Q: With just over 39,000 miles on my Honda, the clutch went out. Replacing it is going to cost us $1,700. It is not part of the extra insurance coverage we bought from the dealer at the time of purchase because it is not considered part of the drivetrain. I have driven manual transmission cars most of my adult life, including three earlier Hondas. I have never had a clutch go out until now. Is it possible that Honda “cheaped out” on the clutch mechanism because it is a seldom sought option, or is it just that we are unlucky? I am at the point where I think we should trade the car in and settle for an automatic transmission.

A: Mechanical stuff may fail and often does. But I don’t buy the argument that the transmission is not part of the drivetrain. The drivetrain consists of everything from the engine to the drive wheels, and the transmission (flywheel, clutch disk, pressure plate, throw-out bearing, slave cylinder) is part of it. File an appeal with the insurance company.

Do locks really help?

Q: The key for my GM-dealer-installed wheel locks stripped out after having the tires rotated three times. The tech at the dealership had a master key and replaced the locking lugs. He said the keys are made of a softer metal than the lugs and that this happens all the time. His advice: People steal cars, not wheels, so forget about lug locks.

A: People do, indeed, steal wheels. They are easy to fence and hard to trace. You must determine your own level of risk based on where you park your car while at work or home. That being said, keep in mind that a determined wheel thief has tools to remove locking lug nuts, so your technician’s advice still might be valid.

No tricks required

Q: I drive a 2010 Ford Fusion with the 3.0-liter V-6. The car has 132,000 miles on it and runs great. One hot day over the summer, the air conditioning inexplicably quit blowing cold air and then inexplicably started working again. I researched online and saw a suggestion that when this occurs to turn the thermostat dial to full heat and then notch by notch slowly dial it back down to the cooler settings. Somewhere close to the coldest setting, cool air starts blowing again. Out of the blue this same situation happened recently and the trick with the thermostat dial corrected things. I plan to keep the car a couple more years and would be OK with this intermittent air conditioning problem if I could be confident the thermostat dial trick would work consistently. Does it?

A: It should, but there’s a better approach. If condensation from the humid air isn’t drained from the HVAC housing, ice builds up on the evaporator fins, preventing air from flowing through. Turning up the heat melts the ice. But then, it eventually happens again. Unclogging the drain hose will end the freeze-melt cycle.

Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to [email protected]

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