THE CAR DOCTOR
Reloading Sirius; storing a hybrid battery, long-term
Q. I have a 2012 Toyota Sienna minivan, this past March we drove to Florida in another car leaving the Toyota in the driveway for three weeks. The day after we returned, I went to start the Toyota but it wouldn’t. I then called AAA and a tech came and replaced the battery. Using the car later, I turned on the factory radio which is AM/FM and Sirius, but the Sirius wouldn’t load and read out “no signal.” Is it possible the radio was damaged from exchanging the battery? Please advise as I have called Toyota, who wants $2500 to replace it but no one can give me a definitive answer to what is wrong.
A. Generally, what happens is the radio loses its memory when the battery fully discharges. I would start by calling SXM and see if they can restart (send a refresh signal) the radio signal from their end. I had a very similar issue (no signal) with a very used vehicle I purchased, after confirming the antenna was okay, I called SXM and after about 45 minutes on the phone and multiple attempts the radio came to life.
Q. I am going to buy a new 2023 Toyota RAV4 soon, but I can’t get a straight answer to a question from any of the dealers I’ve talked to. I will be storing the vehicle for about half the year, every year. It can be connected to a battery tender, but it will not be started or driven. I’ve done this with my gas-powered vehicles without issues. My question is, would this kind of storage degrade a hybrid battery? Should I stick with the gas-powered model?
A. Toyota has a bit of a vague answer to this, stating that the traction battery should be left in a 20-80 percent state of charge, but other than that doesn’t mention long term storage. Based on my conversations with hybrid vehicles owners who do something similar, I would say that the battery pack should be okay. Out of curiosity I also checked the recommendations from the all-electric Tesla and was a bit surprised to read, If the weather is extreme, whether it’s extremely cold or hot and you cannot park in an isolated area and are going away for more than two weeks, then you may want to consider a different mode of transportation. If the car battery is drained completely, it could lead to battery damage since the car can no longer keep the batteries at an ideal temperature and it’ll no longer be able to protect itself from harsh weather.
Q. I’m a snowbird and is it best to leave that vehicle in summer heat in Florida or northeast winter cold. Is there any difference between storing a hybrid or any car in heat or cold?
A. There are challenges with both. The summer Florida heat, humidity, heavy rain and hurricanes versus winter cold, snow slush and blizzards. The summer heat/humidity can mildew the interior and age the tires and paint as well as shorten the battery life. The bitter winter cold can cause body seals to harden and crack. I have left a car outside (under a cover) in both Florida heat and Massachusetts winter and I found the hot weather to be slightly less detrimental to the car overall.
Q. What brand qualifies as a “quality” fuel additive? I have seen you mention this but have never named a brand(s). My second question is how often should it be added? My other question is how long have you been helping people with your column and radio program, and hopefully you are not retiring anytime soon.
A. I have had the best results with Techron fuel additive, which came with the very first fuel injected Corvette. The other product which I like, is from Lucas. Both of these are simple pour-in products and work. For me I use these products more sparingly than the directions, about twice per year. I also when I can use gasoline with more cleaning additives which help keep injectors and combustion chambers clean (www.toptiergas.com). I am in my 38th year at AAA and started a column in our own publication which expanded to live chats and placement in several newspapers and websites. I hosted my first radio program about 30 years ago and have been on the air almost continually since then (now on Sunday morning at 11 on 95.9 WATD). I don’t think I’m going anywhere soon.
Q. I have a 2016, Subaru Legacy with about 47,500 miles. I have always kept it in good shape, and it runs well. For the past couple of months, I have sporadically been having problems getting the key out of the ignition switch when I shut the car off. At first, I started the car again, moved it and then tried again. This worked sometimes. Lately, I just turn the key to the on position without starting the car and then try again. Sometimes I have to do this several times. I took the car to a transmission shop and the said there doesn’t seem to be any problems with the linkage or neutral switch to (whatever that is).
A. Subaru has had some issues with the shifter, I would go to the dealer and have them reference technical service bulletin 16-112-18R.
John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over forty years’ experience and is an ASE-certified master technician. He will answer readers’ questions each week. Email your questions to [email protected] Follow John on Twitter @johnfpaul and friend him on Facebook mrjohnfpaul.