Dear Tom and Ray:
Help! My mechanic has fleas! My mechanic has a "garage dog," who is very old and droopy. I think he has fleas, because after I got my car back, I'm getting bitten in my car! Now I need to get my air conditioner fixed, but I'm afraid to take it in, because I fear the fleas will get worse if I go back. Help! — Karen
Tom: Here's what you do, Karen. Start by sitting in the driver's seat and fastening your seat belt. Note where the shoulder harness crosses just under your neck. That's where you want to attach a flea collar so you can wear it from now on whenever you're driving.
Ray: I think we can do better than that for you, Karen. First, you want to be sure that what you've got are fleas. But let's assume you've seen them and confirmed that. The next step is to vacuum your car thoroughly. Use one of those thin upholstery attachments, and hit the seats, the carpet, the headliner and all the crevices you can find.
Tom: Then your vacuum will have fleas. So remove the vacuum bag, seal it up and dispose of it in a container outside your house.
Ray: Next: Chemical warfare. Even if you got every single flea with the vacuum — which you didn't — fleas leave eggs. Which turn into more fleas. So if you don't like the idea of using serious pesticides, you can start by using a borate-based desiccant, like Borax. That's a drying agent that does a good job on fleas. Sprinkle it into the carpet and seats, and just leave it there.
Tom: Flea larvae turn into adult fleas in about three weeks, so you have to leave the stuff in the carpet and upholstery for at least that long before vacuuming it up. But I'd wait a couple of weeks longer just to be safe.
Ray: If you want to go all out, instead of the borate, you can use a flea spray or flea bomb that contains IGR, insect growth regulator, a hormone blocker that keeps the larvae from reaching the adult stage. I'd ask a local veterinarian to recommend an effective one.
Tom: And the final, but crucial, step in getting rid of fleas is to prevent re-infestation. The kindest thing to do would be to speak to your mechanic privately.
Ray: Tell him that your car was infested with fleas, and that it happened just after the car was at his shop for the day. You can say you're not 100 percent certain the fleas came from the shop, but you know he has a dog, and you're reluctant to go back until you're sure there's no problem.
Tom: This will give your mechanic a chance to take care of the problem, since you're probably not the only customer who's left his shop with something other than brake pads.
Ray: You'll also be doing a service to his poor, old dog, who can't be very comfortable if the garage is infested with fleas.
Tom: As for your air conditioner, I wouldn't blame you for taking it to someone else for the repair right now. Check the Mechanics Files on www.cartalk.com for recommendations in your area, which come from other readers and listeners of ours.
Ray: Then check back with your mechanic in a few weeks, and ask him if he found anything. If he gives you a satisfactory answer and appears to have addressed the problem, you can start going back to him again. And if not, you can take your business elsewhere and send him a case of Hartz 2 in 1 for Christmas. Good luck, Karen!
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)