Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do You Need To Replace Electrolyte in Your Car Battery?

Q: Just recently I had to replace my car battery. Some weeks before, my battery bracket loosened and the battery shifted, knocking off one of the caps, which I didn't know until I needed a jump. I put regular tap water inside and replaced the cap. Tap water was all I had at the time. After that the battery continued to weaken until it needed to be replaced. Could I had put any of the following substances in the battery to extend its life? Gatorade (powder or liquid), salt, saltwater, baking soda, sea water, or distilled water.

A: Anything on your list would have damaged your battery instantly. Battery electrolyte is sulfuric acid and water, and a certain amount of the lead electrolyte in solution. How much Lead? Depends on the state of charge of the battery, so the possibility of mixing up a concoction to replicate the spilled electrolyte accurately is not easy.

The best replacement for spilled electrolyte is the other cells in the same battery. Get a battery tester or a clean large syringe, and equalize the level of electrolyte between the 6 cells. If this leaves all of them too low, which it will, you can now add an identical amount of fresh electrolyte purchased from the auto parts store to bring them up to the correct level.

Low electrolyte levels caused by normal electrolysis in the battery should be topped off with nothing else except distilled or demineralized water.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Reverse Lights Come on When I Hit the Brakes

Q: Every couple of months when I hit the breaks in my 1995 Toyota Camry, the reverse lights come on. They will do this for about a week and a half and then go back to only coming on when in reverse. What is causing this and how do I fix it?

A: There’s a bad ground somewhere near the tail lights, causing the brake lights to source their ground through the backup lights. Check ground point Ba1, which is in the trunk.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Can I Save Money and Repaint My Car's Clearcoat Only?

Q: My 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor has started losing it's clearcoat in patches. Is there any way I can repair it without getting a new paint job?

A: No. All the clear coat is going to have to be sanded off, because it’s not bonding properly to the paint underneath it. In theory, you could then respray just the clear coat. In reality, the pigment layer will be sanded through to the primer in a lot of places. So, the color coat will have to be resprayed as well.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Which Tires Hydroplane More Easily?

Q: Do low profile tires tend to hydroplane more than regular tires?

A: Hydroplaning is a function of tire footprint, all other things being equal, a tire with a wider footprint will tend to hydroplane more. If the low-profile tire is wider, it will indeed hydroplane more easily. If the tire is low-profile, but has the same tread width, no.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Synthetic vs. Conventional Motor Oil

Q: How do you tell the difference between synthetic oil and conventional motor oil? A not so honest service station in my area was found adding regular motor oil, yet charged people for the more expensive synthetic oil. Please let me know if there is a simple way of telling the difference. I am quite sure the reading public would like to know this also.

A: The short answer is there’s no way to tell without sending a sample out for a chemical analysis.

My only suggestion is to watch the technician as he adds product.