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The Car Doctor - February 21, 2008

Email|Print| Text size + By John Paul, AAA Car Doctor
February 21, 2008

Q. When I try to fill my 2003 Toyota Camry with gas, the nozzle clicks off. I have to fill the tank as slowly as possible, or else gas backs up the spout and stops the gas pump. What's wrong?

A. The most common problem is with the evaporative emissions system. A vent line runs from the fuel tank to the charcoal canister. This line can become become clogged. Or it may have been clamped off during some diagnostic testing.

Q. I recently got involved in a front collision with a 2007 Nissan Altima sedan, in which the crash-zone sensor broke. I hit this car at 35 mph. Should the airbag have deployed?

A. For an air bag to deploy, it generally takes a combination of speed, angle of impact and velocity of the crash. If one of these criteria were not met, the airbag may not deploy. At this point, I would reassemble the system, retest all the sensors and check for trouble codes. If there are no codes present and the airbag warning light works as it was designed, the system should be OK.

Q. I have a 2001 Toyota Corolla with a manual transmission. It makes a tapping/light knocking noise when the engine is cold. The noise disappears after the engine warms up. The noise will reappear when I'm driving at high rpms. I've always changed the oil every 3,000 miles and have taken good care of the car, but I can't seem to get a logical answer from a mechanic. I've already changed the V-belt and clutch. Any ideas?

A. It is possible the engine has some internal wear. I have seen some of these 1.8-liter four-cylinder engines develop some wear at the connecting rods. The only way to verify the problem 100 percent is to disassemble the engine.

Q. My 1999 Toyota Camry has always had somewhat of a windshield defrosting problem, but lately it's been terrible. I've taken it to the dealer several times to have it checked out, but after draining and replacing the radiator and doing a compression check for leaks in the system, their only advice was to run the air conditioning year round to help defrost the windows. It seems to have deteriorated each year to the point that I now have to constantly wipe the front windshield myself to keep it from clouding up. The sides and back window are impossible to clear, even with the rear defrost on. Lately, there's so much moisture on the inside of the windows (front, rear and sides) that on certain cold winter days, I have to scrape off the inside of the windows each morning. I've been thoroughly drying the windows every night by wiping all moisture off the insides, and it minimizes what's there's in the morning.

A. The first item I would look at is the air-conditioner-evaporator drain. The other possibility is the doors themselves could be filling with water. When you are checking the evaporator drain, look at the drain holes for the doors. If the car has a sunroof, check that drain as well. The air conditioner is also an important part of the climate-control system year round. It helps remove moisture in the air and allows it to drain from the vehicle. It is also important that the system is set on fresh air at all times. If the system is set to recirculate, it will take the air inside the car and reuse it, including any moisture from snow or rain and even your breath.

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