Fixit: Will quiet hybrids get noisier?

  • Article by: KAREN YOUSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 20, 2007 - 4:58 PM

Q I heard that hybrid cars like the Prius are so quiet that they are causing problems for blind people crossing streets and that the carmaker is going to add noise-making devices to their cars. Is this true?

Q I heard that hybrid cars like the Prius are so quiet that they are causing problems for blind people crossing streets and that the carmaker is going to add noise-making devices to their cars. Is this true?

A That decision has not yet been made, said Denise Morrissey, a spokeswoman for Toyota, maker of the Prius. The company is aware of the issue and is studying how to balance the needs of sight-impaired people and pedestrians with other societal concerns such as noise pollution, she said.

Among benefits of the Prius and other hybrid vehicles is quiet performance, welcomed along streets and freeways where ambient noise levels are high. The trend is toward quieter powertrains, Morrissey said, which means drivers and pedestrians need to practice extra caution.

In some cities, here and abroad, crosswalk signals emit beeping sounds to assist the sight-impaired. Morrissey said that a blended approach to address this issue by city planners and carmakers is needed to get the best of both worlds.

Sticky patio door

Q I have a large patio door (8 by 6 feet) that has become very difficult to open and close. I have cleaned the runner numerous times and used a silicone spray. This has been helpful but doesn't last long. Is there anything else I can do?

A Most of the time, when a patio door becomes difficult to operate it is not due to lack of lubrication, according to home maintenance specialist Don Houlding. Actually, using lubricants of any kind -- household oil, soap, wax or paraffin, or even specialty products such as WD-40 -- can result in doors working worse than they did before they were lubricated.

Most patio door difficulties are caused by one of the following:

• dirt on or in the tracks

• worn or broken rollers and wheels

• expansion of wood components due to temperature and moisture

• settling or change in the shape of the door opening and/or frame.

To fix the door, it's best to take it off the track and inspect the rollers. If they are worn or broken, they can be replaced. If they are dirty, they can be cleaned. And if the door frame or opening needs to be trimmed, that also can be done. But before sanding or trimming the frame, try raising or lowering the rollers or adjusting the threshold or latches.

If, as a last resort, the door needs trimming, be sure to do it in very small increments. If you trim too much, it is possible to compromise the door's seal and ability to keep out bugs, wind and rain.

Unless you are familiar with this type of repair, this is not a do-it-yourself job. Hire a qualified service person. Start by contacting the door manufacturer. They often maintain lists of contractors who service their products.

Whenever hiring a contractor, check the license, insurance, business history and references. And remember, on small jobs like this, if a contractor wants some or all of the payment made upfront, treat that as a red flag and move on to someone else.

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