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Your Car: Through a Glass Darkly

Q For years I’ve been bothered by a hazy deposit on the inside of my windshield. Whatever causes it seems to come from the car. What is it and how can I eliminate it?

   Danville, California  

A Gas emanating from plastic, especially upholstery, teams up with dust and condensation to form a film that clings to glass with a tenacity that in other circumstances would be considered admirable. Although the problem is declining as materials change, it’s still fairly common. Ammonia-based cleaners and energetic rubbing with lots of lint-free towels will get rid of it temporarily. Preventive measures short of reupholstering your car are inadequate and the film simply ignores them. Since heat makes the stuff collect faster, park in the shade or use a windshield sunshade.

Q I can smell coolant inside my 1998 Neon when the defroster is on. The dealer pressure-tested the system and then ran some dye through it but couldn’t find a leak. What could be causing this problem?

Cave Junction, Oregon  

A The ominous sweet smell of coolant inside a car usually means that either the heater core or its hoses are leaking. As the ultraviolet-sensitive dye used to reveal leaks didn’t appear and you don’t mention a decline in coolant level, the leak probably is the diabolical kind that oozes enough coolant to be smelled but not enough to drip from the heater housing so it can be seen or felt. You may have to dig for this one by removing the heater core housing and anything else in the way.

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