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The Yankee Express

Start with a scan to address Odyssey EX heating system issue

John Paul

Q. I own a 2010 Honda Odyssey EX, purchased new in July 2011, which is kept outside and maintained as directed. It has been modified so that I can drive from my wheelchair and is important for my personal mobility. In 2019, after chronic problems with cabin cooling, the AC condenser was replaced. In 2020 the AC compressor, expansion valve and receiver dryer were replaced, and in 2022, another AC compressor. After the last cooling repairs, it appears that my heating system is not working as well as previously. At 75° the air is hot, at 70° the air is tepid, if not cool. It was diagnosed as needing a door actuator motor after the two center console vents stopped producing airflow, which was installed. However, the air is still not warm. I am told fuses, sensor, cabin filter and electrical shorts have been ruled out. Any ideas?

A. Like many vehicles built in the past 15 years, the climate control is managed by a computer. In the case of the Odyssey the system can be checked with a professional scan tool or onboard diagnostics. I would start with a scan of the system (there are at least 15 possible fault codes). In addition, I wouldn’t rule out the basics. As complicated as this system seems there is still a cable-controlled heater valve and basic water pump, thermostat and hoses, that all should be inspected. 

Q. Our 2020 Ford Escape Titanium Hybrid at just 25,000 miles is already on its third 12-volt battery and is at the dealer right now potentially gunning for its fourth. This time and the last time, the dealer has kept the car for several days to search for any unusual parasitic drains.  All software updates have been done and the charging system checked. I’ve suggested that the tiny 12-volt battery is undersized given the plethora of accessories it supports. Reading online on various car forums where other owners have solved this same issue with a larger battery that bolts right in. The dealer, tech advisor says they can only do what the factory authorizes or recommends, and an upgraded battery is not among them. The notion of “too many short trips” has been discussed, but the use that this car gets should more than allow sufficient recharge time with each use.  I started tracking the output voltage of the battery regularly since the last replacement was done in November, and lately it hasn’t been above 11.8 volts in the morning and rarely reads above 12.3 volts even after a long trip.  As I understand it, these are dismal readings. Any thoughts? 

A. A battery is at 100 percent state of charge at 12.6 volts and at the reading provided, 12.3 volts is about 70 percent state of charge and 11.8 volts is closer to a 30 percent state of charge, so something is certainly going on. The dealer is correct, when it comes to warranty, they can only repair or replace as authorized by the manufacturer. Although a bigger battery may cure the symptom of the car not starting it doesn’t address the issue of why the battery voltage is low.  Although if this were my car, I certainly would try replacing the 12-volt battery with the larger battery for a non-hybrid vehicle. The hybrid Escape battery is a 45-ampere hour battery with 395 cold cranking amps. The non-hybrid Escape battery is 70-ampre hour battery with 760 cold cranking amp rating. 

Q. I occasionally see your readers reference a Low Oil ‘Level’ light.  It has always been my understanding that the Oil light indicates a loss of oil ‘pressure’ which warrants shutting off your engine ASAP. Am I wrong?  Are there actually sensors now that monitor oil ‘level’?

A. In many vehicles today, there are sensors that measure both low oil pressure and low oil level. You are correct when the red oil pressure light illuminates you should shut off the engine ASAP to prevent possible internal damage. The oil level light (typically yellow) will usually illuminate when the oil level is down one quart. Like many warning lights red requires the driver to take immediate action and the yellow warning lights are cautionary, but shouldn’t be ignored. 

Q. I have a 2018 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250. Is it necessary to get it maintained/serviced at the Mercedes-Benz dealership? They are ridiculously expensive. 

A.There are times when the dealer is the best choice, such as warranty repairs, recalls and some tricky and complicated repairs that may require software updates. Although it is possible that independent shops can do some of this work, they may not have the necessary tools. As for regular maintenance (fluid changes) tires, brakes and suspension services as examples any quality should be able to provide these services.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over forty years’ experience and is an ASE-certified master technician. He will answer readers’ questions each week. Email your questions to [email protected]. Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook at mrjohnfpaul.