Dear Tom and Ray:
Help! I have a problem that occurs when I'm accelerating up a hill in my Dodge Aries. The cold air from the air conditioner will stop coming out of the dashboard vents and start coming out through the floor vents. When I get to the top of the hill and stop accelerating, the air switches back and comes out of the dashboard vents again. What's going on? - MargaretTOM: That's an interesting phenomenon, Margaret. We thought it might be another innovative move by Chrysler designed to make sure your feet don't sweat from all the excitement this car creates going up hills. But it's actually a Chrysler mistake. Under certain conditions, these cars suffer from low vacuum.
RAY: We're not talking about uprights, canisters and beater-brushes, Margaret. Engines create natural vacuum - or suction - when they run. That vacuum is used to operate - among other things - the vent doors in the heating and cooling system.
TOM: Vacuum is always at its lowest when the engine is under load (when it's working hard). So you would expect it to be low when you're accelerating up a hill anyway. But your engine's vacuum drops so low under load that it can't even keep the dashboard vents open.
TOM: It won't do any damage to the engine or the ventilation system. But if it bothers you, you may be able to have your Dodge dealer install a "vacuum amplification" kit that should improve things. Make sure you get the official Dodge kit, though. We've seen some cheap imitations that just give you a Dustbuster and duct tape.
RAY: Well, Piston Puss, do you have any contenders for the Click and Clack Cockamamie Ergonomics Award?
TOM: You bet I do. This week, I nominate our good buddies from across the sea - Range Rover. I like Range Rovers, but they have really gone out of their way to make some of the controls difficult to understand.
RAY: Yeah? Like what?
TOM: Well, the most outrageous example is in the heating controls. Heating controls have been around since the Flint-stones. They should be simple; one lever to control how much heat you want and another for where you want it to go - feet, windshield, etc. In the Range Rover, I had to resort to reading the owner's manual to learn how to use the heater!
RAY: And knowing you, you STILL couldn't figure it out! What else?
TOM: Well, the electric window controls closer to the front of the car operate the rear windows and the ones to the rear operate the front windows. Isn't that clever?
RAY: That's cute. What else?
TOM: The power-seat control. Range Rover was smart enough to steal the Mercedes idea of shaping the control like a seat. But then they hid it under the arm rest where you can't reach it.
RAY: Gee, this Range Rover really rubbed you the wrong way.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack Talk Cars in c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 East 45th Street, New York NY 10017.