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Motormouth: Why did the clutch go out?

Q: With just over 39,000 miles on the car, the clutch went out and we are going to be paying $1,700 for a new clutch. It is not part of the extra insurance coverage we bought from the dealer at the time of purchase because it is not considered part of the drivetrain. I have driven manual transmission cars most of my adult life including three earlier Hondas. I have never had a clutch go out until now. Is it possible that Honda "cheaped out" on the clutch mechanism because it is a seldom sought option or is it just that we are unlucky? I am at the point where I think we should trade the car in and settle for an automatic transmission.

— A.D., Chicago

A: Let's face it: Mechanical stuff may fail and often does. I would certainly argue that the transmission is part of the drivetrain. The drivetrain consists of everything from the engine to the drive wheels and the transmission (flywheel, clutch disk, pressure plate, throw-out bearing, slave cylinder) are part of it. Google it. You will find dozens of pictures.

Q: The key for my GM-dealer-installed wheel locks stripped out after having the tires rotated three times. The tech at the dealership had a master key and replaced the locking lugs with the originals at no charge. He said the keys are made of a softer metal than the lugs and that this happens all the time. His advice: People steal cars, not wheels, so forget about lug locks.

— C.V., St. Charles, Ill.

A: People do, indeed, steal wheels. They are easy to fence and hard to trace. You must determine your own level of risk based on where you park your car while at work or home. A determined wheel thief has tools to remove locking lug nuts. They are readily available. Cordless impact guns make the job quick and easy.

Q: I am writing to you about a recent column. C.B. of Pompano Beach, Fla., asked about red hands on the dash of their 2016 Mercedes S550. I immediately texted my son for the answer. He is a Mercedes Benz master tech. His response: It means you need to put your hands back on the steering wheel and move it slightly so the car knows that you are still in control.

— L.M., Rolling Meadows. Ill.

A: Yep.

Q: I drive a 2010 Ford Fusion with the V-6 3.0-liter engine. The car has 132,000 miles on it and runs great. One hot day last summer, the air conditioning inexplicably quit blowing cold air and then inexplicably started working again. I researched online and saw a suggestion that when this occurs to turn the thermostat dial to full heat and then notch by notch slowly dial it back down to the cooler settings. This always works and somewhere close to the coldest setting cool air starts blowing again. Out of the blue this same situation happened recently and the trick with the thermostat dial corrected things. I plan to keep the car a couple more years and would be OK with this intermittent air conditioning problem if I could be confident the thermostat dial trick would work consistently. What gives though?

— P.G., LaGrange Park, Ill.

A: Condensation from the humid air must be drained from the HVAC housing. If not, ice builds up on the A/C evaporator fins preventing air from flowing through. Turning up the heat or allowing the car to sit melts the ice. But then, it eventually happens again. Unclogging the drain hose will end the freeze-melt cycle.

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ABOUT THE WRITER

Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.

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