Batteries are in the news far more often, now that electric cars or hybrids are being touted by the technically uninitiated popular media as the next great thing. (NGT).
Although of late, they've tended to abandon this NGT in favour of hydrogen cars. If you think battery fires are a serious problem, wait until the first Hindenburg tanker truck levels a city block.
Unfortunately, the automotive battery is one of many highly abused, seldom maintained, but very important parts
on the modern automobile. Usually no attention is paid to the battery unless it is suspected of causing a problem.
The most common problem encountered with batteries is low voltage or low charge.
Here's a few do's and don'ts to help your battery maintain its peak performance and to avoid having a low charge battery:Do'sNew cars perform better than vehicles built only a couple decades ago. A major factor in this has been the
-- Whenever working around batteries, make sure to wear proper eye, hand,
and clothing protection.
-- Check the terminals where the battery cables connect to be sure they
are tight and free of corrosion. If corrosion is present, get a
qualified technician to clean the terminals.
-- Make sure the battery is firmly secured to its mounting bracket. An
unsecured battery that shifts around can become damaged, and possibly
cause short circuits.
-- In batteries other than those that are "maintenance free,"
periodically check the fluid level. If the fluid is low, add only
distilled water to top it off. If no fluid is detectable, you may
want to replace the battery rather than fill it, as batteries in this
condition will usually fail very soon.
-- Always remember to keep your battery case clean. Dirt conducts
electricity, which can discharge the battery. Battery cases can be
cleaned with a solution of baking soda dissolved in warm water. Wet
the case and agitate with a nylon bristle brush. Rinse well with
-- Batteries come in many different sizes. When replacing a car battery,
make sure you choose the right size for your vehicle. When it comes
to car batteries, bigger is not always better.
X If you suspect that a battery is frozen, do not charge it, as it may
explode! One visual sign that a battery has frozen is that the sides
are bowed out. This condition is not repairable, and the battery will
need to be replaced by a professional as soon as possible.
X If you need to charge your battery yourself, switch the charger to a
low-charge setting. Most chargers have this feature but if not, have
a professional charge the battery.
X Don't charge a dead battery with a car's alternator. An alternator is
not designed to function as a charger, and it may be damaged or have a
shortened life as a result.
advancement of electronics and their incorporation into almost every automobile system.
One drawback to this advancement though, has been the extra load placed on the automobile battery.
Recently, a friend of mine was out of town for a while, consequently, his car hadn't moved for several days, but when he went to start it,
the battery was dead. It needed a boost.
The car doors had been closed, the stereo off, and the lights were off so they were not the culprit.
My friend asked me if a 12-volt, 1 amp, trickle charger would be helpful to prevent the electronics from draining the battery
again when the vehicle is in storage or stopped for days at a time. He was correct in thinking a trickle charger would prevent
the battery from going dead, but this should only be necessary for those vehicles that sit for months at a time.
Vampire energy drain. The new term for batteries going dead.
Modern electronics can cause the battery to go dead faster than on newish vehicles. Each electronic device on the vehicle
uses some power even though everything may be turned off. On-board computers are the biggest users of the electricity.
Fuel injection computers, climate control computers, keyless entry modules, lighting computers, digital radios, clocks,
memory seats, and trip computers all have memories in them, with many of them programmed by the driver.
The drain on the battery to keep these computers operational can kill the battery over time.
Some computers "go to sleep", an operational mode where they are using almost no electrical power. They monitor input signals
and data, and if there is a signal that requires them to wake up, they do. Otherwise, the computers just stay in low power mode.
A computer that stays "awake" all the time however, can drain a battery.
Other electronic devices also put a drain on the battery. Alternators, voltage regulators, and ignition systems use electricity
even when not operating. Diodes, one-way electrical gates located inside these devices, are supposed to prevent the flow
of electricity through these parts when the systems are turned off but diodes can fail and cause a larger flow of electricity.
Fortunately, this is rare.
Testing current flow from the battery has changed along with the automotive electronics. It used to be sufficient to place
a test light between the battery post and the disconnected battery cable. If the test light came on, there was a battery drain
on that vehicle. That test no longer is valid for smaller computer drains. The only correct method of testing for a battery drain
is to use an ammeter connected between the battery post and the disconnected cable.
The ammeter measures the actual current flowing from the battery into the electronics systems. A typical engine computer will
use between five and eight milliamps (thousandths of an amp) to keep the memories working.
Most vehicles should show a maximum reading of 25 to 28 milliamps or less when the test is performed, however a few luxury
cars loaded with all the toys may be a little higher. In comparison, a trunk light uses about 900 milliamps or .9 amps and would
drain the battery overnight.
If the measured current flow is too high, then fuses are disconnected one at a time until the faulty circuit or module is identified.
Some vehicles will require a waiting period of up to 1/2 hour before an accurate measurement can be taken.
During this time the computers are "awake" and use more power. After sitting for several minutes without any switches being
operated the computers go back into "sleep mode".
Finally, other factors can cause a battery to go dead faster than normal. Warm temperatures cause the battery chemical reactions
to occur faster. This causes the battery to go dead at a faster rate. Dirt or dust on top of the battery and high humidity levels
also cause a problem. The electricity leaks through the damp dirt directly from one battery post to the other causing the battery
to discharge. Keeping a battery clean, cool and dry will ensure it retains its charge longer.
FASHION AND TECHNOLOGICAL GOODIES, ARE FORCING PARTS PRICES HIGHER AND HIGHER.
Fixing a broken headlight used to be as cheap as $10 for a new bulb, but break one of the fancy LED headlights on the new Toyota Corolla compact (above) and it will set you back $737 to replace.
Break the outside rear-view mirror on the Nissan Versa Note subcompact, not rare in cities where it is likely to be sold, and just for the parts can run $595. That's because if the car has the optional safety and parking system the pod has a camera in it.
These are just some of common auto parts susceptible to damage or wear that used to cost more than $100 to fix -- and now can cost hundreds, even thousands.
Automakers are packing more technology into even mundane parts and car buyers want even more. Even an ordinary part now may contain sensors, computer chips or other whiz-bang features. The result a lot more safety and convenience, but with risk of backlash for automakers or their dealers risk when it's time to replace or fix parts.
•Headlights. The beams now are halogen, xenon or, increasingly, costly LEDs. The LED low-beams on the 2014 Corolla are among the best around and LEDs last far longer than other lights. But if they go bad or you bump something and break it, the fix is costly.
•Tires. The humble tire now is, in some cases, a high-tech wonder. More automakers are turning to run-flat tires to eliminate the weight of a spare and raise gas mileage. Goodyear says a single run-flat Eagle NCT 5EMT, standard on some performance cars, lists for $296. But even some less sporty vehicles, such as the Toyota Sienna minivan with all-wheel drive, also come with standard run-flats.
•Batteries. Replacing a dead lead-acid starter battery used to mean $80. Now more new cars have hybrid-assist systems with sophisticated battery packs. The batteries last many years, but should you have to replace one on, say, a 2000 to 2005 Toyota Prius, the list price is $3,649, according to Toyota.
•Mirrors. Outside mirrors, which get broken off in everyday mishaps or by vandals, now often contain electronic blind-spot warnings, cameras or other features. Costs can vary, even on the same car. A left-side mirror on a Honda Accord EX is $250 to replace; the right-side, which has a camera for Honda's LaneWatch blind-spot system is $341.
That's a bargain, though. compared to the outside mirrors on a 2013 Ford F-250 Super Duty pickup. The fanciest replacements cost $1,260 on the Ford Parts site. They are power-adjusted, heated, have a built in turn signal and have two panes to aid towing.
Inside mirrors, which can bust if you bump one, can be pricey, too. The mirror in a 2013 Ford Fusion may have an embedded sensor that turns on the wipers when it detects rain on the windshield. A replacement costs $1,196 at Ford Parts.
Increasingly sophisticated car engines, meanwhile, may have multiple computers. Replacing just one can run to $2,000.
The only way to avoid the high prices is to skip the latest gadgets. The more technology you have, the more there is to break.
Ten things you can expect when you foolishly buy a self driving car.
1. For no reason whatsoever, your car will crash.
2. Every time they repaint the lines in the road, you will have to buy a new car.
3. Occasionally your car will die on the freeway for no reason. You will have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you will simply accept this.
4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn will cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you will have to reinstall the engine.
5. Macintosh will make a car that is powered by the sun, is reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive — but will run on only 5 percent of the roads.
6. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights will all be replaced by a single “This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation” warning light.
7. The airbag system will ask, “Are you sure?” before deploying.
8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car will lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
9. Every time a new car is introduced, car buyers will have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls will operate in the same manner as the old car.
10. You’d have to press the “Start” button to turn the engine off.
P.S. When all else fails, you could call “customer service” in some foreign country and be instructed in some foreign language on how to fix your car yourself.
I was wondering if you will answer a question for me regarding cars that are not driven very often. I'm sure you have many readers who will be interested in your answer as well especially older drivers. My wife drives our 2001 Mazda MPV about 4000 km a year. The car currently has 90,000 km on it.
My question is what kind of service items should we performing on it. I'm thinking of things like:
1. fluid change frequency. Currently, I have the oil changed once per year. Is this okay?2. should we take the car out for long drives once in a while?3. should be rust proof the car so it can last a few more years?4. what can we do to help keep the air conditioning working?5. should be rotate the tires? If yes, when?7. how frequently should I replace the tires even though there is lots of tire tread left after 5 years.6. how often should I bring it in for an overall inspection (brakes, tires, etc).
I received this e-mail inquiry this week which highlights a burgeoning phenomenon in the car ownership field - cars that only drive a few kilometers a year.
There are a lot of good used car bargains on the market and they are arriving from estate sales where an older driver, valuing his or her freedom, has hung onto a car even though is was hardly getting enough exercise and has now, sadly, passed on. And as the population ages, this supply will become larger and larger.
Some of these cars are bought new and driven very little. Even if you bought a car and then parked it, depreciation will keep chewing away at its' value so that in ten years, the retail value is down to 10% of invoice, irrespective of mileage. And what happens when your owners manual says to change oil every 8000 km or six months when you've only done 2000 kliks and you are using a high end synthetic motor oil as prescribed by the same owners manual? Do you spend $100 servicing a car that doesn't need it?
In fact the most reliable part of your car, if the model was chosen wisely, is the drive train. The area where warranty claims may be expensive is in the area of electronic and electrical equipment and oil change intervals don't affect other issues of this kind. So I personally ignore the warranty for the engine and use good judgment for the servicing that is, in my opinion, normally required.
When the 5 year warranty on the drive train expires, and you've done less than 50,000 kliks and you've been using high grade lubricants, your engine will still be as new. Engine failures are almost unheard of these days. The one exception is turbo charged engines where engine stress is much higher. Under those circumstances, it's wise to have the work done as scheduled (but not necessarily at a dealership). Jiffy Lube or equivalent, will suffice. And now you can save money by using regular motor oil, which is much improved these days.
So to answer the questions posed;
Fluid change frequency. Currently, I have the oil changed once per year. Is this okay?
Perfectly logical and again, you don't really need expensive synthetics. Other fluids should be changed by your friendly independent garage on the basis of condition. Every one has fluid testing equipment these days. Brake fluid is particularly vulnerable to high humidity and is probably worth changing every year.
Should we take the car out for long drives once in a while?
Absolutely. The old saw about "blowing out the carbon" is not as critical as it was in the days when cars consumed a quart of oil every 500 miles, but an engine benefits greatly from a good run where all operating temperatures reach normal values. .
Should we rust proof the car so it can last a few more years?
These days you don't need much for the first five years. After that, rust "treatment" not proofing - that does not exist, will extend life wherever salt is used on the roads.
What can we do to help keep the air conditioning working?
Not much, except exercise as often as possible. In winter, selecting defrost will automatically operate the compressor until the ambient temperature is so low the freon may freeze, at which point, the system will automatically shut down.
Should be rotate the tires? If yes, when?
If you change tires from summer to winter every year, then rotation is not necessary. Particularly because many tires have a one way rotational arrow on the side wall these days. There's no harm in using snow tires year round and if you do this, you're better off to put the best on the front at oil change time. Just before winter.
How frequently should I replace the tires even though there is lots of tire tread left after 5 years.
Cracks do start to appear between the treads of tire at about the 5 year interval, due to exposure to ultraviolet sunlight. In hot climes, you can very often see cars parked with wheel covers over the whole wheel to prevent this. Same thing is true of windshield wiper blades and other "rubber" components. In the Great White North, tires last a lot longer, but a good (therefore honest!) independent garage can tell you when the time has come. My experience is that cold climes preserve tires out to the 10 year mark.
How often should I bring it in for an overall inspection (brakes, tires, etc.).
Every 10,000 Km seems to be about right. Unless you're suddenly planning a long trip, in which case, it should be done before you leave, time is then not a factor, but safety is,
Nasty stuff, lithium.
It is difficult not to resort to invective when the subject of electric motor cars comes up at the dinner table, so terribly uninformed are most people who sing their praises as a solution to the world’s environmental woes.
It is not true that electric vehicles are cleaner than gasoline- or diesel-driven ones. Green enthusiasts are deluding themselves if they think so.
They fail either to think things through or they are wilfully remaining encased in the warm, fuzzy – some might say hypocritical – thinking that drives much of the Green Agenda. Perhaps “hypocritical” is too harsh, but ignorant they certainly are and it only takes a smidgen of rational thought to prove it.
In the first place, electric cars are much heavier than conventional ones. It therefore follows that it takes more energy, not less, to move them from A to B. Much more. Add passengers and groceries and it is even less efficient. That is physics one-0-one. It’s a fact known since Isaac Newton. It is called his second law of motion. Passionate Greens might care to look it up.
Asking the question: “Where does the energy used by electric cars come from?” gets the answer: “From power stations, dummy.” Not from those inefficient, allegedly clean ones like photovoltaics and wind generators, but nasty, coal-fired or, even worse, nuclear-powered ones.
How can wind generators, photovoltaics and electric cars possibly be worse than gasoline and diesel ones is the Green retort, but this ignores the batteries needed in all three cases to store the electricity produced.
Moreover, the lithium batteries in electric cars are, in green terms, filthy.
Lithium comes from mines, mostly in China and South America. This in turn means transporting the stuff to where the cars are made or, if they get round to making them in Colombia, to their customers in Europe and the US. That takes energy, too. Purifying lithium is also energy intensive, often using both heat and chemicals. Waste is also produced. How green is that?
Of course, a more efficient battery may come along but the odds are that it, too, will use a metal of some sort. It probably will not change the energy equation of electric vehicles.
If electric vehicles are ever to be better than gasoline-fuelled ones, three things will be needed: super-lightweight and efficient batteries that do not contain metals; super-efficient power stations that use neither coal nor gas; and a constant supply of electric energy that is cheaper than gasoline or diesel.
Perhaps this Gadarene slide towards electric vehicles is unstoppable. Perhaps being Green will become as mandatory as being Christian in Western Europe in the 14th century, in which case logic and rationality will be thrown out of the window.
The Green movement won’t wait for viable technological solutions to its concerns. It is a greater pity that it insists on embracing false solutions like wind generators and present-day electric cars.
There is a possible technical solution, if you insist on believing that carbon dioxide is poisoning the planet, even as plant life relies on it for sustenance.
It’s called a fuel cell. It works by turning hydrogen into electricity, exhausting water and oxygen into the air. There are already concept cars using this system.
Although the problem here may be the same as the Tesla problem - the Hindenberg syndrome.
New car temptations can cost you a lot of money.
With auto dealers practically giving away vehicles and car and truck buyers getting approved for historically low - and even no-interest car loans, a shiny new set of wheels might look awfully tempting these days.
But just like that 60 inch flat screen TV that suddenly goes on sale, it's a purchase that isn't for everyone.
Should you ever buy a new car? There are times when buying a new car becomes a necessity, but there are also money-saving motives for hanging on to an older car a little longer. Here are five reasons why you might want to rethink making that drive to the car dealership.
Your old car can survive 6 figure mileage.
It used to be that once a car hit 100,000 miles (160k), it was destined for the junkyard. These days, 160k is merely the halfway point for a lot of vehicles. That's because many of the cars that rolled off the assembly lines in the past 10 years were designed to last much longer than their predecessors. For us, it's not uncommon to see cars with or even 400,000k in the shop. Even late arrivals such as Hyundai and Kia have stepped up and are staying in the game with an industry beating warranty. It all comes down to car maintenance. If the owner diligently follows the manufacturer's maintenance schedule, a vehicle can survive well into the six-figure mileage range and if you don't do the maintenance, you're going to pay -- either in repairs or by having to buy a new car.
With new wheels comes new expenses.
It's not just about the car payment. The size of this monthly payment might be the first thing people consider when eyeing a new car. But easily overlooked is a whole other set of expenses that are rarely considered with buying a car, such as auto insurance, gasoline and taxes. For many people, depending on where they live, a newer car is going to mean higher insurance. Car insurance is based in part on the value of the vehicle. Newer cars tend to cost more to insure because they have newer parts and, as a result, will cost more to repair after an accident. Gas prices are another consideration, especially if you're looking at a new car that calls for premium gasoline instead of regular or gets lower gas mileage than your current car.
Then there are the taxes and fees associated with buying a car. What a lot of people don't realize is that the fees to make that transaction are going to be pretty steep.
Depreciation takes bite out of new car's value.
Depreciation is one of the biggest expenses of owning a car. On average, a car loses 15 percent to 25 percent of its value each year for the first five years. When you step into a new car, it's almost like you buy new depreciation.
Making pricey modifications to your car doesn't help, either. Options depreciate very quickly, so that $2,000 navigation system you bought four or five years ago when the car was brand-new is not adding any value to the vehicle.
It's a depreciating asset. So, the less money you put into it, the better. A better idea is to put that money into real estate or some other asset that will gain value. The good news is that once a car is 5 to 7 years old, it's lost most of the value it's going to lose. So, as long as you're getting reliable transportation out of it, it's a good idea to keep that car for as long you can.
"Cars will always be worth something if they run."
You have a (mostly) free ride.
Even with the occasionally steep repair bill, you're usually better off keeping an older vehicle if it's paid off.. Still, you have to factor in cost. If you're paying $300 to $400 per month on repairs on a car that's paid off, you're shelling out about as much as you will for a car loan payment. It also depends on the type of car you drive. Of the cars we see, European imports tend to be the most expensive to maintain, costing two to three times as much to replace certain parts and fluids as their Japanese - and American -made counterparts. And some cars are simply built better than others. Japanese-branded sedans and compact cars tend to be more reliable and are generally the least expensive to fix .
If it's a (Honda) Civic or (Toyota) Corolla with 150k or so, I'd say keep it. But if it's a Dodge Neon, I'd say get rid of it because it's going to cost a lot more to fix when it breaks down.
You might lock yourself out of a mortgage.
If you're planning to buy a new house or refinance the one you have, adding a car loan to your debt load could wreak havoc on your borrowing abilities. Jumping to get that tempting car loan could price you out of the house you want to buy or the interest rate you want to get on a refinance. Interest rates on a mortgage or refinance are based not only on your credit score, but also on your debt obligations. Lenders these days are more conservative. So if you've just taken out a car loan, the bank might not be too keen on giving you an even bigger loan, that is, a mortgage.
With interest rates at historic lows make the most of these rates with a house first and putting the car on hold.
Even if you don't get the awesome car deals that are out there, it's still a much smaller purchase than a house.
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