Can Kelly de-waxify her car's insides?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2008

Dear Tom and Ray:

I did something that was, at best, careless -- and at worst, really, really stupid. So don't tell anyone! When I turn on my 2006 Jeep Liberty, the vents emit a "not so nice" smell. So, I put a very pleasantly scented bar of homemade soap (that I bought at a farmer's market) on top of the dashboard. I just placed it there, wrapped in the clear plastic it came in. It helped make the car smell better. Then, while parked in a big parking lot for the day (I take the train to work), the soap melted in the hot sun. It leaked through the openings on the dashboard, down into the radio and hazard-light switch. Neither of them now works. Is there a way to remove the panel that covers the radio? There doesn't seem to be. My hope is that I can get inside and remove whatever soap flowed down there. If that doesn't work, I guess I'll have to bring the car to a mechanic and get the hazard lights fixed. As for the radio, I suppose I'll want to replace that, too, before selling the car. I'm so embarrassed about this that you're the only people I can bear to discuss it with. Please help! -- Kelly

RAY: Don't be embarrassed, Kelly. Of the 34 million people reading this column, I'm sure none of them knows anyone named Kelly with a Jeep Liberty who takes the train to work.

TOM: And what you did is hardly embarrassing. It's a simple mistake that anybody could have made. Years ago, I was driving a convertible, and I pulled up next to a bus full of people at a red light. As I was sitting there, the lit end of my cigar fell off, and landed right between my legs. And I was dancing around, trying to brush it away before the seat -- or MY seat -- caught fire. Now, THAT was embarrassing.

RAY: Both the hazard switch and the radio come out very easily. They pull right out through the front. I'm going to recommend that you replace both of them. Getting melted soap out of delicate electronics is not easy. It's not like getting wax off your dining-room table.

TOM: It's worth having a look at where the soap ended up, but the likelihood is that those two parts are toast. So here's what I'd suggest: Call your dealer's parts department and ask them to order you a new hazard switch. That'll be cheap. Like, 35 bucks.

RAY: Then ask him how much a replacement radio for your car costs. When you regain consciousness, tell him to just order you the hazard switch.

TOM: Then go to a dedicated car-stereo shop. Buck yourself up, Kelly, because you're going to have to confess. But remember, this is minor-league stuff. If you had any idea how many of our customers' kids have stuffed their rubber duckies up the family minivan's tailpipe, you'd lose all sense of shame around the soap incident.

RAY: Ask the installer to pull out the radio and have a look. If the soap got inside, you're probably out of luck. But on the off chance he sees that it's something simple, he can try to fix it right there on the bench, and test it out before popping it back in.

TOM: If the installer doesn't think he can fix it, you can then pick out a nice, cheap replacement radio, and he can put that in for you instead. And it'll take him a minute or less to unplug your old hazard switch and pop in your new one (which you'll conveniently have sitting there on the passenger seat).

RAY: But don't wait until you're about to sell the car before replacing the radio. It'll cost you just as much then as it will now. And you'll have missed out on all the enjoyment you'll get from it. Do you really want to risk missing the release of Sleepy LaBeef's next album? Now, THAT would be embarrassing!

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