Stained seats are a pain

Plus: Ridding mice from your car, get a third opinion

By John Paul Columnist / August 11, 2009

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Q. I have a 2006 Toyota RAV4 and the seats seem to stain really easily. If I open the door on a very rainy day the seats will get water spots on them. I have tried everything to get these stains out (car upholstery cleaner, Oxyclean and carpet cleaner) and all these solutions seem to only make the stains even worse. Can you suggest a way I can get all these tricky stains out?

A. It appears that you took the best do-it-yourself approach. At this point I would contact a professional automotive detailer. Many of the better shops are using an extraction cleaner to get the stains out. Once clean, ask about an anti-stain fabric treatment such as Scotchguard, to prevent future staining.

Q. We just spent $1,000 to repair our van. The problem was a mouse; it did not get inside but chewed up wires and injectors which shorted out the computer. Our mechanic told us to put mothballs in a nylon bag and hang it under the hood. This was in July and he said he has had like twelve of these cases this so far this year. I put four sticky mouse traps in my garage and caught a lizard and 2 birds, help!

A. The last time I posted a question about a mouse causing damage to a car, it generated more reader comments than almost anything I have written. The general consensus from readers is to remove any food and water sources from the area where your car/truck is parked. This includes pet food, bird seed and water bowls. The most recommended remedy was to tie Bounty Drier sheets under the hood of the vehicle or cotton balls saturated with oil of peppermint. Of course my favorite solution, still, is to get a cat.

Q. I have a 2000 Volkswagen Jetta and it overheats. The radiator fans are not coming on when the car gets hot. I tested the fans and they appear to work. What is wrong? Is there a relay that I am missing?

A. The fans are controlled by a computer module and a temperature sensor. Volkswagen doesn't use a relay but uses the module to turn the fans on based on engine temperature. The sensor and associated wiring should be checked.

Q. I recently purchased a 2009 Acura RDX; it had 5,000 miles and was used as a demo. When I first accelerate, I get a little hesitation. I am using 92 octane gas but still I get a hesitation. The car I test drove before I purchased this one didn't hesitate, what should I do?

A. I would return to the dealer and demonstrate the hesitation. Even if this involves leaving the car overnight, it is important that you show someone at the dealership that the vehicle has a problem. I drive many new cars and I can't remember the last new car that had a hesitation.

Q. I have a 1996 Toyota Camry with 147,000 miles on it. My husband took it one night and at first it stalled. He started it back up and it wasn't idling right, then the check engine light came on. One person says it's a sensor another shop say it is the ignition wires. What could it be?

A. In most cases if the engine is skipping, the check engine light will usually flash. Since the light isn't flashing it is unlikely to be an ignition problem. To properly diagnose the car, the technician should check all the basics and then check the car for computer trouble codes. Both or neither mechanics could be right. Perhaps it may be time for a third opinion.

Q. I recently purchased a 2005 Honda Pilot. The dealer put on new brakes front and back. Now when I stop at a low speed (under 25 mph) and apply little brake pressure there is a loud prolonged squeal until I apply more pressure or take my foot off the brake. Does this sound like the rotors are bad or calipers?

A. Brake squeal is caused by the brake pads moving and vibrating. Replacing the brake calipers or rotors may cure the noise, but may not be necessary. Have the shop inspect the brake pads and the associated brake mounting hardware.

Q. My 1995 Ford Mustang will pop out of second gear. Is this a transmission or an engine issue? I was told the engine was replaced four years ago but I don't know about the transmission or clutch.

A. When a manual transmission jumps out of gear the first item the needs to be inspected is the transmission shifter and linkage. If there are no signs of obvious wear or maladjustment, then the problem is internal to the transmission. Considering the car is 14 years old, the most inexpensive and practical repair may be replacing the transmission with a used unit from a salvage yard.

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