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Auto Doc: Air conditioning and condensation

Dear Doctor: When I turn on the fan to get heat in my 2015 Chevy Malibu the air conditioning automatically turns on. I thought I was accidentally hitting the a/c button, but realized that this happens only when the car sits idle overnight or for a few hours. There is nothing in the manual about this and the dealer's service department tells me this is normal, but can't tell me why the car was designed this way. Can you explain why?

Dear Norman: On a lot of new vehicles the a/c compressor comes on when the heat is turned on. One reason for this is to dehumidify the interior, as well as run the compressor while doing a self diagnostic check. The climate control system is electronic and like other systems performs a self diagnostic health test when first started. You should be able to shut off the a/c with an a/c econ button on the dash. You may also find the a/c compressor will not turn on when the ambient temperature drops below 30 degrees. If you choose the defroster mode the A/C compressor will engage, again this is a dehumidify feature.


Dear Doctor: I read in your recent column of someone having a problem with condensation outside of the car. I have a new 2014 Honda Accord and have condensation forming on the windows inside the car -- mostly on the rear window and sometimes on the glass on the side windows. Once I saw it in the dashboard, on the clear panel where all the information gauges are. I figure this shouldn't happen on a new car. Any help on this?

Dear Fred: Condensation is moisture in the vehicle. It can be from wet floor mats, water under the floor mats, water in the trunk, water left over in the heater box that did not fully drain out. You need to check all of these areas. This is why some vehicles are programmed to have the A/C compressor engaged when the vehicle is first started in order to dehumidify the interior immediately. Another reason for the fog buildup is the difference in the temperature from the interior to exterior, as well as the interior of the vehicle is very tight not allowing an exchange of air.


Dear Doctor: Since buying my new 2014 Subaru Forester the windows freeze and do not open under 30 degrees. The dealer can't diagnose and fix until they have it in that condition in the shop. Any ideas?

Dear John: As your dealer said, he will need to have the car in the shop when the temperatures in below 30 degrees to see if the issue is a switch or body module problem. I could not find any bulletins or information of this complaint. The good news is the temperature is getting colder, so the problem should appear for the dealer to diagnose.


Dear Doctor: I am the original owner of a 2002 Toyota Camry with 116,000 miles. It has developed a steering issue in cold weather. The wheel is stiff and doesn't correct itself when making turns. I have had the power steering fluid changed in the past. After the car has been driven awhile the issue is corrected and the wheel feels loose. I was parked the other day. Tires were straight but the steering wheel was completely upside down. (I hit a curb when parking not too long ago).

Dear Bobby: The steering wheel is connected to a shaft that connects to the steering rack unit or steering box. Between the shaft and rack or box there is a small universal joint or two. When either joint starts to freeze up or bind, the steering wheel will turn 180 degrees, tighten up and loosen as the wheel is turned. The same can happen when returning from making a turn. A stiff steering joint will not cause the steering wheel to be 45 degrees or more off center. If the steering wheel is off center, then something got bent and needs to be checked. Another problem area is a rattle from an internally worn collapsing steering shaft.


Dear Doctor: I purchased a used 2012 Chevy Impala with 35,000 miles last May. I recently got an oil change, using the recommended  SAE 5W30 oil. Now my computer is reading: "Change Engine Oil Soon."     What can I do to stop this code?

Dear Tony: The shop that changed the oil did not reset the oil change reminder. This happens often at a lot of quick oil change shops. You can reset the system yourself or head back to the shop that  changed your oil. It is a simple task that takes less than one minute. Check your owners manual for the correct procedure.

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