Q: My 2017 Infiniti GX50 has doors that auto lock at five miles per hour. The problem is that frequently I would like to allow my wife to exit the car while the engine is still running. There used to be a procedure to manually reprogram cars to turn off the auto lock feature.
I have asked the service department twice about having them reprogram the auto lock feature. They tell me that they can’t (won’t) do it. This is obviously a safety feature, but there has to be a simple way to deactivate it.
— G.P., Bethlehem, Pa.
A: Almost everything on today’s automobiles is programmable, including the automatic door locks on your Infiniti. You may not find the answer in your regular owner’s manual, but the InfinityTouch manual will explain how to use the touch screen display’s vehicle settings window to adjust the lock’s behavior.
Q: I own a 2017 Honda Accord with 19,000 miles that emits a musty smell when the A/C is switched on. The car is kept in the garage, and I recently replaced the cabin air filter, but the smell is still there. I thought I would check with you before returning to the dealer for service. Can you give me an idea of what I can do to eliminate this odor?
— B.P., Arlington Heights, Ill.
A: Cool your heels. The problem will go away as it gets colder out and you stop using the air conditioner. The odor is caused by micro-organisms in the HVAC housing. Moisture from humidity collects in the dark, warm environment and then bad stuff grows. Turning the A/C off for the final five to 10 minutes before shutting off the engine often dries out the system.
Professional detailers often have antimicrobial stuff that the general public can’t buy. Call around.
Q: I recently started shopping for a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee. I noted that a lot of them have dual hood vents. I’m concerned that excess water from car washes or rain could damage the engine or components under the hood. Could excess water or rain damage anything under the hood? I noted one dealer did not have any 2020 Grand Cherokees with the hoods. Only 2019s.
— G.R., Algonquin, Ill.
A: Cars have had hood vents since, ah, almost forever. Water will not harm the engine whether it gets in through vents or from below when driving through puddles. Everything in the engine compartment is protected from water intrusion. Although often a design cue, many functional hood vents direct cooling air into the engine compartment.
Q: I’m looking at buying a 2012 Mazda Miata GT from a private party, second owner. The first owner put 3,600 miles on the car from October 2012 to March 2016, with annual synthetic oil changes. The second owner has put 2,000 miles on the car from April 2016 to present, with no oil changes. The car was driven from spring to fall and stored in an unheated garage during winter.
If I check the oil dipstick and find clean/amber colored oil, is that evidence enough to say the engine is OK? Or should I be concerned that there is moisture/water and rust in the engine, and walk away from this car?
— P.K., Hoffman Estates, Ill.
A: You really need not be overly concerned. Sure, there may be a bit of moisture in the oil, but it will cook off quickly once the engine is started. Nevertheless, I would change the oil and filter as soon as possible. This is a good way to benchmark the service to begin your record-keeping.
Renew transmission fluid earlier than manufacturer recommends
By Brad Bergholdt, Tribune News Service
Q: I have a question about servicing an automatic transmission. My maintenance schedule says to drain and replace the fluid at 120,000 miles. A friend in the business says this is crazy and that I should do this sooner. What is your take?
— Alan B.
A: Renewing transmission fluid more regularly than 120,000 miles could certainly help extend the transmission’s life. If one looks at the cost of a transmission rebuild, perhaps $3,000-$5,000 or more, to me it’s a no-brainer to slip in some additional preventative maintenance.
A typical automatic transmission holds perhaps 12 to 15 quarts of fluid and a replaceable filter is often found within the oil pan. Removing the pan to drop the fluid and renew the filter is one way to service a transmission, but only four to five quarts of old fluid will be drained, the rest remains within the torque converter and other parts of the transmission. Another service method is to perform a flushing process. A fluid exchanging machine is connected via the transmission cooler lines and virtually all fluid is exchanged. This may require perhaps 20 or more quarts of fluid and doesn’t address filter replacement. Combining the two services would be the ultimate solution, but isn’t frequently done due to the cost. Some folks alternate between the two.
Were it my vehicle, I’d consider doing one or both of these procedures perhaps at 60,000 miles, or sooner if the vehicle is driven under demanding conditions.
Here’s an idea for vehicles which incorporate a transmission drain plug (some don’t have one): Perhaps at every third oil change, drop the four to five quarts of transmission fluid that is easily drained, and renew with the appropriate fluid. With new fluid gradually introduced, at least some benefits will accrue in a cost-effective and convenient manner.
Transmissions have evolved such that some require specific fluid qualities not found in multi-vehicle/generic transmission fluid. Manufacturer specified fluids or generic fluids that are licensed/meeting their specifications really should be used in many cases. For example Ford/Motorcraft offers nine different fluids depending on transmission type, including a special fluid for use in CVT (continuously variable) transmissions. Thanks to internet shopping, they sometimes aren’t terribly more expensive than generic/multi-vehicle brands (many are about $7 to $15 per quart versus $4 to $6 per quart) while some fluids, say for the widely used eight speed ZF transmission can hit $30 to $40 per quart.
Q: My 2010 Ford Focus sometimes shudders when I’m accelerating. A friend connected a scanner and said I have a cylinder-two misfire. Do you have suggestions of what to check?
— Jenni S.
A: This may be an easy one. Your Focus employs individual ignition coils, one for each cylinder. They’re inexpensive and easy to change, so I’d gamble $20 and renew the No. 2 coil — it takes less than five minutes! (This is the second cylinder back from the front of the engine). If the scan tool is readily available, one can swap coils between cylinders and see if the misfire follows a particular coil.