Car’s heater is on the fritz? Could be the ther­mo­stat

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - BUSINESS CYCLE - Bob We­ber

Q: My 2011 Kia Sportage is try­ing to freeze me to death. When I first start out on a chilly day, the heater blows warm air as soon as the en­gine warms up, as ex­pected. How­ever, af­ter driving for maybe 30 min­utes, I no longer get warm air no mat­ter how high I set the tem­per­a­ture or blower fan. The lo­cal dealer is baf­fled. My feet are numb. Any ideas?

— E.D., Min­netonka, Minn.

A: Heat­ing is­sues are of­ten caused by a mal­func­tion­ing ther­mo­stat. It isn’t like the ther­mo­stat on the wall in your house. It is in the car’s cool­ing sys­tem and pre­vents the wa­ter (coolant) from flow­ing through the ra­di­a­tor un­til the en­gine reaches op­er­at­ing tem­per­a­ture. Then, the ther­mo­stat opens, al­low­ing the coolant to flow through the en­tire sys­tem, in­clud­ing the heater core in the car. The ther­mo­stat then dithers to main­tain the proper tem­per­a­ture. If it gets lazy or stuck, you won’t get proper heat­ing or, for that mat­ter, cool­ing.

Q: Is it OK to add my left­over oil and gas mix­ture (50:1) from my out­board mo­tor and string trim­mer to my car’s gas tank?

— M.K., Chicago

A: It is rarely a prob­lem as long as you are only adding a lit­tle fuel mix to a full, or nearly full, gas tank.

Q: Do pre­mium fu­els con­tain more de­ter­gents and other ad­di­tives than reg­u­lar? My lit­tle Ford Fi­esta ob­vi­ously doesn’t need the higher oc­tane, but it gets “heavy duty” use for short dis­tances in dense ur­ban traffic. Would ex­tra ad­di­tives ben­e­fit my car? Be­cause I get gas only ev­ery 10 weeks, the ex­tra cost of pre­mium would mean noth­ing to me.

— W.R., Chicago

A: Nope. The ma­jor dif­fer­ence be­tween the var­i­ous gaso­line grades is the oc­tane rat­ing. The ad­di­tive pack­age is usu­ally the same across the board. To get the gas with the high­est dose of ad­di­tives, look for re­tail­ers that sell Top Tier gaso­line. It con­tains more ad­di­tives than the ba­sic EPA min­i­mum. Stop-andgo traffic does not con­sti­tute heavy use.

Q: I have a 2006 Buick Lucerne with 54,000 miles. I mostly drive it to church and back with an oc­ca­sional high­way trip. I had a mo­tor mount re­placed last April and since then have ex­pe­ri­enced a very no­tice­able vi­bra­tion in the steer­ing wheel. I have taken the car back to the re­pair shop three times and the me­chanic, who has been very re­li­able, can­not find a cause. If you have any ideas I would ap­pre­ci­ate hear­ing from you.

— L.L., Chicago

A: Vi­bra­tion in the steer­ing wheel is usu­ally caused by wheel im­bal­ance. Chances are, the wheels were re­moved to do the mo­tor mount job. If a wheel weight was ac­ci­den­tally lost, that could be the cause. Another pos­si­bil­ity is that the wheels were in­stalled in a dif­fer­ent po­si­tion of clock lo­ca­tion than they were be­fore. Fi­nally, the en­gine cra­dle may be out of align­ment af­ter the mo­tor mount job was done.

Send ques­tions along with name and town to Mo­tor­mouth, Rides, Chicago Tri­bune, 160 N. Stet­son Ave., Third Floor, Chicago, IL 60601 or mo­tor­mouth .tri­[email protected]


Mo­tor­mouth sus­pects a mal­func­tion­ing 2011 Kia Sportage heater is a ther­mo­stat is­sue.

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