‘Car Doctor’ Q&A – Oneida Dispatch

Q. What do you suggest I use to clean my car mats, these are aftermarket mats made by WeatherTech. I washed them with soap and water, they are clean but very dull. I don’t want to use the spray that will make it shine because it’s also very slippery. No suggestions?

A. There are a few products you can try. One is Solution Finish Black, the other is Meguiars’ Black Trim Restore. Both should bring back the black color without becoming slippery. I use Meguiars Black Trim Restore on the exterior trim of my cars and it is not greasy and lasts quite well given that it is exposed to the elements.

Q. The Biden administration is considering a policy change that would allow the sale of E15 gasoline during the summer months. What do you think of this gasoline with a higher ethanol content? I know old cars, boats and electrical equipment don’t like 10% ethanol gasoline.

A. To be clear, this is my personal opinion. Most car manufacturers approve gasoline containing up to 10% ethanol. Some independent tests have shown that cars manufactured since 2001 should suffer no mechanical problems when using gasoline containing up to 15% ethanol. The problem in my opinion is that a higher percentage of ethanol results in less fuel economy. This means that with gasoline selling near me at $4.50 per gallon, E15 would have to be about 10 cents per gallon cheaper to save money. Additionally, ethanol has higher evaporative emissions, which is a problem in the summer heat. Also, corn is a very important agricultural crop to feed people. Before using different blends of gasoline, drivers should check their owner’s manuals to make sure their vehicles are compatible.

Q. I have a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze, when I turn on the heater sometimes the air conditioner turns on. When this happens, I turn the temperature control knob to high and select “floor” for the air delivery mode, then when I turn on the fan, the air conditioner kicks in. The air blows hot, as if it were a mixture of hot and cold air. If the fan is already on when I start the car, this does not happen. I took it to the dealer, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. Ideas?

A. There are no technical service bulletins that specifically address this issue. At this point, you will need to demonstrate the problem to the dealer or repair shop so they can develop a repair strategy. The air conditioning system, like almost every part of the car, has a computer that controls it. The repair can be mechanical or a reprogramming of the body’s control computer. The air conditioner usually turns on when defrost mode or is selected. Even with the air conditioner on and the temperature setting on warm, the air temperature should be warm/hot.

Q. I am concerned about an older parent who is about five feet tall and drives with their seat pulled as close to the steering wheel as possible so their feet reach the pedals. Would pedal extenders be a good idea and if so, what product would you recommend? I fear the airbag will deploy and cause serious head injuries.

A. This problem is typical as we age; we’ve seen that 9 out of 10 drivers don’t take advantage of simple modifications that can be done on almost any car. You are correct that sitting too close to an active airbag can have devastating consequences. At this point your loved one has two choices, they can disable the airbag or add pedal extensions. Typical pedal extensions can be added quite easily to almost any vehicle by most repair shops. You can also request airbag deactivation by filing paperwork with NHTSA. Pedal extenders can be purchased through “fitters” who provide modifications for disabled riders or online.

Q. According to the owner’s manual for my newly purchased 2006 Chevrolet Silverado with a Duramax diesel, it has a computer system that determines when the oil and filter should be changed. Recently it was after 11,192 miles and previously 10,523 miles. The dealer I bought this truck from recommends every 7,500 miles and other mechanics who work on diesels have suggested even shorter intervals. I want the engine to last, but would be happy to postpone the oil change until it was safe. I think Chevrolet would be best placed, what do you think? Also, with diesel being so expensive, is there anything I can do to improve fuel economy?

A. Years ago, oil changes were performed more frequently for several reasons. The fuel was wasted during the combustion process and ended up getting mixed in the engine crankcase. Oil and oil filters were not of the quality they have today. In addition, engines run hotter, which helps remove contaminants such as oil moisture. If this were my vehicle, I would follow the recommendation of the vehicle owner’s manual or electronic display. Some of these systems use very elaborate calculations to determine when the oil needs to be changed. I’ve also seen third-party testing to confirm overall accuracy. When it comes to fuel economy, gasoline or diesel, the basics are the same. Keep tires properly inflated, follow maintenance, take care of the accelerator and brakes, obey the speed limit and avoid idling.

Q. I have a 2009 Hyundai Sonata that is running great and has been the best car I have ever owned and has done just under 150,000 miles. The serpentine belt has never been replaced but looks perfect. At 150,000 miles and 12 years old should I just replace it.

A. Today it is not uncommon to see drive belts and rubber hoses last 10 years or more, but at some point everything needs to be replaced. If the belt shows no signs of icing or cracking and is quiet on start-up, I wouldn’t be concerned. That being said, if I was planning a long trip in the near future and wanted to avoid any possible breakdowns, I would replace it.

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