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by Bob Hagin

Q. For some time I feel that I have been endangered by my defroster. I will be driving along and the windows begin to fog up. When I turn on the defroster, the windshield is immediately opaque. This sometimes happens when the engine is cold although it usually occurs when the car and the engine are warmed up. The vehicle is a 1989 Ford Taurus wagon and is in very good condition. Can you solve my problem? Also for the past week or so, when I use the windshield washer, I can smell the washer fluid inside the car right away.
L.A. Eugene, OR

A. I had the same problem recently in a new car that I rented on a trip to Los Angeles. It happened in an area I wasn't familiar with and in heavy traffic so it could have been a touchy situation. It isn't percular to Fords as I've had it happen in the Nissans we've owned and the Toyotas, too. I can't explain the dynamics of the situation but I think it has something to do with a sudden change in the temperature of the windshield glass which apparently pulls moisture for the air in the cabin. This clouding of the windshield sometimes happens if the heater core leaks coolant into the heater's blower system. I've had that happen too, but the cloudiness then is caused by antifreeze that's blown up on the windshield, which must be scrubbed off, since antifreeze doesn't evaporate. A friend gave us a clue to avoid the problem. When the windows, and especially the windshield begin to cloud up, turn on the air conditioner along with the heater, the defroster and the blower and the cloudiness disappears almost immediately. Unscientific, but it works. I suspect the fluid smell is a leaking hose somewhere.

Q. We bought a new 1996 Chevrolet 4X4 pickup truck and almost from the first, it has had a squealing noise that seems to be coming from the rear of the truck. It is more pronounced at 50 MPH but it is always there. I've taken it back to the dealer who we bought it from but they tell us that all these trucks do it.
W.W. Boise, ID

A. I've received a couple of complaints regarding noisy differentials (the rear end gears) on late model Chevrolet and GMC trucks, and I was told by a friend who is a Chevrolet mechanic that the problem is in the ring and pinion gear set. These are the gears that both transmit the engine power to the rear wheels, and drop the gear ratio to keep the vehicle moving. My friend says that it's not all that common and that the cure is to replace the gears and their bearings. If you can't get satisfaction from your selling dealer, take it to one that will work with you. It's not a charity case for them since it is a job that the factory will pay them for doing.

Q. I recently purchased a used 1995 Ford Taurus. It was on a two-year lease. It appears to be in very good condition and only has 19,500 miles on it. What concerns me is that when the gas tank is over one-third full, I can hear gasoline sloshing from the back of the tank to the front when I make a stop. And I don't mean slamming on my brakes but when I stop normally. The service department at the dealership has assured me that this is a normal occurrence with this model car. What is your opinion? I am mainly concerned about the safety factor, being the mother of three small children.
M.W. San Ramon, CA

A. The best way to determine if "...they all do it." (an often used response to a non-emergency situation) is to try another car like yours under the same conditions. It's possible that a factory service rep could be talked into an evaluation, but they're hard to pin down. If you really feel it's dangerous, call the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 800-424-9393 to register your concerns. They're pretty good about following up potential safety problems.

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