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The Yankee Express

Q & A with The Car Doctor

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years’ experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. He will answer reader’s questions each week You can find the Car Doctor podcast at www.johnfpaul.podbean.com or other popular podcast sites. Email your car questions to [email protected] Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on facebook mrjohnfpaul

Q.   I drive a 2007 Honda Civic. After a 40-mile drive with no issues, I stopped then tried starting the car, it would not start. After many times trying, it finally did start  but I saw steam coming out of the hood. The guy at the car wash where I stopped suggested that I add antifreeze to the radiator. On the way to the auto parts store, the engine temperature went all the way to red. I added the antifreeze, started it again and all the antifreeze leaked out and the car would not start. I had the car towed home and it did restart. What is your opinion or advice on the possible repair?

A.   At this point have the car towed to a repair shop and explain the overheating issue. The first check the shop will do is look for a coolant leak. The leak may be obvious, or they may need to pressure test the cooling system. My concern is that the car overheated and wouldn’t start, this could be an indication of a cylinder head gasket failure. Considering the car is almost 15 years old and depending on the damage and the cost of repairs, the car may not be worth fixing. If you don’t have a trusted repair shop, go to aaa.com/repair to find a AAA Approved repair shop near you. 

Q.   My car only starts with a jump if I let it sit for more than a couple days. If I drive it every day, it seems fine. Before jump-starting the car, the lights are dim. After the jump-start the lights are very bright. Is this a battery problem or alternator issue?

A.   It seems as if something is draining the battery but at this point it is best to charge the battery using a battery charger. Once the battery is fully charged then test the battery, charging and starting system as well as look for parasitic drain. The other issue is the battery is most likely at the end of its life due to being discharged so often. When a battery becomes discharged repeatedly it can easily lose 50-70 percent of its capacity. 

Q.   I drive a 2007 Honda Civic. After a 40-mile drive with no issues, I stopped then tried starting the car, it would not start. After many times trying, it finally did start  but I saw steam coming out of the hood. The guy at the car wash where I stopped suggested that I add antifreeze to the radiator. On the way to the auto parts store, the engine temperature went all the way to red. I added the antifreeze, started it again and all the antifreeze leaked out and the car would not start. I had the car towed home and it did restart. What is your opinion or advice on the possible repair?

A.   At this point have the car towed to a repair shop and explain the overheating issue. The first check the shop will do is look for a coolant leak. The leak may be obvious, or they may need to pressure test the cooling system. My concern is that the car overheated and wouldn’t start, this could be an indication of a cylinder head gasket failure. Considering the car is almost 15 years old and depending on the damage and the cost of repairs, the car may not be worth fixing. If you don’t have a trusted repair shop, go to aaa.com/repair to find a AAA Approved repair shop near you. 

Q.   My car only starts with a jump if I let it sit for more than a couple days. If I drive it every day, it seems fine. Before jump-starting the car, the lights are dim. After the jump-start the lights are very bright. Is this a battery problem or alternator issue?

A.   It seems as if something is draining the battery but at this point it is best to charge the battery using a battery charger. Once the battery is fully charged then test the battery, charging and starting system as well as look for parasitic drain. The other issue is the battery is most likely at the end of its life due to being discharged so often. When a battery becomes discharged repeatedly it can easily lose 50-70 percent of its capacity. 

Q.   My car alarm is malfunctioning and will not shut off and I can’t control it. The most annoying part is the automatic door locks will not work remotely or even with the lock door button. I did get it to quiet down and went on errands. I’m getting some neighborly advice to just have it disconnected since it is an older car, and no one is likely to steal it. Any thoughts? 

A.   At this point your best bet would be to return to the alarm installer (or any reputable automotive electronics store) and have them look at the alarm connections. The best method is to install any add-on device such as a alarm or remote start system and use specially made wiring harnesses. When factory harnesses are cut and spliced together, over time the connections can fail. Since the locks don’t work with the power lock switch, I suspect there is a poor connection when the lock solenoids were wired to the remote start module. 

Q.   I want to try “Van-Life,” boondocking and traveling the country and living in a van. It would just be me and Spike my Pitbull rescue. I heard your podcast and you had a person on who lived this lifestyle. What is the best van for this, and do you have other suggestions to make this work? 

A.   That was Josh Theberge who was on my program. He used a RAM Promaster van that he constructed to fit his work and lifestyle. The last I heard he sold that van and was building a new one. The other van I would look at is the Ford Transit. It is also a very capable vehicle. Comparing the two I think if it were me, I would go with the RAM, it has a tighter turning radius making it easier to maneuver. The Ford is also a solid choice and depending on where you are headed the Transit is available in all-wheel drive, making it a better performer in poor weather. My best advice would be to join van and camping forums and learn from others. Best of luck with the adventure and send pictures. 

Q.   My car alarm is malfunctioning and will not shut off and I can’t control it. The most annoying part is the automatic door locks will not work remotely or even with the lock door button. I did get it to quiet down and went on errands. I’m getting some neighborly advice to just have it disconnected since it is an older car, and no one is likely to steal it. Any thoughts? 

A.   At this point your best bet would be to return to the alarm installer (or any reputable automotive electronics store) and have them look at the alarm connections. The best method is to install any add-on device such as a alarm or remote start system and use specially made wiring harnesses. When factory harnesses are cut and spliced together, over time the connections can fail. Since the locks don’t work with the power lock switch, I suspect there is a poor connection when the lock solenoids were wired to the remote start module. 

Q.   I want to try “Van-Life,” boondocking and traveling the country and living in a van. It would just be me and Spike my Pitbull rescue. I heard your podcast and you had a person on who lived this lifestyle. What is the best van for this, and do you have other suggestions to make this work? 

A.   That was Josh Theberge who was on my program. He used a RAM Promaster van that he constructed to fit his work and lifestyle. The last I heard he sold that van and was building a new one. The other van I would look at is the Ford Transit. It is also a very capable vehicle. Comparing the two I think if it were me, I would go with the RAM, it has a tighter turning radius making it easier to maneuver. The Ford is also a solid choice and depending on where you are headed the Transit is available in all-wheel drive, making it a better performer in poor weather. My best advice would be to join van and camping forums and learn from others. Best of luck with the adventure and send pictures.