Q: When I was young, my father told me that it was important to keep the gas tank full in cold weather. Is that still true?
A: Yes, it's a good idea to keep the tank full, or nearly so, when temperatures drop below freezing. Although fuel line freeze-up is not as common as it used to be, there is still potential. All air contains some moisture, even the air in your gas tank. The more air in the tank, the more moisture there is that can condense and freeze into ice. By keeping the tank topped off with gas, you are leaving less room for air.
Replace sensor, not warning light
Q: I own a 1996 Dodge 1500 4WD pickup truck. I purchased the truck new; it is in great condition with 115,000 miles. The ABS warning light is on continually, however, and the brake light comes on randomly. The dealer says it is a bad sensor, and he doesn't have a replacement because of the truck's age. I could just remove the bulb from the warning light, but would that affect other functions?
A: Automobile dealers typically keep replacement parts in inventory for at least seven years. After that, it is hit-and-miss. But you are in luck. Aftermarket sensors are available from almost any auto parts store, although they might have to order it for you. Removing the lamp is not a good idea.
Frozen parking brake
Q: I drive a stick shift. When parking, I leave it in neutral and set the hand brake. In the winter, the brake often sticks and doesn't release until I start driving. Would it be better to leave it in gear and park without setting the brake?
A: The sticking problem in cold weather likely is caused by the moisture on the rear brakes freezing. Although I would still set the brake, you can get away with putting the transmission in gear, as long as you are not on a hill.
I suggest using reverse. The gear for reverse usually has square-cut gear teeth instead of the helical cut on the forward gears. As such, it is less likely to allow movement.
Q: Following up on last week's comments about cleaning windows, don't spray a cleaner on the inside glass (or anywhere inside a car). It will make a mess of your interior and contaminate other surfaces. Apply it to the cleaning cloth. Be generous in wetting. Capillary action is what draws the contamination and excess moisture from the glass into the cloth.
Use a product that contains no perfumes or waxes in a container that has no residue from laundry detergent or the like. Car wash (non-wax) clear liquid soaps or clear liquid dish soaps like Dawn in a clean bucket work great.
A: Thanks for checking in and adding some good advice. Washing most windows is a pain in the neck. I have an even lower opinion of washing car windows.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to firstname.lastname@example.org.