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Automania/Repair & Maintenance

AUTO QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WEEK 37

by Bob Hagin

Q. I am having a terrible problem with my 1997 Buick LeSabre Limited. It smells of mold or mildew or something dead. It happens when the air conditioner or the heater is on and the vents are open. I've had it to two Buick garages plus our own private mechanic and he said that some 1997 through 1999 cars, all makes and models, suffer from new car stink. I'm highly allergic to the mold, mildew or whatever this is in my car's ventilating system. No one has helped. Short of selling my car, what can I do?
J.K. Elgin, IL

A. I've never experienced the problem myself but my son Andy has had numerous customers with that problem. He's taken care of the smell several different way and the least expensive way is to simply buy a can or two of those commercially-prepared spray cans of "stuff" that's made to kill the mold and mildew that causes those odors. There are instructions on the cans but in essence, you spray it into the air pickup vents that feed into the climate control system of your car. I've also heard of people doing the same thing using a household bleach solution but I don't know what the ratio of water to bleach worked best. Most of the time these preparations work pretty well but in some cases, Andy has found it necessary the remove the air conditioner condenser from the system and clean the insulation with bleach and water. If you don't want to try all this yourself, it might be best to turn the job over to a shop that specializes in servicing auto a/c units. It may not be cheap but it's necessary. Hopefully nothing got in there and died.

Q. I purchased a new Toyota Avalon in 1998. I went back to the dealer for a 5000 mile maintenance check. They changed the motor oil and the oil filter. I took a trip to Florida and when I returned I had another 3000 miles on the car so I changed the oil and filter again. I measured the oil that I had removed and it measured six quarts. The owner's manual calls for 4.7 quarts. The car runs fine but I wonder if six quarts hurt my engine. How can I find out?
J.D. Virginia Beach, VA

A. The only adverse effects I've ever encountered with a vehicle that had too much oil put into it during an oil change was that the overload caused the front and rear crankshaft oil seals to leak. The problem was caused by a lube man that worked for us failed to drain out the four quarts of used oil before he put in four quarts of fresh stuff. The owner didn't notice it for a couple of days when she noticed a quart of oil on her garage floor. The only adverse effect on the engine may be that the power might be down a bit since the crankshaft might be sloshing around in oil and working harder. When you next change your oil, read the dip stick before and after the change. The stick may be marked wrong.

Q. I have an '87 Mazda B2000 pickup truck with 160,000 miles. For about the last 15,000 miles I have had to replace the spark plug and coil wires four times because of poor idle and low-end powers. During the evening I've even seen the coil wire arcing to the engine. I have replaced the coil and vacuum advance with no change in performance. Some mechanic friends have suggested a poor ground somewhere. Others suggested the wrong type of wires although I have tried a different manufacturer this last time. Other than this, the truck runs great.
M.P. Pleasant Hill, CA

A. Check the coil positive side for correct voltage. Too much voltage will cause excessive voltage on the secondary (plugs and wires) side. Then the spark will look for an easier path that the plug gap. Check your coil wire for excessive resistance, too, and make sure its internal connection is clean. Tool companies make a special brush for this. Maybe the first thing to do is to check the system on an oscilloscope.

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