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Motormouth: Father knows best? Engineers know better

Bob Weber, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

Q: My elderly father thinks it is better to drive without a radiator pressure cap. He is worried the pressure can pop a coolant hose. He has been driving his 2004 Chevy Venture like this for years and has been trying to get me to do the same. So far, he has not blown a hose nor has he overheated. But I think he is taking a risk of boiling over, which could do damage to the engine and is the reason for his poor gas mileage. I tell him that he does not know more than automotive engineers who have designed vehicles to run with pressure. What is your opinion?

-- J.S., Granbury, Texas

A: Father knows best? Engineers know better. The engine is designed to run at a predetermined high temperature to control emissions and that includes providing good fuel economy.

Q: Your recent piece about turning off accessories before shutting down reminded me of an incident back in the 1960s. Some Air Force pilot training buddies and I were in a brand new car, hurtling down the road in a Florida downpour. One of us suggested putting the headlights on. Driver agreed and began pulling over to the side to slow down, eliciting some protests from the rest of us: Why? Driver maintained that he always slowed down before turning on the lights "to avoid blowing out the bulbs." And where did he learn this? You guessed it -- from his father.

-- B.C, Chicago

A: A TV show called "Father Knows Best" used to air back in the 1950s. It was a sitcom about a wise head of the household. By today's standards, it was kinda lame. Was that your buddy's dad?

Does shutting off accessories before shutting off engine preserve the battery?

Q: I have a 2011 Ford Escape with 80,000 miles. Every time I've gone out of town for more than a week, I come home to a completely dead battery. After the first time, I put in a new battery, but the battery isn't the problem. It seems to be some massive drain on the battery. I called the dealer but they had never heard of the problem. I was hoping that you had some knowledge or suggestions.

-- L.A., Minneapolis

A: We are afraid we don't have much to go on here. If you suspect a key-off drain, have a professional tech investigate. There is always a small drain, but if it exceeds 50 milliamps, there is a problem that must be diagnosed. If everything checks out, connect a smart trickle charger whenever you leave your car for extended periods.


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