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Motormouth: Most SUVs are built more like cars than pickups, except Toyota 4Runner

Bob Weber, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

Q: I always enjoy reading the Rides section of the paper and particularly your Motormouth part. I noticed a question from P.O., Montgomery, Ill., asking if there are any truck-framed SUVs left in the market. I think the Toyota 4Runner is one. I have owned 4Runners for many years now and I believe they are still built on a truck-based frame. I am from Scottsdale, Ariz., and I am in the desert off-road almost once a week. I would destroy most other SUVs with where I go with my 4Runner.

-- L.Y., Scottsdale, Ariz.

A: The 4Runner, as several alert readers pointed out, does have a body-on-frame, but does not share the same platform as Tacoma. The frame comes instead from the Land Cruiser Prado, which is not sold in the North American market. Jeeps are in a league of their own. And crossover vehicles are just that, a crossover from a car to a utility vehicle with a monocoque or unibody construction.

Q: I received a 12-volt, plug-in heated seat pad for Christmas. I seem to remember something from 40 years ago in driver's education classes that you shouldn't have anything plugged in while starting the car. It was something to do with the extra drain on the battery, especially in these subzero days. I try to remember to unplug it before starting the car, but often forget. Does it matter if that is plugged in or not when starting the car in winter?

-- J.B., Chicago

A: If your battery has not already gone dead overnight, the accessory socket you are using is probably on a switched circuit. In other words, the accessories do not continue drawing any current when the ignition key is turned off. When that is the case, the accessory circuits are also bypassed during cranking, so you should not have any problems.

Q: I thought that on newer cars pumping the gas did nothing in regards to helping the car start.

-- J.T., Chicago

A: Jamming the gas pedal to the floor usually prevents the fuel injectors from spraying during startup. You can do this if the engine is flooded so as to not worsen the problem by introducing even more fuel and increasing the flooding problem. But you should never pump the pedal on fuel-injected engines.

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Q: I have a 2007 Chevy Cobalt. A while back, the electric door locks stopped working. I changed the battery in the key fob, but it still only works every now and then. Once in a while the locks click on and off, but not too often. What can I do?

-- G.R., Pompano Beach, Fla.

A: We have a hunch the key fob is OK, since it opens the locks sometimes. Verify it by remotely opening the trunk. We suspect the problem is in the car, probably the lock actuators, but maybe the switches. Time to see a pro.

About The Writer

Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.

Send questions along with name and town to Motormouth, Rides, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Fourth Floor, Chicago, IL 60611 or motormouth.tribune@gmail.com.

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