Q.    I own a 2005 Honda Pilot with about 150,000 miles on it. It’s in good shape, but I suspect it will need a set of new tires this winter, and the air conditioner did not work this year. (it was looked at last year, I was told there’s a leak somewhere but the source was unknown).  I also lease a Honda CRV (for my college-aged daughter) that I will most likely buy when the lease is up next fall.  Here’s my question: do I sell the Pilot and drive the CRV until my daughter is home from college and buy/lease something then?  Or do you think the Pilot is still worth the investment?   I’d love to keep it on the road as long as I can; life without a car payment is awesome.

A.     Keeping a 13 year old car can always be a bit of a gamble, but starting with a Honda makes it a good bet. The Pilot is a vehicle that with a reasonable amount of preventative maintenance can last 250,000 miles or more. Before I invested heavily in the Pilot I would have a good repair shop do a complete checkup of the car, just to see how it is doing. If there is nothing obvious and no rusting concerns I would try to keep it as long as possible.

Q.    I drive a 2014 Toyota Highlander. Each summer the vents emit a strong moldy odor for several minutes after first turning the car on. The Toyota dealer explained that it is due to residual moisture sitting in the ventilation system due to air conditioner use. First I paid for them to flush the system with a disinfectant, which didn’t fix the problem. The next year they recommended replacing the air filter with a specialty filter, which also didn’t fix the problem. Their final recommendation was to turn off the AC, run the fan and open the windows five minutes before reaching my destination to minimize the buildup of residual moisture in the system. This is neither a convenient nor a comfortable option in hot summer weather! Any ideas for how to fix this problem?

A.   The dealer is correct that the mold/mildew smell is due to moisture building up in the air conditioner duct system and evaporator coil. The remedy that suggested was right from the Toyota service manual. Cleaning the system and using a charcoal impregnated filter usually takes care of the problem, although this work generally needs to be performed annually. One other issue that can happen is spiders can clogged the evaporator drain and cause additional moisture build up in the system. After you run the air conditioner you should see water draining on the ground, if you don’t there may be a clog. The idea of shutting off the air conditioner five minutes before you end the trip is a pretty good one. Driving with the A/C off and the fan on will help dry out the duct work.

Q.   Not exactly a question, but a comment. I just read your article on Subaru and their battery drain, of course after this happened to me.  I must say I am not pleased to have missed an entire day of work due to Subaru not telling me about this.  I was only away for three days and this happened. After my vehicle was jumped by my roadside service, I drove to the dealer, while I was waiting to check in one of the techs asked if my car was a push button start, when I replied it was he began to tell me that unless I lock my car in the garage the vehicle will continue to search for the fob, ultimately resulting in a dead battery.  Bottom line, if I lock my car this can be prevented. I had them check the system to see if there are any other issues going on and they said the car was fine. I do believe that when you purchase this vehicle, someone needs to let us know that this could happen. I am one very upset Subaru owner!

A.   I had not heard the comment about locking the car to prevent battery discharge, but I’m not sure that is the answer. I have heard from Subaru owners from all around the country (twice this week) with similar problems. Several of these cars were at airports where I can only assume the vehicle was locked. I believe there is some sort of parasitic drain on the electrical system that overtaxes the standard battery. Several Subaru owners have told me their dealers replaced the standard battery with a battery that had a larger electrical reserve capacity.

John Paul is AAA’s Car Doctor. He is an automotive expert who has been writing and talking about cars for more than 30 years. He also hosts the Car Doctor radio program on WROL radio in Boston. Email John at jpaul [at] aaanortheast.com.

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