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Q&A with Kit Foster: September 26, 2013

Q. My 1969 Olds Cutlass convertible seems to have a different deal in the dashboard. Every other similar car I’ve looked at has vents there. It appears to be factory. I have had people from the Olds Club look at it, with different ideas. Most agree that it looks factory. It was suggested that it could be Canadian, as the car came from North Dakota. I would like to know if anybody knows the real story.

— Bud Hill, Viola, Wis.


A. I have seen thermometers of this type before. They have a temperature-sensitive element inside that changes color as the ambient temperature rises and falls, giving a ribbon-indicator effect. I remember purchasing a stick-on version that was to be applied to the driver’s exterior mirror, so as to gauge the outside temperature (and I also remember than it didn’t work tremendously well). This could be an attempt to accomplish the same thing, only with the air duct in the car. I don’t imagine it would be very effective, as the temperature of the air in the duct is unlikely to be the same as outside the car, except at highway speeds with the fresh air vent full-on. Have you compared the readings with those of an ordinary thermometer inside the car?

If your car has air conditioning, it would be reading the temperature of the chilled air in the duct, which does not strike me as the most important concern of the passengers – after all you can tell whether it feels cold or not. Have you checked whether there is an air duct behind the thermometer? Oldsmobile did offer an outside thermometer about that time, option Y71, but it mounted externally, on the driver’s door near the mirror.


Q. This is in response to Dale Carpenter who has a ’91 Cad with a heater problem. It’s probably too late for my reply as it appeared in the June 13 issue, but here’s my two cents anyway. It would’ve been nicer had he included more basic information, but from what was provided I’d say that if there is one, the heater (water) control valve is more than likely the culprit. Even if it is bad, it may cause both heater hoses to be hot. Then, and actually I would take a look at this first (before the water valve), the HT4100 engine (if so equipped) was notorious for head gasket failure. This, too, would cause the symptoms explained. This can be easily diagnosed by checking for excessive pressure in the radiator, and/or water (coolant) in the oil, and/or fouled plugs, and/or rough running, etc.

— Rob Silver Jr., via e-mail

A. Never too late, particularly with a new suggestion, until we hear that a problem has been fixed. We haven’t heard if Mr. Carpenter has fixed his lukewarm heater. Maybe you’ve hit upon his problem. If not, you may help someone else. Thanks.


Q. The question in your July 11 issue from Mr. Paul Filo, Dudley, Mass., asked “When did the 9/10ths cent a gallon gasoline start and why?” In the teens and the twenties, gasoline was priced about 12 cents a gallon. During that era, when a guy worked six days a week for five bucks, a penny was actually worth something. Yes, they had price wars even then, and when one station sold gas for 12 cents a gallon, the station down the street would cut him and sell his gas for 11-8/10 cents a gallon. The station further down would sell gas for 11-7/10 a gallon and so on. After WWII, the 10ths started to stabilize by the 1950s. 9/10ths became standard and is, to this day, like your answer, “a psychological ploy to make the price seem lower.”

— John Chappell, San Marino, Calif.

A. Thanks – and not just because you agree with me.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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