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Motormouth: How long should a battery last?

Q: We've lived in Las Vegas for 17 years and I have learned about vehicle batteries. Back East we thought it was cold that killed vehicle batteries. It may be the heat out here that destroys them. When I need one, I buy the absolute cheapest one that will fit. They last 2-3 years, no matter how much you pay. Where, on electric vehicles, do the owners think that the power comes from to charge their $100,000 golf carts?

— J.S., Las Vegas

A: The power comes from an array of lithium-ion batteries, not lead-acid batteries like the one that cranks your engine. Heat is also the nemesis of these battery packs. Engineers use a variety of cooling techniques such as fins, liquid coolants or phase-change materials. The target life expectancy of the battery pack is 10 years.

Q: I have a 2012 Toyota Tacoma 4-wheel drive pickup. On the door label it recommends 30 psi cold pressure and 245-75 R16 tires. I have Cooper tires that say max 44 pounds. My dealer inflates them to 35 pounds. That seems like a big difference. What is right?

— K.M., Bemidji, Minn.

A: At the risk of sounding like a broken record (go ahead, look up that idiom), I recommend that you simply follow the pressure called for on the sticker on the door or door frame. Never use the maximum pressure on the tire.

Q: I own a 2013 Subaru Outback. A few months ago, I bought a new phone (Samsung Galaxy S21 5G). I paired the phone with the car as usual. Unfortunately, every time I turn off the vehicle, the phone unpairs. That did not happen with this car and my previous phone.

— K.L., Milwaukee

A: This sounds more like a phone problem than a car problem since you have not changed cars. My hunch is to delete the Bluetooth share data and then pair the phone from scratch. I suggest you contact your phone’s carrier or the store from which you bought the phone.

Q: When I’m driving a manual transmission car, I prefer to downshift when coming to a stop instead of braking. but I remember the Car Talk brothers recommending not to downshift. I’m assuming it’s because of added wear and tear, and replacing brakes is cheaper. What do you say?

— R.B., Syracuse, New York

A: I miss the Tappet Brothers' PBS radio show. Along with some good laughs, they doled out good advice. Downshifting can put wear on the clutch and other components. Brakes are easy to replace and lots easier on your wallet. Save your downshifting to blast out of those hairpin turns.

Q: Regarding your recent column about a slow dying battery and how to determine which circuit is causing the problem, I had this problem with my 2006 Mitsubishi Raider so I used my ammeter and started pulling fuses. What I didn’t know is that with this vehicle, and probably many others, if you pull the immobilizer (security system) fuse the vehicle won't start! (It assumes you're a thief). I had to take it to the dealer and even they couldn’t get it to start. They ended up calling an automotive locksmith. He programmed a new key and that did it. If you give your advice again, be sure to mention this or some poor reader will end up in a big pickle.

— B.P., Austin, Texas

A: Excellent point. And probably a costly lesson.

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(Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.) 

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