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Motormouth: A solar battery charger

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: Like a lot of people, I haven’t been driving much during the pandemic. I couldn’t start the car one day, had it jumped, and drove right to the dealership, where they replaced the battery. A clerk told me that four computers are operating at all times in the car, draining the battery, and that I needed to drive the car more to charge the battery. I don’t want to drive around just to charge my battery. He instead suggested I buy a battery charger, but I do not have an electrical outlet where I park my car.

S.P., Chicago

A: A solar battery charger might be the answer. You simply place it on the dash and let the sun work its magic. Of course, in the winter we have short days so be sure to park your car facing south to get the most sunlight. Select a 12-volt charger with at least a 10-watt or higher rating.

Q: The alloy wheels on my 2009 Mazda-6 are slow-leaking air along the tire beads setting off the TPM alarm necessitating trips to an air pump every 2-3 weeks. Leaks occur randomly among the four wheels. I understand this is due to corrosion of the rim flanges in contact with tire beads. With the advent of cold weather, the tires are leaking air faster. What to do?

P.K., Portland, Conn.

A: You have a couple options. One is to get a set of steel wheels for the winter. They leak less and your alloy wheels will avoid the ravages of winter road salt. The other is to have the tires removed from the wheels, the corrosion sanded off and bead sealant applied before remounting the tires. But there is no guarantee that this is a permanent solution.

Q: My daughter just bought a 2021 Subaru Forester that has some kind of mechanism that stops-restarts automatically every time she stops at a light or stop sign. I read it has something to do with reducing emissions. But my question is, doesn’t that put added stress on the starter, alternator and other parts? Wouldn’t that reduce the life of these parts?

C.T., Coral Springs, Fla.

A: The automatic stop-start feature would put stress on typical parts, but those in such vehicles are much more robust. Their service life will not be reduced.

 

Q: When I have a downslope ahead of me that is clear of other traffic, I frequently shift into neutral on my automatic transmission and coast to save gas. Can I create engine or transmission damage when I shift back to drive?

J.S., Easton, Pa.

A: Shifting into neutral does not save gas on fuel injected engines. At a predetermined speed, with the throttle closed, the fuel injection is turned off. Keep the transmission in gear in case you need to speed up to avoid an accident or an animal.

Q: I was very disappointed to discover that almost all new cars do not have CD players anymore. I purchased a 2020 Ford Fusion and I would like to know if there is any way that I can hook up a CD player in my car?

D.J., Arlington Heights, ill

A: Shop for an external CD player. Choose a player that can connect to your car’s system via a 3.5mm stereo cable or USB cable. For a lot more money, you can find a CD player that mimics an iPod so you can have all functions of the vehicle’s audio system.

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