CLICK & CLACK : The Forecast Is Hazy

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

Last year we bought our teenage son a 1989 Acura Legend coupe. It has been a great car, even though it's pushing 140,000 miles now. We've had to repair a few things here and there, but there is one thing that has me scratching my head.

It seems that no matter how much we clean the windows, they become hazy within a few days. The windshield is the biggest problem, especially at night, since the haze makes it impossible to see when there is oncoming traffic. I had the windshield replaced, thinking it was just old and pitted, and that perhaps the safety glass film was failing. The new windshield was brilliant, but within a few days it was foggy again.

The haze is on the inside, so I have three possible ideas: (1) My teenage son's oily skin is somehow shape-shifting onto the windows. (2) He smokes a pack of cigarettes while going back and forth to school every day with the windows rolled up. (3) The old upholstery and cheap seat covers are creating some kind of weird gas that clouds the windows. Since my son takes three showers a day and he never smells like smoke, ideas 1 and 2 are out. Do you think it could be No. 3? -- Wade

TOM: Usually, vinyl outgassing is at its worst when the car is new. So, at 140,000 miles it's usually over and done with.

RAY: If you have cheap vinyl seat covers, they could be sublimating toxic gases and leaving the residue on the inside of your windshield.

TOM: The other possibility is that your heater core is leaking. If the heater core has a hole in it, the haze on your windshield could be a thin film of coolant.

RAY: If it's coolant, it would have certain characteristics. It would be greasy to the touch. It would smell sweet. And it would likely be thicker at the bottom of the windshield, near the vents.

TOM: If it is coolant, the solution will involve increasing your son's allowance so he can pay you back over time for a new heater core. Good luck, Wade.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am a proud grandma and a disappointed and angry owner of a 2006 Toyota Prius. The proud grandma part is this: My grandchildren made me some small clay decorations, which I proudly displayed on my dashboard -- a 2-inch clay flower and 1-inch clay ball sat against the multifunction screen. After a few weeks, the screen stopped working. I brought the car in to the Toyota dealer, who said that the small clay objects had "burned an image into the screen," causing it to stop working. The screen would need to be removed and sent out for repairs, which would cost me between $850 and $4,300! Nowhere does the owner's manual warn that such a thing could happen. -- Barbara

TOM: There are several possible explanations for what happened. Clay is made up of a bunch of minerals suspended in either water or oil. So it's possible that liquid seeped out and affected the electronic circuits that surround the screen.

RAY: The other possibility is that because the screen is touch-sensitive, the clay that was leaning against the screen could have been trying to activate one of the controls continuously for weeks. The reason the estimate ranges from $850 to $4,300 is that your dealer doesn't know what's wrong.

TOM: And the possibilities -- as far as what needs to be replaced -- are pretty far-reaching. That screen contains controls for the heating, ventilation, audio system and navigation system.

RAY: If I were you, I'd get in touch with Toyota directly (800-331-4331). This is an unusual problem, and you may be able to get them to show you some mercy.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click & Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at

2007by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman

© 2009 The Washington Post Company