Questions and answers from the ‘Car Doctor’ – Oneida Dispatch

Q. What do you suggest I use to clean the mats in my car, these are aftermarket mats made by WeatherTech. I have 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. Any suggestions?

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

Q. The Biden Administration is considering a change in policy that would allow the sale of E15 gasoline during the summer months. What are your thoughts on this gasoline with higher ethanol content? I know that antique cars, boats and power equipment don’t like the 10 percent ethanol gasoline.

A. Just to be clear this is my personal opinion. Most car manufacturers approve gasoline with up to 10 percent ethanol. Some independent testing has shown that cars made since 2001 should not suffer any mechanical issue when using gasoline with up to 15 percent ethanol. The problem in my opinion is that higher percentage of ethanol results in lower fuel economy. This means that with gas selling near me at $ 4.50 per gallon the E15 would need to be about 10 cents per gallon cheaper to realize any saving. Additionally, ethanol has higher evaporative emissions which is an issue in summer heat. Also, corn is a very important agricultural crop to feed people. Before using any different blends of gasoline drivers need to check their owner’s manuals to ensure that their vehicles are compatible.

Q. I have a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze, when I turn the heat on, sometimes the air-conditioner comes on. When that happens, I turn the temperature control knob to high and select “floor” for the air delivery mode, then, when I turn the fan on, the air conditioner comes on. The air blows warm, like it’s a mixture of hot and cold air. If the fan is already on when I start the car it does not happen. I took it to the dealer, but they couldn’t find anything wrong. Any ideas?

A. There are no technical service bulletins that address this problem specifically. At this point you will need to demonstrate the issue to the dealer or repair shop so they can form a repair strategy. The climate control system just like almost every part in the car has a computer that controls it. The repair could be mechanical or a reprogramming of the body control computer. The air conditioner will typically turn on when the defroster mode or is selected. Even with the air conditioner turned on and the temperature setting on hot the air temperature should be warm / hot.

Q. I am concerned about an older relative who is just about five feet tall and drives with her seat pulled as close as possible to the steering wheel so that her feet reach the pedals. Would pedal extenders be a good idea and if so what product would you recommend? I’m concerned about the air bag deploying and causing major head injury.

A. This issue is typical as we age; we have seen that 9 out of 10 drivers don’t take advantages simple modifications that can be performed on nearly every car. You are correct that sitting too close to an active airbag can have devastating consequences. At this point your relative has two choices, they can have the airbag shut off or add pedal extensions. Typical pedal extensions can be added fairly easily to almost any vehicle by most repair shops. You can also request to have the airbag shut off by filing paperwork with NHTSA. Pedal extenders can be purchased through “up-fitters” that provide modifications for handicapped drivers 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 need to be changed. Recently, that was after 11,192 miles and previously 10,523 miles. The dealer where I purchased this truck 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 put the oil change off as long as it was safe. I would think Chevrolet would know best, what do you think? Also, with diesel so expensive is there anything I can do to improve fuel economy?

A. Years back oil changes were performed more frequently for several reasons. Fuel was wasted during the combustion process and ended up mixing in the engine crankcase. Oil and oil filters were not the quality they are today. In addition, engines run hotter which helps clear contaminants such are moisture from the oil. If this was my vehicle, I would follow the recommendation in the vehicle owner’s manual or the electronic display. Some of these systems use very elaborate calculations to determine when the oil needs changing. I have also seen third party testing to confirm the overall accuracy. Regarding fuel economy, gas or diesel the basics are the same. Keep tires inflated properly, keep up with maintenance, easy on the throttle and brakes, drive the speed limit and avoid idling.

Q. I have a 2009 Hyundai Sonata that is performing beautifully and has been the best car I have ever owned and has just under 150,000 miles on it. 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 unusual to see drive belts and rubber hoses last 10 years or more, but at some point everything needs to be replaced. If the city doesn’t show any signs of glazing 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 prevent any possible breakdown, I would replace it.

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