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Questions and advice for your automobile

May 8, 2013
By Larry DeHays , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

- Mark complains: "Larry, you recently recharged my air conditioner, but I think it takes too long to cool the car down. When I get in it after being parked for a while, it takes 10 or 15 minutes to cool down, even though I put it on 'max' position."

- Larry replies: Mark, I'll bet you thought 'max' position would mean the quickest cool-down. It doesn't. There are two problems. First, the interior of a car can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit when parked in the sun. The seats, glass, roof, carpet and inside air becomes that temperature. Air conditioners normally get 80 percent of their air from the inside of the car, so you're feeding it 130-degree air to start with. It has to cool that air down and blow it on the hot upholstery to cool that down in turn. Secondly, the 'max' or "re-circulate" position uses 100 percent inside air, so the 'max' position will make the cool-down even slower, because it's sucking in air that is extra hot. The short cut is to first open the doors and/or windows to let the hot air out, and let the relatively cooler (90 degree?) air in. This gives the air conditioner a 40-degree head start. Use the 'max' position only after the car is cooled down inside. It is designed to keep out fumes, like smoke or exhaust, rather than to provide maximum cooling effort.

- Jeff says: Larry, your advice column on storing a car for the summer doesn't mention how to protect the tires. Should I put the car on blocks, or pump the tires up extra hard, and should I use nitrogen to fill them?

- Larry replies: Jeff, none of the above. Tires are like stray cats. They are unbelievably tough, require only minimum care, are constantly deteriorating and are nearly impossible to get rid of. The average tire can carry your car from coast to coast 20 times before it is worn out, but from the minute tires are manufactured, they begin to oxidize from exposure to air and sun, known as "weather checking." Even tires left unsold on the shelf too long become too weather-checked to be sold. So, the point is, your tires are going to age whether you use them or not. You can slow it if you can protect them from direct sunlight, but otherwise, jacking them up, overfilling or using nitrogen inside them is useless. (Air is 70-percent nitrogen anyway.)

- Jill says: "My car needs some minor work done, like detailing, oil change and coolant flushing. Where can I get these things done as cheaply as possible? My boyfriend is too busy to do it. He lost his job, wrecked his uninsured car and uses mine now, but he says I have to pay for these things because it's my car. I work two jobs trying to support us both, so I can't afford much on the car."

- Larry replies: Jill, you sent this to the wrong columnist. I have a deal with "Dear Abby." She doesn't give car advice, and I don't tell people how to dump deadbeat boyfriends.



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