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I was recently involved in a head-on collision in my 2015 Honda CR-V. On impact, my seatbelts locked and I heard hissing. Looking over my left shoulder from the driver seat position there was “smoke” filling the car. My airbags did not deploy. The mechanic told me later that my car was “warning” me and the airbag was a millisecond from deployment. But that makes no sense. Is there something wrong with my airbag? Why would the “smoke” come out if it didn’t deploy. – Jileen

I’m hoping that you just misunderstood the “warning” comment, as I have to believe a properly qualified technician would never suggest something so absurd. The absence of front airbag deployment indicates that the severity of the collision was not that extreme.

Seat belt pretensioners are part of your vehicle’s complete air bag supplemental restraint system (SRS). As the accident occurred, these mechanisms employed a contained explosive charge, which moved a hidden ram and tightened and locked your seat belt. The smoke you saw was the aftermath of the pretensioner doing its job.

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I’m sure you were preoccupied immediately after the accident and did not notice, but your vehicle will now have its SRS warning light illuminated. Most insurance claims inspectors know to look for this when they are doing their repair estimate and will include the appropriate pretensioner repair. Call your insurance adjuster if any warning lights are illuminated after you get it back.


Unfortunately, I overfilled my car’s engine oil and used it to go to work and back for two days. The car still runs alright, but I can hear lately some extra small noises coming from engine when working. I will not use it any more and try to drain some oil out with a dipstick tube. If I take it to a garage instead of draining it out myself, could they do anything extra to save the engine or they can only do the same as me? – Ioana

If you overfilled the oil level to the point where it has reached the height of the engine’s rotating crankshaft, it will splash the oil, causing it to aerate, leading to eventual engine damage.

As the crankshaft rotates through the oil, it will also throw it upward, toward the bottom of the pistons. The piston’s rings will quickly be saturated and overwhelmed, allowing oil to migrate into the combustion chamber and be burned, resulting in heavy smoke from the tailpipe.

Ceasing to drive the car was the right move. Now get out there and drain the oil to the correct level. There is nothing additional that a garage can do to save it, if it is indeed too late. However, if it was not smoking when you last drove it, this suggests that the engine may not have sustained any damage. My fingers are crossed for you.

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

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