No bad choices when you have good taste in cars

Dear Car Talk: I retired last month, and my husband passed away unexpectedly shortly afterward. Now I own two vehicles.

First, a 2019 Toyota Prius Prime bought used with Hypersonic Red paint with 8,700 miles. So far, I have only plugged in the Prius in my garage, where my husband installed a plug for that.

Second, a 2020 Toyota Camry Hybrid LE bought new with Ruby Flare Pearl paint with 10,000 miles. The Camry has after-market macadamia leather seats.

Both cars have all the door and bumper guards to resist scratches and dings. Both are under a purchased extended warranty. Which car do you recommend I sell? Thank you! — Anne

Dear Anne: Please accept my condolences, Anne. I didn’t know your husband, but both of you clearly had good taste in cars.

Here’s the question you should answer, Anne: Which car do you like driving more? Which one makes you feel more comfortable behind the wheel? In which car do you feel safe, in control and at ease? That’s the one you should keep.

The truth is, you have two great choices here, and either one of these can be expected to last many years and be largely trouble free. They both get great gas mileage. The Prius is famous for that (54 mpg, even if not plugged in). But the Camry hybrid is almost as good, rated at a pretty spectacular 52 mpg overall.

The Camry is more substantial and a bit safer. I think it’s also quieter and more comfortable. And if you have to carry four people for a long drive, I’m sure they’d rather be in the Camry than the Prius. But maybe you rarely do that, in which case it doesn’t matter. But you can’t make a bad decision here, Anne. Either car will serve you very well.

Me? I’m taking those macadamia leather seats.

Dear Car Talk: I have a 2002 Saturn L200. The control knob that directs the air for the heat and air conditioning doesn’t work anymore.

The air only comes out of the defroster now. The heat, air conditioning and defrosting work well, I just can’t direct the air to come out the dash vents or toward my feet.

Is there a cheap fix for this? Thank you. — Tom

Tom: A 2003 Saturn L200? I don’t think there’s a really cheap fix, Tom, unless you want to fashion a cardboard air deflector and duct tape it to the dash.

It sounds like there’s something wrong with your blend door.

The blend door is a moveable flap that directs the air to the various vents inside your car. It’s controlled by an actuator, which is probably what failed.

The truth is, if your blend door had to fail, having it fail in the defrost position is what you want. If it was blowing on your feet or in your face, you’d have no defroster, so there’d be times you couldn’t see. We call that “sub-optimal driving conditions.”

So, one option is to just live with it, as you’re doing now. If you’re really determined to make the blend door work again, you can have your mechanic test the actuator to see if it’s getting current. If it is, that means the part itself failed, you can try to find a replacement actuator. That’ll require some luck on an uncommon, 20-plus-year-old car.

The actuator sits on top of the heater box, which is behind the glove compartment. But replacing it isn’t easy — or cheap. It may require removing the dashboard. A somewhat cheaper option might be to have your mechanic try to adjust the blend door manually to where you want it and secure it there somehow. That may require removing the actuator.

You’d still need to have some of that air blowing on your windshield so you can defrost and defog it. But perhaps your mechanic can set the door permanently so it’s blowing some air through the defroster, and some through dashboard vents.

That way your forehead won’t overheat quite as much next winter, Tom. Good luck.

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