekends and have never had any problems until this past year when the car started needing jump starts. Recently, I purchased a Sears Die Hard battery, but I continued to have this problem. I had Sears check the battery and it was fine. Then I had the Hyundai dealer check the electrical system and was told it was fine. What could be draining my battery? Is there something that an electrical diagnosis is likely to miss? Is there a tool that a layperson can use to find out if something is activated?

A. Start with a basic check of the charging system. Something as simple as an overlooked alternator drive belt could be the cause. The other possibility is an electrical component that is not shutting down after the car is turned off. Possibilities include the courtesy lights, the sound system and the alarm system. A repair shop needs to check for parasitic drain to determine if there is a problem. With the exception of looking for trunk lights and other courtesy lights staying on, there isn't much you can check without specialized tools.

Q. My 1997 Firebird seems to go through blinker lights extremely fast. When we change them, they overheat to almost fried. Could something on the electrical end be too "hot" and causing the bulbs to burn out quickly? Also, my passenger window is starting not to roll back up, if I forget and roll it down. I can eventually inch it back up little by little using the buttons. If I do need to replace the window control buttons, where can I learn to do that?

A. The directional bulbs could be burning out if the alternator is overcharging. Also look at the quality of the replacement bulbs. Some have plastic bases that can't stand up to the heat generated by the bulb. Regarding the windows, one of the most common problems is not the motor but the window guide itself. It the window track is out of alignment or dirty, or if any rollers are worn, then the window will bind up. If you want to tackle the job yourself, a detailed shop manual will help.

Q. John, I read your column all the time and have learned a lot. I have a 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt with a rear window defroster that stopped working about four months ago. I have replaced the relay and fuse and double-checked the grid itself and haven't found any breaks. What am I missing?

A. This is a case of a simple system that has become somewhat complex. The body control module supplies to the rear window switch signal circuit to the heater control assembly. The problem could be a poor connection in the circuit or a faulty body control module.

Q. I have a 2006 Honda Odyssey with 50,000 miles on it that "moans" at less than 15 mph. It has become especially noticeable in the winter cold, when I'm pulling into parking spots, the driveway, or at a drive-through. Any ideas?

A. The noise could be air in the power steering system. This would cause a moaning noise at low speeds. There are several other possibilities such as the exhaust system, brakes and the air conditioner. At this point, considering the van is fairly new, I would return to the dealer and ride with a technician to demonstrate the noise.

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