Dear Car Talk:
Can you tell me where I could find a comparison between the slant of the windshield and the mileage achieved by the car? For 21 years, we drove a ’91 Mercury Tracer with a moderately slanted windshield. The car averaged over 30 mpg all but two of the years we owned it. We drove it from coast to coast, Canada to Mexico; we even towed our small boat on a trailer and carried our canoes on the roof. Then we decided that 22 years was old enough for a car, so we traded it in for a 2010 Hyundai Elantra. I hate almost everything about it, starting with the slanting windshield that is full of reflections of the dashboard and inside of the car. The very slanted window posts obstruct my vision. Looking at other cars, I see that the general trend is more and more slant to the windshields. Is there some justification for this, within the speeds one usually drives in town and occasionally intercity? The Hyundai doesn’t seem to do as well with mileage. You would think in over 20 years, there would be some improvement. – Jean
RAY: There has been improvement, Jean. The 2010 Hyundai’s mileage is nearly 20 percent better than the ’91 Mercury Tracer’s. While EPA ratings are better for comparison purposes than for predicting real-world mileage, the ’91 Tracer was rated at around 25 mpg in combined highway and city driving. And the 2010 Elantra is rated at 29 mpg combined.
In addition to better mileage, the Hyundai also carries a lot more safety equipment, with a bunch of air bags, anti-lock brakes and a better-protected passenger compartment. And unfortunately, that improved mileage, despite the added weight, is partly due to those darned slanted windshields you hate.
You’re right that windshields are more severely angled now than they used to be. That’s because they make cars far more aerodynamic. The less wind-resistant a car is, the higher its mileage.
Driving with a windshield that’s straight up and down is like trying to walk into a strong wind with a big pizza box taped to your chest. That big, flat box is going to make it harder for you to push your way through the wind. Not to mention all the orange grease stains it’s going to leave on your shirt.
But you’re absolutely right that there also are drawbacks to steeply angled windshields. One is that they really do tend to pick up reflections. If you leave anything on your dashboard, like a parking stub, you’ll see it reflected right in front of your eyes on the windshield.
And some dashboards themselves, especially if they’re anything other than flat black, reflect in the windshield. It can be very distracting. And, as you mention, the longer A pillars (the front roof supports on the sides of the windshield) can block your visibility, especially in urban environments where pedestrians, who tend to be skinnier than cars, are crossing streets as you make right turns.
But remember, Jean, there’s no constitutional amendment that says you have to keep a car for 22 years. If your blood boils every time you get into the Elantra, sell it and get something you like better.
Mileage has continued to improve since 2010, so you should do even better in that regard. The 2017 Elantra, for example, gets 33 mpg overall. When you do test-drive new cars, you’ll go in knowing what you dislike about your current car. So look for reflections on the windshields of the cars you try out, and see how badly the A pillars block your view.
Most cars will have angled windshields these days. It’s really hard to find a flat windshield anymore. Good luck.
Car’s low-tire-pressure light won’t turn off after new tire install
Dear Car Talk:
I drive a 2006 Toyota RAV4. A few months ago, I got new tires. The low-tire-pressure indicator light has been on almost constantly since the new tires were put on. I have been back to the tire shop countless times for them to turn off the indicator light. The guys tell me there’s nothing wrong with the tires. They also check the tire pressures and say they’re fine. The light stays off until I get on a freeway, then on it goes again, and back to the shop I go. I do know that one of the tire sensors had to be replaced on one of the rear tires when the new tires were put on. What can I do to fix this? – Patsy
RAY: One of your tire-pressure sensors is bad, Patsy. Each tire’s pressure sensor is housed in the valve stem. A few minutes after you start up the car, each one communicates, wirelessly, with the car’s computer.
If the pressure is low, the computer makes the dashboard light go on. Or, if one of the sensors does not communicate at all, that also makes the light go on. Since your tires’ pressure is always fine, I’m guessing one of the sensors is not working at all.
It could be that they replaced your pressure sensor with a non-factory sensor. And perhaps that after-market sensor just doesn’t communicate with your car’s computer.
Or, if they damaged one of the sensors when they changed the tires, they easily could have damaged another one (or more than one) and not known about it at the time. But since you’ve been back 150 times, you’d think these guys at Einstein Tires would have figured it out by now.
So if you’re still on speaking terms with them, go back and ask them to scan your computer and find out exactly which sensor is not working.
If it’s the same one they replaced, ask them to replace it again, this time with a Toyota sensor. You can pay the difference in the cost of the part, and they can eat the labor.
Or, if it’s a different sensor, you can have them replace that broken sensor, and see if you can guilt them into giving you a break, because they probably damaged it when changing the tire. Plus, they owe you something for pain and suffering. And for diagnosing it for them.
Good luck, Patsy.