Q: Like many people, I didn't drive much during the pandemic. I couldn't start the car one day so I jumped it and drove straight to the dealership where they changed the battery. An employee told me that there were always four computers running in the car that were draining the battery, and that I had to drive the car more to recharge the battery. I don't want to just drive around to charge my battery. He suggested buying a charger instead, but I don't have a power outlet to park my car.
– SP, Chicago
A: A solar battery charger might be the answer. You just put it on the dashboard and let the sun do its magic. Of course we have short days in winter. So park your car facing south to get the most sunlight. Choose a 12 volt charger rated at least 10 watts or more.
Q: The alloy wheels on my 2009 Mazda-6 are slowly leaking air along the tire beads, triggering the Trusted Platform Module alarm and requiring trips to an air pump every two to three weeks. Leakages happen randomly between the four wheels. I understand this is due to corrosion of the rim flanges in contact with tire beads. With the advent of cold weather, tires leak air faster. What should I do?
– PK, Portland, Conn.
A: You have a couple of options. One is to get a set of steel wheels for the winter. You leak less and your alloy wheels avoid the devastation caused by road salt in winter. Second, the tires must be removed from the wheels, the corrosion sanded off and the bead sealant applied before the tires are reassembled. However, there is no guarantee that this will be a permanent solution.
Q: My daughter just bought a 2021 Subaru Forester that has a mechanism that automatically stops and restarts every time she stops at a traffic light or stop sign. I read that it had something to do with reducing emissions. But my question is, doesn't that put additional strain on the starter, alternator, and other parts? Wouldn't that shorten the life of these parts?
– CT, Coral Springs, Fla.
A: The automatic stop-start function would stress typical parts, but the ones in such vehicles are much more robust. Their lifespan is not shortened.
Q: When I face a downhill grade that is clear of other traffic, I frequently shift my automatic transmission into neutral and idle to save fuel. Can I cause engine or transmission damage if I shift down to drive?
– JS, Easton, Pa.
A: Shifting to idle does not save gasoline on fuel-injected engines. At a predetermined speed, the fuel injection is switched off when the throttle valve is closed. Stay in gear in case you need to accelerate to avoid an accident or an animal.
Q: I was very disappointed to discover that almost all new cars no longer have CD players. I bought a 2020 Ford Fusion and I want to know if there is a way to connect a CD player to my car.
– DJ, Arlington Heights, Ill.
A: Buy an external CD player. Choose a player that can be connected to your car's system using a 3.5mm stereo cable or a USB cable. For a lot more money, you can find a CD player that mimics an iPod so you can take full advantage of the vehicle's audio system.
Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE certified master mechanic in 1976. He maintains this status by applying for certification every five years. Weber's work appears in trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in specialist magazines for the automotive industry, in the Consumer Guide and in the Consumers Digest. Send questions along with name and city to firstname.lastname@example.org.