Don't Substitute Window Cleaner for Windshield Washer Solution!

Dear Tom,

I would like to know if it's OK to use regular Windex glass cleaner to refill an empty windshield washer bottle, and what damage could it do to my car's paint job? Also, what is the best cleaner for chrome?

Arthur from Houston


Do you own stock in Windex? The chemicals in Windex (or another other glass cleaner) are more concentrated and will quickly deteriorate the plastic parts of the windshield washer system. In addition, the windshield wiper blades will deteriorate faster. If you use the Windex with ammonia or other additives, eventual degradation of the paint finish is possible. Finally, if you live where it gets cold enough, Windex will freeze up the washer system, disabling it completely. Just because it is blue doesn't mean that it is good to use as washer fluid. When cleaning chrome, what you use depends on what you are cleaning off the chrome. A soap and water solution is the best cleaner for road dirt, oil, and grime. If you are trying to remove rust pits, you won't be able to. You can make them appear smaller by using an abrasive pad, but they will return (as will any corrosion will that has started on the chrome). The only way to eliminate the corrosion is to remove the part and either replace it or have it re-chromed. I wish you the best.


Check Towing Recommendations Before Towing a Vehicle

Dear Tom,

My daughter-in-law owns a '92 Kia Sportage SUV (Get 2007 Kia Sportage Pricing), automatic with 4WD. It has 90K miles on it. My son recently towed it on a tow dolly from Columbus, Ohio to Buffalo, N.Y. When he arrived the transmission would not shift normally and there was no reverse. It was low on transmission fluid so he added fluid with no improvement. Also, when he tried to engage the four-wheel drive, it would not shift into gear. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Marcia from Buffalo


Oh no! Your son should have checked the towing recommendations for that vehicle before towing it that far with the wheels making contact with the road! With the rear wheels on the ground, the axles -- driveshaft -- transfer case -- transmission are turning and with the engine not running, there is no fluid pumping lubrication through the drivetrain, hence meltdown occurs. Have it checked out by a transmission expert, but I think a trip to the salvage yard for a transmission and transfer case may be in order. Sorry for the bad news. Tom

A/C Smells Like Mildew? There's a Solution

Dear Tom,

I own a 2005 Chevy Cobalt (Get 2007 Chevy Cobalt Pricing) and every time I turn on the air conditioner in the air circulation mode it smells like mildew. What is the problem?

Jo Ann from Long Beach, Calif.

Jo Ann,

You probably have mildew growing in the A/C evaporator case. Your car is under warranty. Take it back to the dealer. GM has factory-approved procedures to help remove the odors from the A/C evaporator case. It involves spraying an industrial grade disinfectant into the air intake for the HVAC system, then letting it do its work. Hopefully the disinfectant will kill the mold. If it doesn't, the parts from the HVAC will need to be removed and cleaned, or possibly replaced. This is very costly and time-consuming repair work, so get back the car back to the dealership as soon as possible and get it covered under warranty. I wish you the best!


A Car With a Very High Idle May Be Unsafe to Drive

Dear Tom,

I own an '87 Jeep Cherokee (See 2007 Jeep Models). During the spring and summer when I start the car, it begins idling at almost 3500rpm. It doesn't happen during the colder seasons though. It idles very high and quite loud until it warms up. While it is warming up, I can smell something burning. I get nervous and have to turn the car off. Also, if I drive it while it is idling at this high rate, the brakes are extremely hard to push. I've taken it to many mechanics (even the Jeep dealership) and the response is either: (1) Probably the idle is stuck, so just tap the gas pedal; or (2) The problem didn't happen for them so they have no advice. Please help me locate the problem so I can tell them exactly what is wrong with my car.

Marcus from Richmond, Va.


What you're describing sounds like a faulty power brake vacuum booster. Either the diaphragm in the brake booster is torn or the vacuum circuit going to the booster is cracked or broken. With an excessively high idle and no power brake assist, you are an accident waiting to happen. This needs attention right away! Also, there have been lots of problems with the nylon vacuum hoses that control crankcase ventilation on this model. When these molded lines crack, the engine cannot properly ventilate. This can cause oil leaks and the air cleaner housing to fill with engine oil, which could be the source of the burnt oil smell. Get it fixed ASAP!


Bad Gas Cap Seal Can Trip the 'Check Engine' Light

Dear Tom,

I love your radio show! I listen here in San Bernardino on XM Radio. Keep up the great work! Now for my question: I have a 2004 Toyota Matrix (Get 2007 Toyota Matrix Pricing) and the check engine light has lit up five times between 15,000 miles to 33,000 miles. All five times the problem code said that the gas cap was incorrectly replaced after putting in gas. The last three of the five times the mechanic initially said it didn't appear to be the gas cap (after I told him the history). When I returned to pick up the car he said it WAS the gas cap. Is this common? How do I prevent this from happening again? The mechanic advised me to make sure the cap clicks when tightening it after use. I followed this advice and the light still went on four more times. Help!

Janine from San Bernardino, Calif.


There could be a bad seal on the gas cap itself. Also, do not put gas in the vehicle with the engine running, as this could trip the light. In addition, there could be a problem with the filler neck where the gas cap seals. If that sealing surface is corroded, it will simulate a leaking cap, tripping the light. Have these two possible conditions looked at. I'm sure you will find your problem in one of these areas. Good luck!


Does Your Vehicle Use Premium Gas? Buy It or Pay More Later!

Dear Tom,

Which octane gasoline is recommended for the '92 Acura Legend LS? (Search 2007 Acura Models) Why would premium gas (approx 100 octane) be required? Do I have to use it? Premium gas is so expensive these days.

Jonathan from Holladay, Fla.


That vehicle requires the use of 91-octane fuel. High octane is recommended because the engine is a high performance engine. High-octane fuel is more stable than low octane fuel in the volatile combustion chamber environment of the high output engine. Combustion chamber temps are higher in high output engines because of higher compression ratios. When you use low octane fuel, it has a tendency to pre-ignite or "knock" when it enters the combustion chamber. This causes an explosion in the upper regions of the combustion chamber. Continued use of low octane fuel in a high output engine will result in damage to the engine's cylinder heads and pistons.

Wanna play with the "big boys?" Gotta pay. Put 91 octane in it or suffer the consequences. I didn't take accounting in school, but I do know that the additional cost of high-octane fuel is cheaper than a replacement engine for your Acura in the long run. You can buy an awful lot of high-octane gas for the cost of a new Acura power plant. I looked up the replacement cost of an engine block for your car. Parts: $2,196.74. Labor: 38 hours at say $78.00 per hour (and that's on the low end) is another $2,964.00 in labor plus fluids belts, hoses, and anything else that needs to be replaced. Cough up the extra gas money. Don't be "penny wise and pound foolish."


Stuck in Park

Dear Tom,

I have a 1998 Honda Accord EX (Get 2007 Honda Accord Pricing) with an automatic transmission. This summer I have noticed that the transmission frequently locks up and I am unable to move it from park into gear. Usually, if I stomp on the break pedal, it will unlock the transmission. However, sometimes I have to stomp several times before it will move. Any idea what's causing this problem and whether or not I should take the car in for maintenance?

Bryan from Dallas


The vehicle is equipped with a trans/brake interlock switch. This switch ensures that you have your foot on the brake when starting the vehicle (as a safety precaution). The fact that when you "stomp" on the brake pedal the vehicle starts tells me that there may be a problem with this switch. The switch may either need adjusting or it is faulty and needs replacing. Get the vehicle into a shop and have the brake interlock switch and circuit checked for faults. I wish you success.


Filling Tires With Nitrogen Instead of Air

Dear Tom,

I have seen advertisements that promote filling tires with nitrogen instead of air. They claim better mileage and less air loss (air pressure maintained). I own a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee (See 2007 Jeep Models) and I am considering having this done. My vehicle also has special valve stems that Jeep calls "tire pressure monitor and warning signal." Will it affect that system? I talked to the Jeep dealer and they were not sure about the advantage of using nitrogen. What do you think? Is it worth it?

Jack from Newfane, N.Y.


Filling the tires of your Jeep Grand Cherokee (See 2007 Jeep Models) with nitrogen will not have a negative effect on the tire pressure monitoring system. Just yesterday I received a service bulletin from GM stating their position on filling tires with nitrogen. They are of the opinion that it has no ill effect on GM vehicles at all. So if it's good enough for The General, it's good enough for me! I advertise nitrogen filling for a tire company in Buffalo on my America's Car Show radio program. I personally had it done to all of my family's vehicles. Nitrogen is an inert gas that is moisture free. It does not expand and contract (within the range of temperature changes experienced in tires) like air does, so tire pressure does not fluctuate significantly. In addition, it's denser than air, and therefore it doesn't tend to bleed out of the tire's rubber carcass. Tire pressure maintenance should result in better mileage. You ask me, "Is it worth it?" It isn't a necessity; it doesn't make your vehicle any safer; but if you want to maximize tire life and gas mileage, this is one more step you can take. Go for it!


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