• Q. My husband and I recently purchased a hacienda in Tucson, Ariz., where we just arrived for the summer and will be spending all our future summers. At present, my beloved 1986 Buick Skylark, painted in John Deere green, is sitting in a fully exposed driveway with only the shade of a small cactus to protect it from the blazing sun. My German mother, whose advice I always follow, has suggested that we purchase a small gazebo to shade my Buick. My British husband, who has only just arrived in the states this January, has wondered whether a better course of action would be to get a “reflective cover thingy” (his words). His frugality here may be the result of the fact that the Buick broke down on the way to our wedding, and he thinks it is on its last legs. Bottom line: gazebo, “reflective cover thingy” or status quo? •
TOM: Or maybe your mother’s just trying to get your husband to spend money because she’s still miffed about the Treaty of Versailles?
RAY: Sun is hard on the car’s paint, and on its interior — which can crack from the heat and the sun. If both exterior and interior are in good shape (which, frankly, I doubt, given that it’s a 1986 Buick), then the best thing would be to put up some sort of sun-covering structure. That’s probably what your mom means by a “gazebo.” And a permanent structure is best.
TOM: But you can start with a temporary canopy. It can be as simple as four well-secured poles with a large tarp stretched between them. Or you can buy a temporary carport built just for that purpose. A lot of places sell tent-like structures specifically designed to protect a car from sun and rain — either just on top, or on the sides, too.
RAY: My second choice would be two window shades — one for the front windshield, and one for the rear. That will at least protect the interior and dashboard from some of the direct sun. Even better, combine those with tinted windows.
TOM: I’m not a big fan of car covers (or “reflective cover thingies”) for cars that you drive every day, only because they’re a mild pain in the butt to take on and off. And chances are, after a while, you’ll just stop using it.
RAY: A permanent carport definitely is the best solution. But I’d actually recommend that you start with something temporary. Why? Because Tucson’s a beautiful place, but after you spend a furnacelike summer there, you might change your mind about the “and all future summers” part. So you may not want to spend the money on a full-scale construction project until you’re sure you’re going to return year after year, rather than flee and spend your summers in Juneau, Alaska.
TOM: But if you do go for the temporary carport, be sure to write your name and address on it, so when it blows away in one of Tucson’s summer monsoons, your neighbors can return it. Good luck, you guys.
• Q. I am a rural mail carrier and have a question about engine coolants. As a mail carrier, I spend a tremendous amount of time on hot asphalt at very slow speeds, and often sitting still. Are there any engine coolants that are capable of making an engine run cooler? My engine runs a little hotter than I am comfortable with. It doesn’t overheat, but it reaches higher temps than it does when traveling down the road at 55 mph. If no such coolant exists, are there any “tricks” that could be applied to get the desired result? •
TOM: There’s really nothing you can put in there to make it run cooler —unless you want to pack the radiator with blocks of dry ice.
RAY: It’s more likely that your radiator has seen better days. So the first thing I’d suggest is having your radiator inspected and flow-tested. Make sure it’s not corroded and that you’re moving plenty of coolant through it.
TOM: You can have someone check your thermostat, too, to make sure it’s opening correctly and isn’t sticking. A sticky thermostat can make a car run hot in stop-and-go driving. So can a non-functioning cooling fan.
RAY: If all of that stuff checks out OK, your one other option is to install an auxiliary cooling fan.
TOM: Basically, that’s an extra electric fan that mounts on the front side of the radiator (your regular cooling fan is on the back side). An auxiliary fan will give you a little extra cooling in stop-and-go driving, which is where you need it.
RAY: But other than that, there’s no magic potion. Except maybe the acid bath they’re going to use to clean out your corroded radiator. Good luck.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.