Q: When my dad taught me to drive in 1975 he drilled into my head that I must come to a complete stop prior to shifting from reverse to drive, and drive to reverse. And that it was imperative to be completely stopped prior to shifting to park. My husband now claims that transmissions have come so far that this is not necessary. What is true in today's cars?
A: Father knows best. You can't go wrong following his advice, but your husband has a point. In the past, internal clutches and brakes could be damaged if one component was not released prior to another being applied. Today's computer-controlled, solenoid-operated transmissions will not allow bad things to happen — usually.
Q: My daughter has to park her car on the street. Several times now, the horn sounded without anybody near the car. It has gone off while she's at work and during the night different times. There has been no unusual weather, either. Do you have any ideas what could be causing the problem?
B.L., Bensenville, Ill.
A: The problem probably lies in the horn circuit. That circuit consists of the horn pad on the steering wheel, the wiring for the horn or the horn relay. Chances are, it is the horn pad. Tap it, mash it, bop it and see if the horn keeps sounding after you remove your hand. That would indicate a pad problem. The next most likely suspect is the horn relay, which is usually on a panel under the hood. Lastly, and least likely, is a short to ground in the wiring.
Q: Please tell recent question-asker H.R. of Glenview, Ill., that squirrels hate peppermint. If he sprays peppermint oil under the hood where they are building the nest it will keep them away. We have had this happen to us twice with a car that sits out. Unfortunately, the first time it happened we didn't find out about it until we smelled cooked baby squirrel many miles into our road trip. Not a pleasant experience.
J.P., Oswego, Ill.
A: We gladly pass along your tip. But it has gotten us wondering if a stick of Wrigley's peppermint gum would work. It could give the squirrel something else to chew on besides the wires.
Q: I have a 2008 C6 Corvette with a recurring, intermittent problem where the transmission will not shift out of park. The engine starts normally, but the shifter will not move out of park. It will also happen with the engine running and the car temporarily shifted into neutral. Sometimes, if I rock the car with the engine off and then restart it, it will magically shift out of park. The car has 17,000 miles and otherwise has no other problems.
M.K., Boynton Beach, Fla.
A: As you know, you must apply the brakes to shift out of park. Therein may lie the problem. If the brake light switch is out of adjustment, pressing the pedal will not release the shift-lock solenoid on the shifter mechanism. (The brake lights may not come on, either.) If adjusting or replacing the switch does not work, the shifter may have to be replaced. By the way, the next time you have trouble, press the start-stop switch to the accessory position, then press the brake pedal and you may be able to move the shifter. You may then start the engine in neutral.
Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest Send automotive questions along with name and town to motormouth.tribverizon.net.