Car Doctor Q&A: Use Your Leafblower As a Diagnostic Tool

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If there’s anything you should know about Car Doctor John Paul it’s that the man is frugal. Why spend money on ultrasonic leak detectors to find an annoying whistle when you have a perfectly good leafblower right in your shed?

Q. I have a 2014 Ford Explorer (the car had some prior body work) that I purchased used and at certain times and under certain conditions there is a whistling noise coming from what I guess is one of the windows. I asked at the dealership about finding and repairing the leak and they told me to expect to spend at least $250 for labor just to find the leak. Do you have any low cost suggestions that maybe I can try at home?

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A. The whistle/wind noise may be a result of poorly performed body work. Professionals will use ultrasonic leak detectors and even smoke machines to find leaks. There are some low cost no costs test you can try at home. If you can get the car to make the noise consistently you can try using masking tape and taping over window seals, windshield mounting and even fenders where they come together. Add about 12 inches of tape at a time until you quiet the noise. Once you located the source of the noise, fixing it should be fairly straightforward.

One old-school trick is to start the car turn the heater blower on high (close all the vents) and go around the outside of the windows with soapy water. When you see bubbles you know you have found the leak. Another method is to use an electric leaf blower, with a helper use the leaf blower inside the car and test around the outside of the car with soapy water.

If possible try to do these tests inside a garage or when there is no breeze. The result may be something as simple as a poor fitting door/window seal or something as serious as shoddy and potentially dangerous body repair.