Extended warranties, oil drips, and playing the fool: Motormouth responds

In the latest installment of car advice, Motormouth avoids a flame war.


Lawrence Kulik, shrouded by steam from his boiling radiator, got caught with low anti-freeze in near zero cold at Ogden Ave. and Washington Blvd. on Jan. 24, 1952, in Chicago. (Chicago Tribune / April 3, 2014)

Q: Your succinct but incorrect answer regarding cardboard blocking a radiator is so scientifically wrong that it puts everything else you espouse in a very dim light. You must be a fool to not understand heat exchanger dynamics.

--K.N., Naperville, Ill.

A: During warm-up, a bypass diverts coolant back into the engine to speed up the warming process. The thermostat prevents the most of the coolant from flowing to the radiator. Once the coolant temperature reaches 190 degrees F., the thermostat opens fully. We *do* understand heat exchanger dynamics, not only of the cooling system but the air conditioning system as well. We even understand the principal of the latent heat of evaporation. (Look it up.) But we don't want to start a flame war.

Q: I read your column in the Trib regarding a hybrid car that sits idle in Florida for several months. I have a vehicle that is parked for long periods of time. I bought a small solar charger that sits in the dash, plugs into the accessory outlet and tickle charges the battery even on cloudy days. No worries about a dead battery. I don't remember what it cost but think it was about $30.

--R.O., Chicago

A: For many cars a solar battery minder will work. But on the Prius, it is a different story unless you can connect the charger directly to the 12-volt battery. Its charging system is rather unconventional.

Q: If a manufacturer has known issues with a vehicle (e.g., spark plugs blowing out of a cylinder head) why don't they send out notices to owners in order to have the vehicles serviced before the warranty expires? Shouldn't this practice be law? I get the impression the manufacturer is gaming on warranties expiring so they don't have to cover the cost of their issues at the expense of the consumers.

--M.L., Chicago

A: We want to neither encourage more laws nor denigrate carmakers. In many cases, the problems develop well after the vehicle was designed and built. Also, in many cases, manufacturers will provide good will repairs beyond the stated warranty. But consumers can protect also themselves by purchasing extended warranties.

Q: I have an 04' Ford Escape with 190,000 miles and a consistent oil drip. My mechanic advised me the engine seals were going bad and to add 1 qt. of Lucas Heavy Duty Oil Stabilizer and 4 qt. SAE 5W-20 oil to my car. He told me it will not stop the leak, but should keep it to a drip. For the last two years it has. I'm just wondering for how long and does this mean the engine will all of a sudden go bad? Is there anything else that I can try, I need to add around a quart every 4-6 weeks.

--M.N., Joliet, Ill.

A: Oil leaks seldom go catastrophic suddenly. They just keep getting worse until repaired. It is up to you to make that decision.

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