QUESTION: I have a 2005 Honda Odyssey. About two months ago the passenger air bag light started coming on. I took it in for an oil change and the mechanic said it's nothing to worry about. It bugs me. Can you give me an answer?
ANSWER: No, but Honda's scan tool can. Anytime there's a question or issue with air bags or supplemental restraint systems, have the issue investigated. Why? Because any fault or problem can influence, even prevent, these systems from deploying properly in a crash.
Your vehicle has an impact sensor and a weight sensor in the passenger seat that can determine whether the passenger air bag should deploy or not in a crash. With an occupant weight of 65 pounds or less or a frontal impact where the seatbelt would offer adequate protection, the passenger air bag will not deploy.
If the passenger seat, its upholstery or the OPDS system (occupant position detection system) have been serviced, a re-initialization is required. Also, Honda did issue a recall for a potentially defective front impact sensor on some 2005 Odysseys, but this is unlikely the issue with your vehicle.
Q: I have a 1966 Mustang. I have noticed in the past couple of years that when I first start driving, the right front wheel will lock up and slide on a dirt road and the car wants to turn right immediately. After driving the car for a couple of miles, the brakes work fine and the car stops straight as an arrow. I had the brakes inspected and there were no leaks or other problems. The mechanic said that sometimes the brake hoses can deteriorate from the inside, so I had them changed, but the car still wants to turn right at the first stop. I have read that if a brake line has a stoppage it might cause this. Is this a problem with the right front wheel or maybe the left front wheel is not getting enough hydraulic pressure?
A: Let me offer two other possibilities: moisture or contamination on the brake shoe friction material and (this is a long shot) the brake shoes on the right front are reversed, meaning the leading shoe is in the trailing position and vice versa.
Many drum brake systems feature a leading shoe that is pushed by the hydraulic wheel cylinder into the direction of rotation of the brake drum. This gives the leading shoe a self-energizing characteristic, meaning that initial contact with the drum tends to self-apply the friction material on the shoe.
In most cases, the leading shoe has a section of shoe at the wheel cylinder end that has no friction material to reduce the self-energizing characteristic. If the two brake shoes are reversed with the full-length friction material of the trailing shoe mounted in the lead position, the self-energizing characteristic is magnified.
Any type of contamination on the friction material will change the coefficient of friction and can initially cause a significant imbalance of brake force. As the material is heated and/or dried by application, this characteristic often fades.
To perform a quick DIY test of brake hydraulic pressure, place the front end safely on jack stands and have an assistant apply steady light brake pedal pressure while you rotate each front wheel, feeling for the first indication of brake shoe contact with the drum. Both front wheels should initially exhibit this at the same level of brake pressure.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., 55488 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.
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