Q. I purchased a 2007 Dodge caravan in 2006. For years, I have spent thousands of dollars to fix a problem that has not been taken care of to this day. When I start my car, sometimes the air conditioner works, others times it blows out hot air. I have to pull over and turn my car off and restart it in order for the AC to blow out cold air. I keep taking it to the Dodge dealer, they tell me it’s fixed, but it’s still doing the same thing as when I took it in. I’ve had it looked at and supposedly repaired five times. Any ideas?
A. Similar to most items in vehicles today, this system needs to be checked with a scan tool to look for diagnostic fault codes. The fault codes should help diagnose an electrical problem. It is possible that the vehicle is giving a false reading, indicating over-heating and shutting the air conditioner down. Restarting the car clears the problem and A/C operates normally again. A good repair shop should stand behind their work and once they have diagnosed the problem, if that problem persists, they should repair it again-perhaps at no charge.
Q. When I coast downhill, the readout in my car shows 99 miles per gallon. Am I really getting 99 miles per gallon?
A. Most cars, when coasting, will use little or no fuel. Drivers who hyper-mile will coast whenever possible to try to maximize fuel economy. Do you really get 99 miles per gallon when in full coast mode? It certainly is possible that your car may even be getting more than 99 miles per gallon. Regarding maximizing fuel economy, never trade fuel economy for safe driving habits.
Q. What do you think of the Volkswagen Jetta diesel and Honda Civic natural gas car? I’m considering buying a diesel but read about the CNG Civic and I trust your opinion on these things.
A. The Volkswagen Jetta is a good choice; the fuel economy is great, even when factoring the extra cost of diesel fuel. In addition, the characteristics of the diesel engine in the Jetta make this a fun car to drive. The CNG Civic has merits; it is easy on the environment, gets decent economy and performs adequately. But until the CNG infrastructure grows, it can be a hassle to refuel the car. I had a natural gas Civic for a few days and had a severe case of “range anxiety.’’ I had to plan my route, since there were only two CNG stations near me and both required a side trip to get to them. Fueling at home would certainly make the Civic a better option. My choice would be the TDI Jetta.
Q. My 2001 Honda CRV recently stalled and my mechanic replaced distributor cap, then the entire distributor, as well as a few other things. This past November, the engine light finally came on and I searched cold stalling and check engine lights. Up came many references to “valve problems’’. There were thousands of references, saying Honda knew the 2000-20002 CRV, Civic, and Accord’s had this problem. My husband had the valves replaced ($1600) and since then it is perfect. I was so disappointed in Honda, who has always been known for having the best engines. What do you think?
A. The problem with many Honda vehicles of this vintage is that the intake valves tend to get tight over time and go out of adjustment. The problem is that the 30,000 mile valve adjustment maintenance gets over looked. In many cases, simply adjusting the valves fixes the stalling and check engine light issues. In some cases, such as with your vehicle, the valves “burn’’ and a cylinder-head overhaul is needed. In general I think Honda makes great a product, but they do require regular maintenance.
Q. I was considering buying the 2013 Chevy Malibu. I sort of liked it but it seemed to fall short in a few areas. The engine seemed raspy and the rear seat room was tight. I’m in no hurry to buy a new car but do want to buy one with at least an American name. Can you suggest something else?
A. The Ford Fusion is a great choice and it has an all-wheel-drive option available. Although, don’t give up on the Chevy Malibu. The 2014 Malibu that will be out this fall has an improved 2.5 liter engine, fuel-saving start-stop technology added to standard model, more rear seat leg room and improved ride and handling.
Reader Comment: You mentioned a do it yourself air conditioner kit last week, can you give me more details on this product?
The product is safe and simple to use, for more details go to my podcast where I chatted with one of the A/C Pro staff.