Why won’t my truck’s airbag warning light go out?

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Cars

John Paul, AAA Northeast Automotive Physician, answers a question from a reader concerned about a lingering dashboard warning.

AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File

Q Our 2011 Ford F-150 Extended Cab Pickup Truck has an issue with the airbag light on the dash staying on. The problem seemed to start after we adjusted the seat to fit a child safety seat in the back seat. We researched the internet and noticed many other owners had this issue, not just with this year and style. How do we fix this? We haven’t been to a Ford dealership yet. With all the other owners complaining about this issue, how would we trigger a recall?

A. The first place to start is to scan the restraint system and read the error codes. When the light is on, there will usually be a fault or error code, and this code can lead to proper diagnosis and repair. The other problem is that sometimes it can be normal. The SRS or airbag warning light may come on when the seat is too close to the airbag or when the seat weight sensor detects a low weight occupant and deactivates the airbag to prevent injury to the passenger. For filing a complaint, go to www.nhtsa.gov do this.

Q If I buy a five liter container of synthetic motor oil and use it for six months, is that okay? How long can I store oil before it expires?

A. That wouldn’t be a problem. I would just warn you to seal the container after each use. Many stores use oil stored in bulk containers, and this oil can easily be months old. According to various oil manufacturers, the typical shelf life of unopened oil can be up to five years.

Q I noticed that the rear passenger floor of my 2008 Mercedes C 300 was wet after rain. I’ve seen YouTube videos showing attempts to fix this problem. Most of the time they try to unclog the sunroof drains. I have tried almost every possibility to solve the problem to no avail. Most mechanics refuse to deal with it, and body shops want to tear up the interior. I think car dealerships should be held accountable.

A. Most water leaks are caused by clogged drains, leaky gaskets (doors and windows), and clogged air conditioner evaporator drains. I would start by using low pressure air and blowing out the sunroof drains. I would also look to see that the drains in the bottom of the doors are clear. If that doesn’t work, I would contact a few car dealerships and see if they use an independent leak detection technician. These air and water leak specialists know most of the tricks and locations of water leaks. Your 14 year old car is well outside of any warranty and neither the dealer nor the manufacturer would be responsible for a water leak.

Q I own a 2016 Mazda CX-5 with over 100,000 miles. I recently took it to the dealership for a new battery and had them inspect the serpentine belt. To my surprise, they said it looked good. We do several trips a year and were hoping to hear your advice on when to replace it.

A. We see serpentine belts that last well over 100,000 miles and even ones that are 10 years old still look good. If the belt shows no signs of glazing, cracking, or fraying, chances are good. For added peace of mind, you should be able to replace the serpentine and water pump belts for less than $300 and not worry on your trip.

Q I have a 2005 Chrysler Sebring convertible that is shaking at 55 miles per hour. I’ve had the tires balanced four times but still have the problem. I changed the tires front to back and the shimmy moves back and forth. A mechanic said to replace the shocks and also suggested a wheel might be oval. Thoughts?

A. If the shop that balances tires can’t detect a bad tire or bent wheel, it’s time to find a new shop. Since vibrations travel with the wheels, at least you know which wheel/tire is the problem. Since your car is 17 years old, I would start by cleaning the backs of the wheels where they mount to the hubs. Corrosion can build up and cause the wheels to wobble. A good technician with a dial indicator should be able to find problems and offer a solution.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE Certified Master Technician. Email your question to [email protected]. Listen to Car Doctor on the radio at 10am every Saturday on 104.9 FM or online at northshore1049.com.

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