What’s wrong with my car’s horn?

John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.
John Paul, aka “the Car Doctor,’’ answers readers’ car-related questions.

Q. I thought I read this question in one of your columns before and now I have the same problem but I don’t remember the answer. My 15 year old Pontiac whenever it gets cold will start beeping the horn. What can I do to prevent this from happening other than wait for warm weather? My neighbors are not happy with me.

A. The problem is not an inexpensive one. The issue is the airbag cover which also incorporates the horn switch. In cold weather the cover shrinks and activates the horn. The fix is to replace the airbag. As a temporary and inexpensive solution you could remove the fuse or run a switch to deactivate the horn at night to save the battery and keep your neighbors happy.


Q. We own a 2001 Mazda 626 and we changed the fuel filter, gave the car a complete tune up yet the car only runs for a few minutes then shuts off. What are we missing to keep this car running?

A. There are a few basics you need to look at, the first would be fuel pressure and fuel volume. I would also look at the flexible rubber boot for the mass-airflow sensor. If the boot is torn it will cause numerous stalling/running issues. It would also make sense to check the car for computer fault codes.

Q. I have a 2002 Chevy Silverado that was recalled because of a safety problem involving the wheel speed sensors on the antilock braking system. I brought the truck to a Chevy dealer and the problem was corrected. The truck now has 300,000 miles on it and the problem with the antilock brakes is back. Will/should Chevy repair the problem again at no charge?

A. I’m doubtful at this age and mileage that Chevrolet would do anything to help you. The typical problem is a faulty wheel sensor usually damaged by rust and corrosion. Now certainly it can’t hurt to ask but the best I would hope for is some offer to split the cost of the repair. According to NHTSA there have been several complaints filed about the braking system on this model truck but no recalls


Q. My 2005 Chevy Malibu with 104,000 miles on it is starting to rust on the rocker panels. My late husband took meticulous car of our car. My regular garage who I trust very much has told me that the car is in excellent shape should last me another five years. The auto body shop they sent me to in our town gave me an estimate of between $1500.00 and $2000.00 depending on what they find for addition work (most of this work would be labor). I love this car; I am used to driving it. My question is should the 74 year old widow lady put this kind of money into a 2005 car. Or should I save this expense and start looking for a new car?

A. In this case I would trust the professionals you are dealing with. The car seems to be mechanically sound, has relatively low mileage and once the rust is repaired should look good. Considering you are comfortable with the car I would be tempted to do the repairs and hold onto it. Of course a new car would be more reliable, safer and more fuel efficient than your 12 year old Chevy but at a significant cost.

Q. I am need of some used car advice. I have two used cars and I need to keep one, only one. My fiancé passed away unexpectedly and I need to decide if I want to keep his car or mine. Both vehicles are registered in my name and paid off. I am more concerned with long-term maintenance costs. My car is a 2004 Toyota RAV4; with over 210,000 miles kept in pristine condition. My fiancé’s car is a 2002 BMW X5, 3.0 liter. It has 122,000 miles; we bought it used last year. We spent about $700 in the summer to repair the back window because it would not go up/down and the door was stuck. I am trying to make this decision with my head, not my heart- because a big part of me wants to keep his car to feel close to him. I am a teacher and currently commute 30 miles to and from school.


A. My first reaction is to sell the BMW and keep the Toyota. Historically the RAV4 has much lower repair and maintenance costs than the BMW. Now certainly the BMW is a bit more fun to drive and a little roomier but repair costs will be higher. Before making any decision have a trusted repair shop look at both cars, giving you an idea of the overall condition. One suggestion is to sell both cars and buy a newer, safer and more dependable vehicle. Perhaps you can take a small part (key ring or emblem) of each car as a keepsake to keep both your dad and your fiancé with you at all times.

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