Car Guides

Why did my SUV’s heater stop working?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader dealing with a heater issue in his nine-year-old Honda.

2010 Honda CR-V (EX-L with Navigation). Honda

Q. I have a question regarding my 2011 Honda CR-V. The car runs beautifully, but the heat suddenly stopped this weekend. What is your diagnosis? 

A. I would start with a check of the basics. Is the coolant level correct? If not, add coolant and check for leaks in the cooling system. Is the vehicle coming up to operating temperature? If it is not, then the problem could be a faulty engine thermostat. Other items could be a stuck air-blend door, faulty heater control, or clogged heater core. All of these items can fail due to age and the cooling system not being properly maintained. 

Q. My 2014 Buick Regal’s battery was dead last night. The car is not driven often — especially now, with COVID-19 — but it is garaged. I charged it for a couple of hours, and it started and seemed fine. I had the battery tested today at a local auto-parts store and it read 422 cranking amps. The battery specs are 660 CCA. Should I just have the battery replaced or should I continue to charge it? The battery is six years old. Is that a good enough reason to just replace it?

A. The average life of a battery in the northeast is just under five years. The battery in your Buick, based on age, is nearing the end of its life. Certainly, you could charge it a bit more — you may have not brought it up to a full charge — then have it retested. If it were my car, I would replace the battery to avoid the inconvenience of a car that won’t start. 

Q. I have a 2006 Hyundai Sonata that makes a sort of whistle sound as I rev up the engine. Along with that, my headlights sometimes go dim then come back on. I took it to my mechanic, and he thought it may be my light switch, but wasn’t sure. I was wondering if you have come across anything like this before.

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A. The problem could be as simple as a slipping alternator drive belt. This would explain the noise and the headlights dimming. The charging system should be completely checked, including the various ground circuits, fuses, and connections.  

Q. I was looking at a Hyundai Tucson with all the bells and whistles, but it has 187,000 highway miles on it. Would you consider buying this vehicle with such high mileage? 

A. Cars today routinely last 200,000 miles or more, so at 187,000, this Hyundai has some life left. It really depends on how the vehicle was operated and maintained. Certainly, with this mileage, you want to have the car checked out by a good repair shop and budget for both immediate and future repairs.  

Q. Okay, we had our first snow at the end of October and the Farmer’s Almanac calls for a bad winter. Snow tires — yes or no? 

A. We’re actually now calling them winter tires. Dedicated winter tires can truly transform how a car performs in cold, wintery weather. The rubber compounds that make up winter tires are designed to grip better than conventional tires in cold temperatures. Also, the tread self-cleans to provide better traction in the snow for both starting off and stopping. 

Q. I have a well-used Ford Ranger pick-up truck, and a few months ago it wouldn’t start. I opened the hood, shook all the wires, and the engine started. Now it’s acting up again, but the wire-shaking trick is not working, although it will eventually start. I really only use this truck for trips to the transfer station and an occasional trip to the home improvement store, so I don’t want to invest much into it. Any thoughts? 

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A. The problem is a wiring issue from the battery to the starter. You will need to check the main wiring and all the components in between. Don’t assume the wire is okay just because the wire insulation looks good. Electrical power and ground connections all need to be inspected and tested for voltage drop. I have found many times that once you measure voltage drop, find a problem, then inspect under the wiring insulation, it is full of corrosion which will certainly cause a starting problem. 

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to jpaul@aaanortheast.com. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10 a.m. every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.

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