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lou's garage

‘Tis the season for winter related topics. Today, two unrelated vehicle repairs with a surprisingly common root cause.

The first one started with a phone call from a younger driver with an older, manual transmission Ford Mustang convertible. He complained that his car wouldn’t easily go into first gear or reverse. He was concerned that the clutch we had replaced a year earlier was defective. Second was an Audi A4 with a sticky throttle.

The common thread is a simple yet commonly overlooked problem – the driver’s side carpet mats. However, it’s not the factory supplied mat that is the problem, it’s the big winter rubber mat that was added on top of the factory mat.

More from Lou's Garage: Why do we need winter tires now, but we didn’t a few decades ago?

More than a decade ago Toyota had a massive recall for mats that were interfering with the accelerator pedal causing their vehicles to suddenly accelerate resulting in several accidents. Since then, factory original stock and dealer supplied original equipment winter mats have a big bonus, they have several built-in fastener points that keep them firmly in place so they can’t move around.

In the case of the Mustang, the owner had gone to his local auto supplier and bought a large winter rubber mat. This mat was placed on top of the fabric Ford original. Over time it had crept up to the point where it was bunched up behind the pedals. The problem was not visible without getting on your knees and peering under the dash. The bunched-up rubber mat was preventing the driver from fully depressing the clutch pedal to the floor. Without the proper disengagement of the clutch, the transmission was difficult to shift, especially noticeable in first and reverse. After I removed the mat, it shifted with ease. The only question remaining was whether or not the clutch was prematurely worn out because of the repeated ineffective clutch operation.

A thick rubber aftermarket mat was also the culprit on the Audi. The right edge of the mat was sitting in a position that was catching the accelerator pedal. When the driver accelerated aggressively, the pedal would get caught and it would just hang on the mat for an extra moment. Hence the sticking throttle feeling. I think we can all agree that the feeling of a runaway vehicle is most unpleasant.

After I demonstrated the issue to both slightly embarrassed drivers, they promptly removed and threw out their pesky mats. While there is no need to throw them out, these mats are usually intended to replace the mat underneath, not be added on top of it. There have been plenty of incidents and accidents directly related to floor mats, being aware is the key to not having an incident yourself.

Your automotive questions answered

Hello Lou, reaching out for impartial advice. Hopefully your advice will assist other Globe and Mail readers are well.

I have a leased 2018 BMW X3 3.0i M Sport from new (Bought in May 2018) and the lease ends early next year. It is in good condition with 62,000 kilometres. I am interested in moving to a fully electric car next given this is the future. However, the choice of vehicles and supply are limited at this time. Therefore, I am considering buying out the X3 and keeping it for another couple of years while the supply and choices of new electric cars in the market increases.

Hope you can advise me on the following:

  • What is your advice on keeping this vehicle?
  • Should I go ahead and purchase it outright?
  • Should I get an extended warranty?
  • What is your advice on my thought process?

Appreciate your insight and help. Thanking you in advance. – Laks

While some auto manufacturers have managed to catch up and overcome their supply-chain issues, many have not. I am guessing, but I think we have another year to wait before the market madness noticeably subsides. Therefore, holding what you have when you still have something driveable is what I initially gravitate to for the time being regardless of whether it is a pure electric vehicle or not. Also, because your vehicle was leased prior to the pandemic I am going to assume that the lease buyout figure is reasonable and probably more favourable than going new car shopping right now.

I believe your thought process is on point. Should you get an extended Warranty? Absolutely, for reasons I’ve stated here numerous times in the past here about European cars and their hefty repair bills.

More from Lou's Garage: Thinking of a used European car? BMW timing chain issue highlights importance of pricey warranties

What can you do if your car was egged on the passenger window side and it seeped down in the window seal? It happened to my daughter’s car and she had it cleaned, but she said there is still a foul smell. – Monica

The inner door panel will need to be removed. Any auto service provider or even a decent DIY’er should be able to help. Once the door panel is removed, there will be a moisture insulator that also needs to be temporarily stripped back. Contemporary vehicles will have an abundance of electronics in the door, so caution is in order, especially if you are a DIY’er. If one is not completely comfortable working around electronics, then it should be left to a professional. Otherwise, I would expect approximately 1.5 hours of labour to remove the panel, give it a decent clean and put it back together.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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