April 20, 2012

Car Talk

Try easy fix first on car's time-traveling clock

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:
My car time-travels into the future. I have a 2004 Volvo XC70 station wagon that for some reason does not keep proper time. I can set the clock to the correct time, and within days it will be running fast. Within two months, the clock is fast by 20 minutes. I can understand losing time because of a weak battery or something, but advancing in time? Any thoughts? — Lisa

Ray: If you're the kind of person who is chronically late, you may have a spouse who is surreptitiously nudging your clock ahead in an attempt to get you to be on time.

Tom: Several of my ex-wives used to try that on me.

Ray: Oh, I don't think they wanted you to be on time. They were just trying to make the day of the divorce settlement come sooner!

Tom: Most likely, Lisa, the clock itself is faulty. And, unfortunately, the clock in this car is part of the instrument cluster.

Ray: And when you find out that in order to replace this clock, you have to replace the whole instrument cluster for $1,000, you'll embrace the time-honored solution for malfunctioning automotive clocks.

Tom: You'll go to the hardware store, and for four bucks, you'll buy yourself one of those stick-on digital clocks. You'll peel off the backing and slap it right onto the instrument panel, over where your current clock sits.

Ray: Now, it's possible that your entire instrument cluster is beginning to fail. If something crucial in the cluster stops functioning — like the speedometer — you may be forced to replace the whole thing at that point.

Tom: Or, if you're lucky, your regular mechanic will know one of the places that fixes these panels for a few hundred bucks, and he'll be able to send it out for you.

Ray: But I wouldn't bother just for the clock. Even if you're a Volvo owner and you're used to leaving the dealership with angina after seeing the estimate, that's a lot for a clock. Especially given the age of the car and the price of the alternative. Good luck, Lisa.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)

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