‘Car Doctor’ Q&A – Oneida Dispatch


Q. I have a water leak in my 2020 Subaru Outback and water is trapped in the doors. After a rain or going to the car wash, when I open the doors, water runs down the door sills and soaks my pants. I went to the dealership and they explained to me that the doors are designed to keep water out of the car when driving through deep puddles, but obviously not after going to the car wash. The service person at the dealership told me that water enters through the top of the doors, slides down the door and lands on the door sills and stays there until the door is opened. They called it normal. I’m afraid this water will cause rust and possibly mold if the car sits for a while with the door closed. How can this be normal?

A. This is not normal, although the cars are not completely waterproof, in fact water constantly enters and exits through holes and drain tubes. Subaru recognized this as a problem and issued a technical service bulletin to correct the problem. The bulletin is titled “Water Intrusion Doors” and the bulletin number is 12-323-21. My concern is that somehow the water is getting into the car and not flowing out of the doors. Perhaps the “fix” was done and inadvertently sealing the door against water intrusion blocked the normal drains.

Q. When using the paddle shifters to downshift when slowing down for traffic, stop lights, etc., does this affect fuel mileage? Obviously, the rpm increases with each downshift due to the lower gear, but the driver’s foot is completely removed from the accelerator pedal during the downshift process. When stopping or resuming gear, the transmission is returned to ‘drive’ mode, with appropriate pressure on the accelerator. Assuming paddle shifters are there for drivers, is there a transmission hazard in using them to downshift the transmission?

A. Automatic transmission timing is tuned to balance performance and fuel economy. Manual shifting overrides these settings to some extent and the car has an effect on fuel economy. Today’s automatic transmissions are designed to protect against overly aggressive shifting. For example, you cannot downshift into first gear at 60 miles per hour, which could cause mechanical problems on several levels.

Q. My 2017 Toyota Corolla has driven 88,000 miles. When should I change the coolant and the serpentine belt?

A. Based on Toyota’s recommendation, coolant can stay in the engine for up to 100,000 miles. The serpentine drive belt does not have a specific interval for change. The recommendation is to inspect it every 30,000 miles and replace when worn.

Q. My 2016 Honda Accord was destroyed by Hurricane Ida and I am looking for a fairly cheap lease considering the shortage of cars. I’m looking at several cars and have questions about each. The Mazda 3 seems like a good car, but I’m worried about ground clearance. Volkswagens have become more reliable, would you rent a Jetta? And are Subaru models underpowered? And are Hyundai vehicles reliable?

A. The Mazda 3’s ground clearance is about the same as other small cars at about 5.5 inches. Hyundai products, although plagued with engine problems in some models, have proven to be quite reliable and have a very good warranty. Volkswagen has some of the nicest models to handle and great interior appointments and finishes, but the overall quality is average at best. If ground clearance is an issue look at the Subaru Crosstrek it has about 8.7 inches of ground clearance and while not a rocket ship should be able to satisfy most driver performance needs.

Q. My question is, can we trust the oil companies when they say their automatic transmission fluid is good for all cars? Factory Honda fluid is quite expensive, and I was looking for a synthetic transmission fluid that claimed to meet Honda specs. What do you think?

A. Whenever possible, I like to use factory transmission fluid in some cars (Honda is one). Today’s sophisticated transmissions can have slightly altered shifting characteristics by changing fluid. Since transmission fluid is changed so infrequently in your Honda, my advice is to use Honda fluid.

Q. My brother has a new Mazda CX-5 and his blind spot indicator comes on for no reason. Sometimes there is a railing or a lamp post and other times there is nothing, just a field. He took it to Mazda and pursued other avenues to resolve this issue to no avail. Do you have any idea why this is happening and how to stop it?

A. Blind spot warning systems and other driver assistance systems can and will from time to time provide false signals. It can be caused by anything from telephone poles to cobwebs and debris that trick sensors. Like all of these safety systems, they are designed to work with a fully engaged driver, not to replace it.

Q. I have an oil-based dressing on my cloth car seat and I don’t know how to remove the stain. Any ideas appreciated.

A. In this case, I asked my wife if she had any suggestions (she is a much better housekeeper than me). Her first thought was to mix dish detergent and water and let it sit on the stain. It can cut the oil. Then try baking soda on the stain, as oil dries on garage floors, it may remove the stain. Vinegar works as a degreaser and might help, and she also suggested shaving foam (not gel). Some shaving foams have a fairly high alcohol base and when combined with soapy lather can break down the stain. When all else fails, a professional retail store may be able to remove the stain

Do you have a question about your car, email Car Doctor [email protected] All questions get a personal answer.

— John Paul, Senior Director, Public Affairs and Traffic Safety, AAA Northeast


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