Viewer-submitted questions for The Car Doctor:
Q: We purchased a 2022 Honda CRV, but within a few months the car would not start and needed to be jump-started. Twice they replaced the battery. No one knew the problem other than saying it needed to be driven more often than 2-3x per week on short drives. After it happened again, we traded it in for a 2023 CR-V. The dead battery issue continues to happen, and the battery has been replaced once and jumped three times. This is very frustrating! In one of your columns, you mentioned other models with similar issues. My wife wants to get a new car, but we want to know which other cars might have that problem. She is considering the Toyota RAV4 and a Mazda, among others. Can you tell us other models to avoid?
A: This is an issue we are seeing more and more often. Recently I was looking at a two-year old car that had 38 separate computers. All of these computers use some electricity when the engine is off. Driving short distances only a few times a week effectively takes more electricity out of the battery than you are putting back in during normal driving/recharging. Luxury and near-luxury models with the latest technology also can have issues. So far from what I see, the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-3 and Hyundai Tucson have been trouble-free, although your battery issues may stem from how your vehicles are driven. One solution is to have a repair shop wire in a solar-battery charger. You could leave the solar panel on the dash and the electricity generated by the sun may help maintain the battery charge.
Q: I have a 1996 Honda Accord. From time to time, while driving on the highway, the car will begin to shake. It goes away when I slow down. In the past, if I had a vibration, it was usually caused by a tire or balance problem, and the steering wheel would shake as well. If it helps, the problem seemed to happen after I had a low tire. It still runs great, and I’d like to keep it. Any thoughts with this old car?
A: I would start with a thorough inspection of all the tires and the suspension, paying particular attention to the tire that was low. If the tires all look good, there is one odd thing to consider that I have seen. If the air compressor you used pumped water in with the air, the water inside the tire could be causing the vibration.
Q: I have an old car that has not been started or run in years and I want to get it going. So far, I have charged the battery, and it has spark and the fuel gauge shows full, but it still will not start. Any ideas?
A: I ran into this when a friend asked me to look at a car that had not run for a while. Like yours, the car battery was okay and there was spark at the plugs, but the car wouldn’t fire up, even with a starting spray. I pulled the spark plugs and they were badly fouled, which certainly would cause problems. I asked the owner how long it had been parked, and it was close to ten years. His problem was a combination of fouled spark plugs and gasoline that had gone stale. I recommend you remove the spark plugs to start, followed by using fresh gasoline. You may also find that the fuel lines are clogged, and/or the fuel pump has failed. The condition of the spark plugs will be the first chapter of your restoration story.
Q: I have a 2001 Dodge truck and the engine runs well, but on the highway the heater goes from hot to cold and then sometimes the engine overheats. What do you think is the issue?
A: This is a classic symptom of a leaking cylinder head-gasket, where the heater system gets air-bound and stops hot water circulation. The cylinder head gasket issue can be ruled out or confirmed by using a “block-check” kit that looks for exhaust gas in the cooling system. Additionally, a shop with an exhaust gas analyzer and a hydrocarbon reading at the radiator will also determine if there is a problem.
Q: I had a headlight that was dim, so I replaced the bulb, but it is still dim. However, the lights are fine when I click on high beams. What is the problem?
A: Every electrical system needs a power supply and a ground circuit. I suspect that there is a faulty ground wire to that dim bulb. After you carefully inspect the bulb socket, try using a jumper wire connected to a solid ground and connect it to the ground wire on the bulb. If the blub lights at normal brightness, you have found your problem.
Q: I have a 2014 Jeep Cherokee Latitude, 2.4 l, A/T, 4×4, with 95,500 miles. When I start the Jeep, the engine runs very rough until it warms up. There are a few engine codes causing the check engine light to come on: P0301, P1601 and P1605. Lately, the engine has been misfiring and triggering the P0301 code. So far, I’ve replaced the spark plugs and one ignition coil. I did take it to my local Jeep dealer, and they couldn’t find anything since the check engine light wasn’t on. Any guidance to correct this would be very much appreciated.
A: The P0301 is an engine misfire code for cylinder number one. Typically, the issue is caused by a faulty spark plug or ignition coil. Since you replaced those parts, the next step would be to look at the fuel injector. Other possibilities include the crankshaft position sensor, leaking intake manifold and even in some cases the computer. At this point a technician needs to spend time following a diagnostic routine to determine the issue.
Q: I recently had a friend change the oil in my 2010 Toyota Corolla. After 1,000 miles, I got a message that the oil needed changing. I went back to my friend, who said the oil was full and I should ignore the message or have the dealer reset the light. My local dealer is quite a long drive from me.
A: The oil reset is something you can do yourself. Start with the engine off and trip meter A displayed. Turn the key to the on while holding the trip meter reset button until the meter reading shows six zeros. This should reset the light.
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