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Is synthetic oil OK to use in small engines such as generators? | Car Doctor

John Paul
Special to The Journal

Q: Synthetic oil seems to be the best choice of oil to use in a car today instead of conventional oil. Is synthetic oil OK to use in small engines such as generators, snow blowers and other four-stroke engines? What weight would be best?

A: Synthetic oil is highly refined oil that, in most cases, starts off as conventional oil.

As for using it in small engines, unless the owner鈥檚 manual recommends against it, I see no reason not to take advantage of the benefits of synthetic oils.

Synthetic oil flows better in cold weather, allowing for easier starting and better start-up lubrication. Personally, I use synthetic oil in my cars, lawn equipment and even a small boat motor.

As for viscosity, follow the manufacturer鈥檚 recommendation.

Windshield wiper fluid won't pump out sometimes in Ford Fiesta

Q: My 2018 Ford Fiesta runs great except for this pesky issue over the past couple of years (I don鈥檛 drive it often): the windshield washer fluid won鈥檛 pump out.

The first time I brought it into the Ford dealership to get it fixed, they told me it worked just fine. On the way off the lot, I tried it, and it miraculously worked. A mile down the road, it stopped working.

Second time there, again, they thought I was crazy. It does not work at all now. No sound of the pump when pressed to run. I started going to a different shop and asked them to replace the pump, which they did, but it still doesn鈥檛 work (shame on me for not complaining). Any ideas for the next time I bring it in?

A: There was a time when systems like this were simple: a switch, a pump and a simple electrical circuit. On your car, when the washer switch is activated, a signal is sent to the body control computer and then to the pump.

Ford chose to mount the washer pump behind the inner fender liner. I suspect 鈥 due to its location and intermittent operation 鈥 that there is a wiring issue leading up to the pump.

Why is my Honda Civic melting when it's 46 degrees?

Q: Our 2022 Honda Civic was parked in our driveway and started melting last week. It was 46 degrees and cold. Seems like a lot of melting issues are on the Japanese cars from Honda and Toyota. Do the Japanese use inferior plastics for their mirror casings and bumper casings? I saw an article you did on this in 2018 about another Honda Civic with the same issue.

Do American cars use the same plastics or have the same issues of damage from solar convergence? Honda denied our claim to fix my daughter's new 2022 Honda Civic, and we are disappointed. The Honda dealer said our windows melted our daughter鈥檚 car in our driveway. However, our house has a single window above the garage, and it has a screen in front of it. Any thoughts?

A: Honda put out a technical service bulletin 鈥 which I found on the website 鈥 describing the solar convergence issue. This is basically focused solar energy that can be caused by light reflecting off house windows.

Is the melting a result of this focused solar energy reflected from windows, or a type of material that doesn鈥檛 withstand higher temperatures? I know readers have sent me photos of Hondas, Mazdas and Hyundais with similar issues. Whatever the issue, the temperature must be quite hot, since over the summer we saw temperatures of over 115 degrees in Phoenix and Las Vegas, but no mention of melted vehicle trim. At this point, all you can do is contact your insurance company.

Defroster light on Caravan flashes before heater controls work. Why?

Q: The rear defroster light on our Dodge Caravan flashes for one minute before the heater controls work. The battery was replaced recently. Will disconnecting the battery and holding the cables together clear this issue?

A: The defroster light flashes as the system goes through its calibration cycle. Disconnecting the battery will start the system over again, and it is unlikely that would fix the issue.

A technician with a scan tool can look for the HVAC fault and see what is going on. The system is setting the blend door calibration. If one of the doors is sticking, or a motor is failing, it will cause this flashing.

If you try the computer reset, it costs nothing and it can鈥檛 hurt, but I鈥檓 doubtful it will help. If it were my car, I would give it a try.

John Paul, Car Doctor

John Paul is the AAA Northeast Car Doctor. He has more than 40 years of experience in the automobile industry and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. Write to John Paul, The Car Doctor, at 110 Royal Little Drive, Providence, RI 02904. Or email jpaul@aaanortheast.com and put 鈥淐ar Doctor鈥 in the subject field. Follow him on Twitter or on .