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Put air conditioning in autumn check

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author photo by Nora Carter October 2007

Plan to take a short break this weekend from preparing for Halloween or raking up that endless accumulation of leaves. (Don't worry, they'll be there when you're finished.)

Grab your winter car care checklist and the kids and devote some quality time to that four-wheeled family member on which you depend so much. Let's finish up the inside the car stuff we began last week.

Turn off the radio, start the engine and give it a chance to warm up. While the engine is running, listen for any abnormal noises coming from the engine compartment — squealing, clicking, clacking, knocking or howling.

If you do hear something unusual, try to pay attention to when it is happening. While the engine is cranking over? Right after the engine starts? While the engine is warming up? Is the noise constant, or does it go away?

To check for power steering noise, turn the steering wheel from side to side but do not hold it against the "stop" in either direction. Listen. On some vehicles, a mild, low-pitched howl is normal, but a loud howl or screeching is not.

Straighten the steering wheel and turn on the air conditioner. Listen again for growling, screeching or loud knocking, which are not normal.

Any questionable noises warrant a description in the "get repaired" column on the checklist and should be discussed with your mechanic.

Ready to check the air conditioning, heater and defroster? Yes, I said A/C. Even though you may not use your air conditioning in the winter, the A/C compressor is turned on in the "defrost" mode on most vehicles. Its purpose is to help clear the windshield of moisture faster. (If your vehicle has automatic climate control, you will need to use the "manual" mode for this part of the checklist.)

We'll start with the A/C. Move the fan selector switch through all of the different speeds, low to high, and listen to the motor. No growling or ticking noises allowed, and it should change speeds smoothly.

At "max" or "recirc," the button with the little arrows, the motor may sound louder because it is recirculating the air inside the passenger compartment rather than drawing in outside air.

Turn off the A/C and the "recirc." With the fan on "high," move the heater selector lever or switch to each position. Does the air blowing change outlets as the selector is moved? Heat on floor, bilevel, floor and vent, defrost air directed to the windshield. Move the temperature selector from blue to red (cold to hot). Does the air temperature change from cool to warm?

Feel the carpet on the front passenger's side floor. Is it dry? A wet carpet can be an indication of a problem with the heater core. Turn on the rear-window defroster. The back glass should get warm at each of the lines. Be careful. It can go from warm to hot in a hurry.

It is best to check power mirrors, power windows, power seat and power door lock operation while the engine is still running so it won't draw the extra electricity from the battery. Regular mirrors, locks, windows and seats can be checked with the engine off. Make note of any weird noises, binding or sticking. Don't forget to check all of the seat belts.

That's about it for this weekend's car break. Next weekend, we'll be checking outside stuff.

© 2007 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
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