CAR TALK

DEAR CAR TALK: I have a 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited Hybrid (not a plug-in). I bought it new at the end of 2018 and had all my oil changes and maintenance performed on schedule.

On a cold night last winter, I turned on my heated seat. All three lights on the dashboard came on, indicating that the seat heating was set to the highest level. Then, within a minute, the lights went out and the seat wouldn’t heat up.

I was only able to turn the heated seat lights back on by turning the car off and then back on. And even after that, the seat heating would only stay on for a minute and then turn off.

The passenger seat heater works well. Any idea what’s wrong? — marla

DEAR READER: You’re in luck – I only found out my heated seat had stopped working when my wife asked me what happened to those nice grill marks she used to see on my butt.

I’m assuming you have a faulty heater grille in the driver’s seat, Marla. The heating element under the seat cushion creates the heat.

There is an electronic module that controls the seat heating in your car. But if the module was at fault, I’m pretty sure your passenger seat heater wouldn’t work either. So I’m going to rule that out.

I’m guessing your driver’s seat grille either shorted out, broke a wire, or was just poorly made and didn’t last as long as it should have.

Your Hyundai dealer can use their scan tool on the seat heater and check for an open circuit. If he finds one – and can’t find anything else that explains it – he will have to take the seat apart and replace the grille.

I believe the 2018 Sonata came with a 5-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty. So as long as you have less than 60,000 miles, you can just walk into the dealership, explain the problem, and say, “Please fix it.” And “No thanks, I don’t want the $800 fuzzy dice spin service while I’m here either.”

That’s exactly what a warranty is for, Marla: things that should last for many years but don’t. So go get it fixed and enjoy a happy and warm ride.

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DEAR CAR TALK: You recently wrote about the new “matte” paints on some new cars.

Speaking of paint, what about the idea that government regulations require car manufacturers to use water-based paint that requires an additional cost when you sit down to sign the paperwork for the purchase /funding ?

Is this the new rustproofing scam? — Steve

DEAR READER: I am not aware of any extra required for water based paint, Steve. Your dealer may be ahead of the pack when it comes to the “scam arts.”

The automotive industry – and indeed the paint industry in general – has switched to water-based paints over the past few decades, for good reason.

Old “oil” paints were made with lots of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. They are serious pollutants.

For most of us, they have made the air we breathe less healthy. But for people who worked in factory paint shops and body shops, they were linked to more acute health problems, including cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency was therefore 100% right to impose this change.

Simply put, paint is a mixture of pigment (color) and a solvent that keeps it liquefied until it is applied to a surface. Once applied, this solvent evaporates and leaves the color.

Compared to older oil paints, water-based paints replace a huge percentage of this solvent with water. The water also evaporates to leave the pigment, but it’s not bad for your health. Unless you mix it with an excessive amount of tub whiskey. What I tried.

So what is the cost? Well, the change has come at a cost, as manufacturers and bodybuilders have had to invest in new equipment and have had to solve the problems associated with using the new products.

And water-based paints tend to cost a bit more than the less desirable oil-based paints.

But there are also cost savings, as stores need fewer pollution controls to comply with air quality regulations and fewer hazmat suits and respirators for employees.

Ultimately, most auto paint experts believe that water-based paint with a clear coat gives a better metallic finish. Look at a new car from 40 years ago and a new car today. Today’s paint job looks much better.

So if a dealer tells you there’s an extra charge for low VOC paints, Steve, tell him he looks like he’s inhaled too many VOCs and get out.

Ray Magliozzi dispenses car advice on Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting cartalk.com

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