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Motormouth: What's wrong with battery terminal?

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: My 2014 Buick Regal positive battery terminal develops corrosion and gets very hot every couple of years and will not crank the engine. I have to remove the battery cable, clean corrosion powder off the terminal and cable end, then reconnect the positive cable terminal before the engine will crank. Is the battery cable terminal end material the problem?

L.K., Park Ridge, Illinois

A: The heat is likely due to high electrical resistance as the voltage tries to break through the corrosion. After cleaning the terminal and cable clamp (which itself is unlikely the problem) and rinsing them with baking soda solution followed by plain water, coat the connection. Grease is an old standby, but I prefer products specifically designed for the job. If everything returns to normal after cleaning, the cable and clamp are fine.

Q: One of my pet peeves is motorists who turn on their hazard flashers in a heavy rain. All it does is distract other drivers and lowers overall visibility. What’s your take?

T.D., Virginia Beach, Virginia

A: I haven’t heard of this practice and would not be a fan of it. Hazard flashers should be judiciously used when there is . . . a hazard. Traveling well below the speed limit like trucks climbing a hill below 40 mph on an interstate, or when there’s heavy fog, or when broken down and on the shoulder. My pet peeve includes the plethora of non-emergency vehicles flashing amber arrays of laser-like LEDs — particularly after dark. And another thing, intense colored headlights — especially blue ones that look like cop cars. And another thing….

Q: We’re fortunate enough to be able to buy a new car this year. In the past, it was recommended that we drive a new car about 500 miles around town in stop-and-go traffic prior to taking any long highway trips. Does that recommendation still hold?


K.S., Chicago

A: In the olden days you had to break in the engine like a new pair of cowboy boots. Today, tolerances are so precise that old fashioned break-ins are not usually required. Having said that, I still drive a new engine gently, accelerating gradually and varying speed regularly both around town and on the highway. Hmm. No wonder my boots feel so good.

Q: I have a 2006 Toyota 4 Runner with 180,000 miles. It is an 8-cylinder, which I use for towing a boat, among other things. The check engine light came on and my local shop mechanics, who are very trustworthy, said that the issue is an emissions problem caused by faulty catalytic converters. There are four on that vehicle. They estimated a cost of as high as $8,000 to repair based on how much labor might be involved with rusted pipes. The blue book value for this truck appears to be right around $9,000. The truck runs very well and I’d be hard pressed to replace it for under $11,000 and then might risk the same problem with a vehicle that would probably also be more than 12 years old. What might you suggest?

D.F., Inverness, Illinois

A: I don’t know about your mechanics, but if one light bulb burns out in my house, I don’t replace them all. Yes, cats are expensive, much more than the most expensive light bulb. Seek a second opinion.


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