Q: I have a 2014 Kia Soul with just over 37,000 miles on it. Yesterday I was backing into my drive and noticed water drops on the concrete. I looked under the car, and they were dripping from somewhere close to the back of the engine. I do not think it was brake fluid, not oil, but suspect it could be just condensation from the A/C since it’s very hot here in Las Vegas right now. The engine temperature gauge shows normal, the A/C blows cold, and the radiator and coolant reservoir are both full. Any suggestions?
B.P., Las Vegas, Nevada
A: I suggest that you relax. What you see is perfectly normal. Most people don’t notice the water drops on the ground. Sometimes, the pavement is so hot the water evaporates almost immediately, particularly on asphalt. In fact, if the condensation is unable to escape, your air conditioner will not work properly.
Q: My vehicle has an auto stop/start function. My husband thinks this is very bad for the engine, saying that the most wear and tear occurs when starting. He thinks this is an awful feature that should be turned off. I like the idea of not polluting the air needlessly, but then again, I don’t want to ruin the car if this is creating excessive wear and tear on the engine. Do you have any information on this topic?
A.M., Plainville, Connecticut
A: Your husband may be referring to the fact that most engine wear occurs when the engine is cold. Once warmed up, the engine is unaffected by starting and stopping. Not only is your car polluting less, but it is also getting improved fuel economy.
Q: I have a running debate with my brother regarding parking brake usage. I say that using it before you put a vehicle in park helps take pressure off the transmission – especially on sloped streets and driveways. He says it doesn’t make any difference. The unpleasant “clunk” or “chunk” sound when putting it in gear without using the parking brake can’t be good for the long-term health of the transmission. Let me know your thoughts on this one.
A.S., Austin, Texas
A: When you put the gear selector in park, a pawl (pin) engages to prevent engine power from reaching the drive wheels. It is not there to keep the vehicle from rolling. That is the job of the parking brake, which should be used every time before placing the shifter in park. Without the brakes the pawl can wear or eventually break.
Q: I took my 1997 Maxima in for an emission test with no engine light on or codes showing up. I was told it was not ready to be tested and I had to drive it for a while to be ready. It had been sitting for about three weeks when I went straight in to be tested. Does the computer have to be cycled again just because I had not driven it for a while?
A.S., Blue Island, Illinois
A: Being parked or stored will not affect the engine control module. There may have been a pending code stored prior to when you parked the car. You may have to drive it to clear any pending codes.
Q My check engine light for gas tank keeps coming on in my 2001 Toyota RAV4 with 84,000 miles. I have had multiple mechanics look at this and various "fixes" were done but nothing seems to work. I even bought a new gas cap. After all these procedures it still comes on. Latest suggestion is to replace charcoal cleaner. But after all this time and money, I am not sure what to do next. It runs perfectly.
S.M., Laughlin, Nevada
A: The gas cap is the most common problem, but RAV4 vehicles of that vintage have had issues with the charcoal canister (not cleaner), which stores fuel vapors to prevent pollution. If you have replaced the cap, check the filler pipe seat for nicks or scratches that may prevent a good seal. If all is well, the canister or its components may be the culprit.