Q: I have a 2006 Honda Accord V6 with 158,000 miles. I'm now having a problem with the power steering. When I first start the car and turn the steering wheel left or right with the car not moving, it's fine. Each cycle after that, at rest or low speed, the steering wheel is more difficult to turn. On the road at normal speed, the steering seems fine. An independent shop flushed the system and filled it with Honda power steering fluid and said the pressure on each side of the pump was fine.
There has been no real improvement in how the steering reacts at low speed. The shop again flushed and filled the system and added a power steering additive. They said to continue to drive the car to see if it improves. It hasn't.
A: Interestingly, I just experienced precisely the same symptoms with our high-mileage 2007 Chevy Impala. The steering had begun to feel a bit heavy at low speeds but since it's only a seasonal-use vehicle I wasn't terribly concerned. Then I loaned it to a friend for a 600-mile round trip and when he returned his forearms looked like Popeye's! He said that trying to park or at very low speeds he could hardly turn the wheel.
I teased him about being a wimp and hopped in for a test drive and nearly hit the car parked in front because I could barely turn the wheel! To make a long story short, after replacing the power steering pump all is well and steering effort at all speeds is back to normal.
It seems that as the fluid in the power steering warmed up and thinned out, pump efficiency went down. When I faced a sharp turn — into a parking space, for example — at very low speed I had to shift to neutral, briefly rev the engine and turn the wheel, then as engine speed fell back toward idle slip the transmission back into gear. Raising engine speed increased pump speed and improved performance momentarily.
I think your vehicle is experiencing the same thing. Time to replace the pump.
Q: My mechanic replaced my air conditioning compressor a few months ago. It blows warm to cool and takes 15-25 minutes before it even blows cool. The mechanic checked all the hoses for leaks, but there were none. The refrigerant is all there. He says there's nothing wrong. Without the A/C, I can't go out due to health reasons. Can you help?
A: A reminder to all readers — without the year, make and model of vehicle I can't offer specific information but in this case I can suggest several common causes for lack of cold air from a fully charged automotive air conditioning system.
When the compressor was replaced, I hope the dryer and expansion valve were also replaced and the system drawn down to 30 inches of vacuum to evacuate all moisture and debris. Without these steps, the job is not complete.
The primary suspect in this case is the expansion valve — also called an orifice tube. This little device meters the refrigerant into the evaporator to regulate cooling. If there is any type of debris or blockage in this device, the system won't cool properly.
It's also possible that the outside fresh air vent system is allowing hot ambient air to mix with the refrigerated air, diluting and reducing the A/C's effectiveness.
I think it's time for a second opinion from another mechanic.
Q: I just filled up my lawnmower gas tank and then proceeded to fill my car's tank roughly half full with the same non-oxy fuel. The other half-tank was normal regular fuel. Problem? Or will it be OK?
A: No worries. Please remember that it wasn't that long ago that "normal regular fuel" WAS non-oxygenated. It contained no alcohol, but it did contain tetra-ethyl lead to boost octane. Using non-oxy fuel accidentally or intentionally will do no harm to any gasoline-powered automobile.
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.