Is there a way to stop my car from blowing hot air?
Q I have a 2000 Buick Park Avenue with 181,000 miles. The automatic air conditioning is down. Air goes through the vents and only blows hot. Even when I’m on the highway with the system off, warm air blows through the vents. I closed all the vents, but hot air is still coming in. Is this a mixing gate issue? I know some of these doors are difficult to access. Is there an easy solution?
A. Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. Unlike older cars that used wires to open and close vents and turn on heater valves, today these systems use vacuums and electric actuators. In your Buick, there are four actuators: the air intake, the mode control, the left air mixture and the right air mixture. Air discharge is controlled by the mode gate actuator. The actuator drives a cam wheel which controls the position of the two air relief doors. Depending on the faulty door or operator, repairing the problem can take anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours.
Q I have a 2007 Honda Pilot with 171.00 miles that I bought new. I changed the timing belt at 95,000 and had all the regular maintenance done. When should I change the timing belt again? The car is still in good condition and I would like to do another 100,000 miles.
A. Typically, the Pilot’s timing belt is changed at around 100,000 miles. My suggestion, if you plan on keeping your Pilot for another 100,000 miles, would be to replace the timing belt again this year. Given the mileage, I would also replace the water pump and assess the seals for oil seepage, as well as the drive belts and tensioners.
Q I own a 2013 Volvo station wagon with 235,000 miles. It still runs perfectly and my mechanic says I can surely hit 300,000 miles, which is what I’m aiming for. This car has always had wonderful steering – it holds the road very well and is not loose like so many other vehicles. When I’ve tested other cars for my growing children, they feel much less controllable on the road. The slightest movement of the steering wheel and you feel the car sway. Can you tell me what makes steering my Volvo such a dream? What should I look for in my next car to get the same kind of control I have now?
A. Almost all new cars today come with electronic power steering which, depending on the car, can result in a somewhat artificial steering feel. It can range from a bit loose in the center to almost jittery and overly sensitive. There was a time when BMWs had legendary, almost telepathic steering, but even that has changed over the years. Unfortunately, you have to road test the car that best suits your needs. Even the latest Volvos have lost some of that steering feel you love in your car. The other determining factor can be the tires, which can turn a car’s steering from direct to soft.
Q I have a 2005 Toyota Camry XLE with 150,000 miles. I recently took it to a repair shop for an oil change. The “maintenance required” light was on, so I asked them to reset it. When I picked up the car, I noticed that the electronic clock was not working. Instead of displaying the time, it displayed “E/T: 93:04” and continued to count as long as the engine was running. I went back to the repair shop and they tried to fiddle with the radio fuses but couldn’t fix the problem. They told me that the clock display now showed the elapsed engine time. Any ideas on how to get the display to show the time?
A. There are times when simple things seem complicated and all you need to do is consult the vehicle owner’s manual for clarity. You must use the mode setting and return to the clock. Today, almost all newer cars have online owner’s manuals.
John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE Certified Master Technician. Email your question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10am every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.
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