Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Buying gas? Turn off your engine, don't smoke

QUESTION: I was wondering if you could address a common occurrence – people fueling their vehicles with the engine running. I filled up this morning and was the only one of about 10 cars that did not have the engine running while pumping into the gas tank. The other complaint is smokers who stand by their car, cigarette in one hand and gas nozzle in the other. I realize that a lot of these people don't know how to read, but maybe you can educate some of them.

ANSWER: With most vehicles built since 1996 when the federal OBDII diagnostic and emissions standards were introduced, removing the fuel filler cap with the engine running will defeat the evaporative emissions system and trigger a "check engine" light. A scan tool is often necessary to clear this fault code.

Here's my take on your comment about refueling while smoking: It's not an issue about the ability to read or even common sense. Most folks have some concept of the inherent and obvious danger of having an open flame in close proximity to highly volatile fuel vapors. But since they've never experienced a fuel fire while refueling and haven't actually witnessed this happening to anyone else, they've become numb to the danger and fail to take the obvious and simple precaution – extinguish the smoke before opening the fuel filler cap.

Wasn't it comedian Ron White who said it best? "You can't fix stupid."

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  • Q: I have a 2013 Ford F-150 purchased new one year ago that now has 7,795 miles. Recently the driver display reads "Battery saver – turn off or restart engine." My dealer ran numerous tests and found nothing wrong and said I should drive the vehicle more. I worry that one morning my truck will not start.

    A: A quick Internet check revealed that you're not the only newer F-150 owner experiencing this issue. The battery saver system is designed to prevent the battery from being discharged to the point where it may fail to start the vehicle. This message will illuminate if, with the engine not running, the ignition switch has been left in the on position for 45 minutes or battery voltage reaches a low state of charge.

    With the low mileage on your year-old truck, it's possible the battery voltage is somewhat low due to infrequent use, short trips and cold weather.

    Make sure the battery cables, terminals and connections are clean and secure. Fully charge the battery at home and then drive the truck for a week or so to see if the battery saver message comes on again. If the message returns after a number of drive cycles, you may well need to drive it more frequently and/or more miles – or utilize a "battery tender" to keep the battery charged while parked. And ask the dealer to let you know if they see any service bulletins addressing this issue.

    Q: I have a 2004 Honda Accord V-6 with 138,000 miles that I purchased new. The car now makes a terrible power steering whine when started cold. The noise will disappear as the engine warms up. The whine does not affect the performance of the steering in any way. The power steering fluid was flushed at 90,000 miles and the dealer said the fluid looks fine, there are no leaks and the belt is in good condition. They recommended doing nothing as long as the power steering is performing fine. Anything I can do proactively?

    A: Ask the dealer to review Honda service bulletin 07-086 dated April 2009 that identifies a probable cause for cold-weather startup whine from the power steering pump – air entering the system via the pump's inlet hose O-ring. The bulletin suggests that this repair, if not covered by warranty, "may be eligible for goodwill consideration by the District Parts and Service Manager or your Zone Office."

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    ABOUT THE WRITER

    Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., 55488 or via email at paulbrand@startribune.com. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.

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    Paul Brand Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (MCT)