Take a trip to the car wash to test weatherstripping issue

Dear Car Talk:

I bought a 2020 Subaru Outback in October 2020. Since day one, after a normal rain, there is water on the bottom door sills of all four doors. The service department tells me this is normal. I’m an 83-year-old female. Are they gaslighting me?

They have worked on my car twice. Once resealing around the doors and the second time replacing the door gaskets. The problem still continues.

Am I being a “Karen” for complaining, or should I still be concerned? Thank you. -- Vivian

RAY: Well, first of all, Vivian, you’re not a Karen. You’re a Vivian. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Second, it depends on what you mean by the “bottom door sills.”

When you open the door, you’ll see a flatish plastic or metal sill that might say “Subaru” or “Outback” on it. That sill is considered outside the car. So it would be normal to see water on that sill when it’s wet out.

The weatherstripping gasket -- the one your dealer replaced, is there to keep water from getting past that sill and inside the car itself. So, if you’re seeing water on the carpet -- that is, on the passenger side of the sill -- then you have a problem.

The fact that the dealer replaced all the gaskets suggests that maybe they agree that water is getting into your car.

Or perhaps they took your word for it that you were seeing water “inside your car” and took the normal steps they would take when a door is letting water in.

If you’re not sure, here’s what I suggest. Buy a box of cookies and go to a car wash. Then drive straight to the dealership. Ask a mechanic to look at the car with you. Open the door, show him where you see water, and ask if that’s outside the door gasket or inside the door gasket.

If it’s just the sill, then give him the cookies as a peace offering, and thank him for helping you. But if the water is actually inside the car and getting the carpet wet, then they’re going to have to figure out how it’s leaking and fix it for you under warranty. And you are well within your rights to complain until they do.

Good luck, Vivian.

Diagnosing voltage issue may require a process of elimination

Dear Car Talk:

My father is a diesel mechanic but works a swing shift afterward, so he doesn’t have much time to help me fix my ‘97 Honda Civic.

The lights on the Civic will go dim, then flicker, then the radio goes off and then the car just dies. I thought it was the battery, so I had it charged and checked. It checked OK, but the problem continued.

So, my dad comes by at 2 a.m. and puts in a new alternator. He starts it up, and it runs. The next morning, I go to take my kid to school, and it won’t start. It cranks but won’t start.

ExploreLearning to drive a stick shift may require a shift in teachers

I’ve had friends check the fuses. No issues there. I can hear the fuel pump starting. A friend checked the spark plugs and said they are getting spark but aren’t getting the full amount.

I’m at a complete loss. I desperately need my car to be fixed. And I’m running out of ideas on how to fix it. Got any? -- Susan

RAY: There are three things I’d ask your dad to look for. Actually, four things, the first being a winning lottery ticket you guys can share. But failing that, I’d look for a bad ignition switch, a loose or corroded wire, or a bad ground.

Have your dad bring over his voltmeter and hook it up to the battery. Then, while the engine is running, try jiggling the ignition switch and each of the wires that comes out of it.

Wiggle the wires one at a time, and if you notice the voltage drop while you’re wiggling a wire, you’ve found the problem. If you get no drop in voltage around the ignition switch, try the wires coming from the alternator and battery to the power distribution box under the hood.

This can be a time-consuming process, but since you’ve already eliminated the battery and the alternator, it’s the next logical step.

The other thing that can cause your problem is a bad ground. Since the car is 25 years old, it’s possible that its ground wires are corroded or are falling off. There are several of them between the battery and the block and chassis. Have your dad find them and see if they’re fully intact. If there’s any question, just replace them. That’s not hard.

If none of that works, maybe your dad can sneak a nice, no-longer-needed 15-liter Detroit Diesel engine out of his shop next time he’s at work and drop that in your Civic.

You won’t be able to see over it while driving, but you’ll have the only Civic in creation that can tow 40 tons. Good luck, Susan.

Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.

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