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Help, my car is leaking!

Posted by John Paul  February 14, 2012 10:58 AM

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Q. You had a recent article about someone that had a problem with water leaking in the car soaking the rugs. I am having a similar issue with my 2002 Lincoln Town Car. The water is coming in from under the dash board on the passenger side of the car. I just had the windshield replace because someone said it was probably that, turns out it wasn't. Could you please give me any advice you have on this problem, my mechanic is baffled.

A. Water leaks can be a challenge to the point where finding and repairing water leaks has become a specialty area. Your car like all cars has water continuous running through a series on drains, these drains are in the body and doors. The problem is over time the drains that allow the water out can clog and cause the water to back-up into the cabin of the car. The first place to look is at the air conditioner drain. The second place I would look is at the moon-roof drains and finally near the air intake for the climate control system. These drains can clog and water will backup into the cabin.

Q. I always thought I knew what the numbers on a can of engine oil meant but now I'm not so sure. The owner's manual for my 2011 Honda specifies 0-20w oil. Can you explain to a non-mechanical person what these numbers signify?

A. There are a series of numbers and letters on a container of oil. The “W” in the oil numbers indicates the oil is suitable and has been tested in cold weather conditions. The numbers are the viscosity index. Honda recommends a multi-viscosity oil, the lower the number the better it flows in cold weather. In this case this oil would perform like a zero weight oil when cold and a 20 weight at operating temperature. In addition there is the API (American Petroleum Index) rating; this two letter designation is for the engine type and quality rating.

Q. I drive a 2007 Buick LaCrosse with 64,000 miles. When standing still or have slowed down, on accelerating the car will move forward, there is a hesitation in the shifting process followed by an extreme jolt forward. Do you have any thoughts as to the problem and a remedy?

A. This condition could be caused by an internal issue with the transmission. Some model Buicks had a problem with the shift characteristics of the first to second gear shift. The repair requires disassembly of the transmission to cure this shudder and jolt.

Q. I have a 1999 Jeep Cherokee and the headlights are cloudy, to the point that the headlights look dim at night. How do I clean and keep clean the plastic headlights on my car before it becomes more of a safety issue.

A. There are several do-it-yourself products that you can use to clean these plastic lenses. I have had good luck with products made by Quixx and Sylvania. Once the headlights are clear again they need to be sealed to prevent further degradation of the lenses. Both these kits cost about $20.00

Q. As Saab is now bankrupt I'm seeing some good values. However, I'm concerned with future maintenance, especially if dealer service is terminated. Do you have any thoughts on this? Should I move on to other makes?

A. There are some great deals on Saab automobiles but it certainly is a gamble to buy a car without a warranty. Routine maintenance items will continue to be supported by aftermarket suppliers as will many body shop parts. The issue to me would be relays, switches and controls that are Saab specific. A good technician can usually create some sort of “work-a-round” but is it would certainly cause a delay in getting your car repaired. One additional consideration is the future trade in price. I have to think that a Saab in a few years is going to be worth very little. For me I would move on and look at other makes.

Q. My 1991 Toyota Corolla’s engine skips occasionally when idling. The spark plugs have been changed. One mechanic suggested the alternator may need changing. I have had no trouble starting the car and the battery seems fine. Any thoughts?

A. It may be time to move on to a new repair shop, the alternator is not where I would be looking for an occasional poor idle issue. There are so many problems that could cause an intermittent idle problem. Some that I would look at are a faulty distributer cap and rotor, faulty ignition coil and fuel injector and valve carbon issues. When dealing with a 21 year old car it is always best to start with the basics of fuel, ignition and engine compression and work from that point.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
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