How can I prevent the battery of my little used car from dying? – Boston.com | CarTailz

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John Paul, AAA Northeast’s Auto Doctor, answers a battery question from a reader who doesn’t drive his car frequently.

Andreas Gebert/Bloomberg

Q How can I stop my 2018 Mercedes Benz E400 battery from draining because I don’t use it often?

A The best thing you can do is drive the car for 30 minutes, once a week or so. If that’s not possible and you’re parking in a garage with an outlet, a battery conditioner (trickle charger) is an ideal way to keep the battery fully charged. Once installed, it’s a simple quick disconnect under the hood or through the grill. Deltran Battery Tender and CTEK are quality brands. If you’re parking outside, a solar charger can keep the battery charged, depending on how much sunlight the car is getting.

Q I’m trying to replace a damaged steering column on a 1987 Chevy El Camino. I have one from a 1986 El Camino, but where the transmission linkage attaches to the column is in a different position. Do you want to know if they are compatible with each other?

A Although both parts are no longer manufactured, both years use the same inner shafts judging by the exploded view and part numbers on GMpartsdirect.com. So, based on that, the steering columns should have some level of interchangeability. The other option is to go with an aftermarket, which is available through several specialized GM parts sites. Going to the aftermarket gives you the option of going with a shorter or longer pillar that will make the car more comfortable to drive.

Q Recently I’ve been experiencing what I believe to be a tire balance issue. It occurs between 60-70 miles per hour. Above or below this speed I have no problem. It feels like I’m running over a rough road with a rumbling sensation. I tried balancing the tires quickly (not the Road Force Balancer you recommended). The tires have 45,000 miles on them and I am considering having all four tires replaced. Is there a service device that would mimic the feeling of tire imbalance at that 60-70 mph speed?

A From your description it sounds like a tire balance problem. It can be a tire, a rim, or a combination of both. Years ago we had high speed wheel balancers on cars that could spin the tires while you balanced the hub, wheel and tire. These machines are usually long gone. Although high speed wheel balancers allow for easy and quick balancing, I see mistakes being made by technicians who do not pay attention to balance weight placement, the wheels themselves, or rust buildup on the wheels/hubs. At 45,000 miles, replacing the tires with an all-weather tire would be money well spent.

Q Any opinion on Volvo’s long-term reliability? We have three in our family and bought them for their overall safety record. We’re a little worried about the cost of maintenance and repairs. Finally, any suggestions on aftermarket brake rotors? The rotors on two of the cars were replaced twice under warranty because they warp easily and cause brake chatter.

A Typically, Volvos are average or a little above when it comes to maintenance and reliability – not quite on par with an Acura or Lexus, but generally a bit better than some other luxury and near-luxury brands. When it comes to rotors, there’s generally nothing better than factory parts, but Bendix, Raybestos, Centric and Brembo are generally good choices for Volvo. One that’s recommended on Volvo forums is DuraGo, which I’m just starting to see more of. You could try switching to a drilled rotor which may provide better cooling. Stay away from high-performance slotted rotors, which are good for race cars but not for general use. Even if the wheels are removed for tire changes or other work, they should be reinstalled using a torque wrench.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s auto doctor. He has more than 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE-certified master technician. Email your vehicle question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor Podcast johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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