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Motormouth: How often should I plug in my car?

Bob Weber, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

Q: My husband believes that we should plug in our hybrid every single time we drive, even if we have used only a few miles of the electric capabilities. I prefer to use up most of the electrical capacity, as we can usually do a week's worth of errands before the battery consumption goes to zero and the hybrid system kicks in. With a full charge, we usually start out with 45-47 miles of pure electric. Which approach is better for the life of the battery?

P.F., Colorado Springs, Colorado

A: There isn’t much reason to discharge the battery to nearly dead. Charging the car every night lets you awaken to a vehicle that is ready to go. You may also save money since many power companies charge less per kilowatt hour during off-peak periods. My choice? Get in the habit of nightly charging.

Q: I purchased a 2005 Lexus RX330 new, from a dealer. I have 116,000 miles on the car, and recently purchased my second set of replacement tires. The car came with a full-size spare tire, which is stored underneath the vehicle below the rear compartment. I have never used the spare tire, but each year I clean it and fill it with the prescribed amount of air pressure. Since the tire is 19 years old, is it still safe to continue to rely on it as a usable spare?

A.K., Mundelein, Illinois


A: Yes, it is safe to use the spare tire—sparingly. I would avoid highways. Your full-size spare should get you safely to a service shop. I have seen cars that have been left in a barn long term, then drive away once the tires are pumped up. Maryland state welcome signs used to say "drive gently." It is still good advice.

Q: Last year I misplaced a key fob to my 2021 Acura RDX. Since I could still start the car without the other key fob near it, I figured the one that was missing was somewhere in the car. I looked multiple times, my husband looked, my son looked. Nothing. Thought maybe it would just "work" its way out. Nope. Took it to a mechanic, he pulled the seats, the console, took up the carpet, searched the engine and trunk. Nothing. I can still lock the car with the other key fob so I don't feel the car is at risk, but I still wonder how does the car start if there is no key fob in it? If it is in there, how do I find it?

J.M., Naperville, Illinios

A: Finding a fugitive fob would be easy if you had attached an AirTag or Tile, but alas there is no other app that can help. As funny as it may seem, I have found lots of stuff that had fallen behind the dash. There is gap between the windshield and dashboard. You may need a good flashlight and small hands for your prospecting. Who knows, you might even find that elusive earring.

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