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THE CAR DOCTOR

Skunk smell won't leave car

Plus: Parasitic electrical drain, worn Expedition brakes

By John Paul
Boston.com Columnist / September 23, 2009

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Q. I ran over a skunk with my car. It has been two weeks now and the car still stinks. Do you have any suggestions of a spray or something else to cover up the smell? Help! My wife won't let me park in the garage!

A. I believe time may be the only cure for the smell. You could try washing the car underneath with a power washer using a solution of hydrogen peroxide and water. This mixture may help neutralize the smell. You should also replace the cabin filter since it may have picked up the smell. Air fresheners may help, but it has been my experience that then you end up with skunky/minty smell. Readers, any suggestions?

Q. I have a 5-speed 1997 VW Jetta. Recently when I accelerate hard, the RPMs go way up but the engine doesn't respond. Is this a problem with the clutch or something else? How expensive is this to fix?

A. It certainly sounds like the clutch is slipping. Similar to brakes, the clutch is a part that wears over time. To replace the clutch expect the labor to take about six hours and the major parts, if purchased at a Volkswagen dealer, to be $450.

Q. The battery in my 2008 Nissan Sentra goes dead after the car sits unused for about four days in the wintertime, and about a week in the summertime. This is very frustrating since I can't leave the car anywhere for more than four days to a week. I know that in newer cars there is a constant small drain on the battery, but this seems ridiculous. Is this "four days to a week" really normal nowadays? If so, what do you suggest?

A. You need to bring your car to a shop where they can check for parasitic electrical drain. Although all cars have some slight electric drain even when the key is off, most cars can sit for a month or so without the battery fully discharging. Possible causes are courtesy lights that don't shut off, or aftermarket products such as car-starters or alarm systems.

Q. This morning I had four new tires put on my Expedition. After installing them (and before taking the car off the rack and paying the bill), the shop said that the right front brakes were metal to metal. Strangely, when we drove to the shop we didn't hear or feel the brakes grinding, but as soon as we pulled out of the shop's lot, sure enough the brakes were grinding (we could feel and hear them).

We drove back from a 600 mile trip five days earlier and didn't notice any changes with the brakes then either. Could the shop have done something to make the brakes go faulty just so they could tack on more charges, or do you think it was just a coincidence? Or perhaps another explanation?

A. Most good shops will look at the brakes in a car when they are replacing the tires. It could be that the brake linings were so worn that just getting a good look at them caused the brakes to start to scrape. The other possibility is that once you were aware of the problem, it became obvious. At this point, I would want to get the repairs done as soon as possible both for safety and cost reasons.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com or on Twitter @johnfpaul.