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Car Doctor: Radar, XM radio on the fritz

Posted by John Paul  January 21, 2011 05:22 PM

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Q. I have a 2007 Honda CR-V with XM radio and a radar detector hard-wired into a spare slot in the fuse box.  Once in a while the radar detector triggers with a laser alert and/or the XM radio jumps to a different channel.  This has happened when I used the rear window washer or when the horn is blown.  What could cause such a strange thing and what should I do to stop it?  It is impossible to replicate since it doesn't happen often.

A. There are at least two technical service bulletins specific to issues with the XM receiver that may be worth looking at. Although the first thing I would do is move the power supply for the radar detector to a different location. In addition, you might want to check the Escort web site. Readers, any suggestions?

Q. What do you think of the CVT transmission on Nissan cars?  I really want to go with the Maxima over the Camry, but the CVT has me hesitating. What do you think about the dependability of these transmissions? I keep my cars for years but have doubts over this new transmission.

A. The CVT (continuously variable transmission) is not new. In theory, it was Leonardo da Vinci who penned the idea. The first modern application was in the Subaru Justy back in the late eighties.  Originally the CVT was best suited to small displacement engines with low horsepower. Nissan, as well as some others, have adapted this technology to higher horsepower engines. The CVT in the Maxima, as far as I’m concerned, performs flawlessly and so far it has been without problems.  

Q. I trying to help out my college student son with his 1996 Corolla. The check engine light came on late last fall and we found a P0401 code. He had the EGR (exhaust gas re-circulation) valve replaced and the light eventually came back on. Using the Toyota service manual I checked the EGR modulator and the vacuum switching valve and they all passed. I removed the EGR to check the ports and there was something that dripped out of the valve. Got any suggestions what this is and how to fix the P0401 code?

A. The sludge is most likely blocking the flow of the EGR valve and triggering the light. I would do my best to clean out the sludge (it will harden over time) and check all the vacuum hoses for clogging. The secondary issue is the MAP sensor. The EGR and MAP sensors could be sending conflicting information triggering the light.

Q. I enjoy your Globe column every Sunday and miss it when it is not there. My 1999 Chevy Suburban has a problem with wiper blades that chatter. No matter what manufacturer's blade I try, the problem still exists. The only time they don't chatter is when I'm driving in heavy rain. The blade does not seem to flip over when the stroke changes direction. Any suggestions?

A. I would start with making sure the windshield is completely clean. In the past I have used Bon Ami powdered cleaner to fully clean the windshield. Then I would look at the angle of the wiper blade. The blade should be perpendicular to the windshield. Over time this angle can change, especially if the wipers are not used for a long time. Using the flat jaws of an adjustable wrench, gently twist the wiper arm to change the blade contact angle. You may need to experiment a bit to find the perfect angle.

Q. I considering a new car. The cars I have in mind are the Jaguar XF, BMW 550, and the Infiniti M56. Do you have a favorite and why? [We reviewed these exact three in November. -Ed.]

A. My favorite car based on pure style is the Jaguar; it has to be one of the most visually appealing cars on the road today. The BMW continues to be a driver’s car. It handles well, has telepathic steering, and the twin-turbo V-8 engine is very responsive. The Infiniti M56 is the one car I haven’t driven. Previous models handled well and were comfortable and loaded with technology, but the style of the M56 doesn’t do it for me. The BMW with its 400 horsepower V-8, eight speed transmission, and stealthy style would be my choice.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at or on Twitter @johnfpaul.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
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