Cars

John Paul, AAA Northeast Automotive Physician, answers a question about the battery from a reader who doesn’t drive his car very often.

Andreas Gebert / Bloomberg

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

AND. The best thing you can do is drive your car for 30 minutes about once a week. If this is not possible and you are parking in a garage with an electrical outlet, a battery maintenance (float charger) is the perfect way to keep your battery fully charged. Once installed it is simply a quick disconnect plug under the hood or through the grill. Deltran Battery Tender and CTEK are high-quality brands. If you park outside, the solar charger can charge your battery depending on how much sunlight the car gets.

Q. I am trying to replace a damaged steering column on a 1987 Chevy El Camino. I got one from the 1986 El Camino, but where the transmission line connects to the column it is in a different position. Do you know if they are compatible with each other?

AND. Although both parts have been discontinued looking at exploded view and part numbers on GMpartsdirect.com, both years use the same inner shafts. Based on this, the steering columns should have a certain level of interchangeability. Another option is to use the aftermarket, which is available through several specialized GM spare parts sites. Entering the aftermarket offers the option of using a shorter or longer column, which can make the car more comfortable to drive.

Q. Recently, I have had a problem with balancing my tires. It occurs between 60-70 miles per hour. Above or below this speed I have no problem. Feels like I’m running down a bumpy road with a rumble. Tried to get a quick tire rebalance (not the Road Force Balancer you recommended). The tires run 45,000 miles and I am thinking of replacing all four tires. Is there a service device that replicates the impression that the tire is unbalanced at 60-70mph?

AND. 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 balancers in our car that could spin the tires while balancing the hub, wheel and tire. These machines are long gone. While the quick balancers allow for easy and quick balancing, I see mistakes made by technicians who do not pay attention to the positioning of the balance weights, the wheels themselves, or the build-up of rust on the wheels / hubs. After 45,000 miles, replacing the tires with an all-weather tire would be money well spent.

Q. Any feedback on Volvo’s long-term reliability? We have three in our family and we bought them because of their overall safety documentation. We are a bit worried about the cost of maintenance and repair. Finally, any suggestions for aftermarket brake discs? The discs on two cars were replaced twice under warranty as they deform slightly and cause the brakes to vibrate.

AND. Typically Volvo is mediocre or slightly better when it comes to maintenance and reliability – not exactly at Acura or Lexus level, but generally a little better than some other luxury and near-luxury brands. When it comes to rotors, there is generally nothing better than stock parts, but the Bendix, Raybestos, Centric and Brembo are generally good choices for Volvo. One of the recommended Volvo forums is DuraGo, which I am just starting to see more. You can try to move to a drilled impeller which can provide better cooling. Stay away from high efficiency slotted rotors which are good for track cars but not suitable for general use. In addition, when the wheels are removed for tire rotation or other work, they must be reinstalled using a torque wrench.

John Paul is AAA Northeast Automotive Physician. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive industry and is an ASE certified technician. Email your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast on johnfpaul.podbean.com.

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