Motoring Q&A: Off-season battery care
This year I left the battery in the car with lead off and purchased an automatic battery charger that monitors the battery and keeps it at full charge with a display showing its condition. What do you think about these chargers and storage method?
Q. I am the proud owner of a restored 1969 Pontiac GTO. This summer I purchased a new battery from Sears. The salesman said for winter storage to remove one lead and leave it in the car. I have always believed in removing the battery and recharging it every so often. This year I left the battery in the car with lead off and purchased an automatic battery charger that monitors the battery and keeps it at full charge with a display showing its condition. What do you think about these chargers and storage method?
A. For a minute there I thought I was reading a question I wrote! Like you, I've followed the "old school" method of battery preservation by disconnecting, removing and periodically charging the batteries from my summer cars and recreational vehicles.
But the older I get the lazier, eh, make that more efficient, I am. So, I now have several Battery Tender automatic battery chargers connected to the disconnected batteries in my seasonal-use stuff. I've had no issues doing this over the past four years.
Well, make that one issue. My C6 Corvette has electric door locks, so when I carefully prepared it for storage, my final step was to disconnect the battery, hook up the charger and close the hood. Sounds perfect, eh? Except for the fact that with the doors, hood and rear hatch closed and the battery disconnected, there was no way to unlock the doors!
Here's the funny part. I never even thought about the issue until I tried to unlock the doors the next spring! Thankfully, the owner's manual with the little black plastic emergency key was in the house. It unlocked the rear hatch, where I could lean in and pull the emergency driver door release so I could open the door and unlatch the hood to reconnect the battery. Live and learn.
Q. I have a 2003 manual-transmission Honda CR-V with about 100,000 miles. Ever since I bought it used with 90,000 it has high-idle rpm when it starts up. The engine idle rpm hunts between 2,000-3,000 until the engine warms up. Then the idle drops to below 1,000 rpm. Any thoughts?
A. Whenever trying to diagnose a driveability issue, apply the KISS principle first — keep it simple. Start with the basics, which, in this case, is to check carefully for any type of vacuum leak in the induction system. Any air entering downstream of the mass air flow sensor is not metered and can create a lean air/fuel ratio. Until the engine warms up to the point of switching to 'closed loop' operation where the air/fuel ratio is monitored and trimmed by feedback from the oxygen sensor, the idle speed can be high and fluttery/unstable.
The idle air control regulates air entering the induction system. If it is sticking or binding it may be contributing to this issue. And a scan tool check for DTC fault codes might help pinpoint the problem.
Q. The problem with my 2010 Chevrolet Colorado is the truck will not start all the time. When I put the key in the ignition all accessories light up and the radio plays but the starter will not engage. Turn key off, take key out of ignition, wait 10 minutes, try again, and it will start. This has happened in all weather approximately 10 times since May. The dealership could not find anything wrong. Can you help with this problem?
A. Your vehicle is equipped with a vehicle immobilizer system which will not allow the engine to start until and unless the body control module sees the correct voltage through the ignition key resistor circuit. If the voltage generated through the resistor in the key doesn't match, the engine won't start.
Try your spare key first. Have the dealership scan the BCM for fault codes. And again, remember the KISS principle. Check the battery and starter/solenoid cables and connections.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Paul Brand, author of "How to Repair Your Car," is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Readers may write to him at: Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn., 55488 or via email at email@example.com. Please explain the problem in detail and include a daytime phone number. Because of the volume of mail, we cannot provide personal replies.
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