Niagara Gazette

April 11, 2013

TOM'S CORNER: Spraying oil as a vehicle undercoating and other questions

By Tom Torbjornsen
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — A few questions from readers this week:

CHERI FROM BUFFALO: I just got a 2009 Chevy Colorado and I had it undercoated at a place that sprays oil on the underside of the vehicle. It is really messy. Is this a good undercoat?

TOM: I do not like oil spraying for vehicle undercoating because of what the oil can do to rubber when it comes in contact with the oil. I have seen vehicles that have been sprayed with oil end up with swelled window and door gaskets to the point that the door or windows would not close. Not to mention the mess (as you pointed out) and the fact that when oil comes in contact with hot exhaust parts it can combust and thus is dangerous. Next time get a Carwell application. It’s safer, lasts longer and does not adversely affect rubber.


PETE FROM JAMESTOWN: I own a new 2013 Honda Accord. When I get the first oil change would it be all right to use synthetic oil? If so, should I continue to use it? Also, it seems to have a lot of road noise for a new car. Will undercoating help?

TOM: As for changing to synthetic oil, run the new engine until 1,500 miles with the factory oil then change over to synthetic. Use full synthetic unless the owner’s manual specifies a semi-synthetic (or not to use synthetic at all). As for the road noise, ask the dealer to check for body or glass air leaks. Sometimes a gasket or body panel allows air into the vehicle’s cabin thus making it noisy. If there’s no air leaks, then ask the dealer if they have road noise insulation products available. I don’t like to apply a hard undercoating to a vehicle because it tends to lock salt and moisture so it cannot drain out. If you’re going to get a rust protection applied, use the Carwell system.


JOE FROM DALLAS: I own a 2005 Hyundai Tucson with 35,000 miles. I plan on changing the front pads. Do you have to use the shims they include with the brake pads? I am not experiencing any noise or other braking problems.

TOM: Yes, use the shims and any clips they provide. These are for noise suppression. The shims insulate the pads from the calipers, thus reducing brake noise; and the clips are designed to reduce pad rattle and movement. Leave them out and you are asking for noisy brakes. I would also use a silicone brake pad insulator to “glue” the pads to the caliper pistons. Also make sure you send the rotors out to be resurfaced with a non-directional cut so the pads wear in properly and no pedal pulsation ensues. Finally, make sure you clean and lubricate the caliper slides so they apply and release without the calipers sticking after application. Good luck!


PATRICK FROM NICEVILLE, FLA.: I own a 1990 Honda Prelude SI with a 2056cc 4-cyl engine. About a month ago, the engine light came on. I took the car to a repair shop and the owner said that he did a “scan” and that the cause of the engine light was not the engine but was the ethanol in the gas. He said that the older cars were not designed to run on gas containing ethanol and to not worry about the light. Although the light still comes on, after the engine temperature reaches normal, the car seems to run fine. Because I have been using gas containing ethanol for quite a long time before the lights first coming on, I am skeptical of this analysis and would like a second opinion. Thank you.

TOM: I too would be skeptical of this “analysis.” There are millions of cars across the country in your year/make/model range running on 10 percent ethanol gas with no ill effects or lit check engine lights. I would go to a qualified diagnostician that can get to the bottom of your check engine light. It could be a bad O2 sensor, airflow sensor, or a broken or bad connection. IT is hard to tell without tracking the problem down with the proper diagnostic equipment. A good shop will have access to repair info that will help the tech track down the cause of the lit check engine light. Best to you.


JO FROM TALLAHASSEE, FLA.: You have probably heard it all, but here’s another one. I own a 1996 Buick Park Avenue. Since the middle A/C vents in the front have quit working there is clear water in the floorboard on the passenger’s side. Any suggestions?

TOM: Have the A/C condensation drain checked. It’s probably clogged with organic debris. Quite often plant matter gets into the air intake for the HVAC system. It finds its way into the evaporator case and degrades and forms a black nasty paste that clogs up the condensation drain. Then when condensation water forms from A/C operation on a hot climate, it spills over and into the vehicle. As for the malfunctioning vents, have the vacuum reserve chamber checked for a leak or for a vacuum leak in the engine compartment. If all is well with these, then the problem might be with the vacuum portion of the HVAC control switch.


CRAIG FROM JAMESTOWN: We own a 2005 PT Cruiser with a possessed door-ajar light. On no regular interval the door-ajar light comes on, the interior lights come on and the automatic door locks cycle. Sometimes the door locks cycle without the other indicators. My wife says she going to take the car for an exorcism. HELP!!

Craig from Jamestown, NY

TOM: Have the doorjamb switches checked. When one of these goes bad, it causes the lights to light erratically. Check the door lock switch on the driver’s side; it could be internally shorted causing the locks to cycle. If these suggestions don’t work, I know a Catholic priest in Buffalo who is proficient at the Rite of Exorcism. I will provide you with his number should you need it.

‘Til next time … Keep Rollin’

"America's Car Show" with Tom Torbjornsen airs 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. Saturday on WBBZ-TV.