Q: I recently purchased a Hyundai with an automatic transmission after driving a stick for the past 23 years. From force of habit, I find myself putting the transmission in neutral at stop lights in my new car, with the rationale that somehow I'm not taxing the transmission by having it in "D" with my foot on the brake. Is there is any merit to doing this?
- K.S., Libertyville, Ill.
A: When your engine is idling, it is more or less uncoupled from the transmission by the torque converter. Transmission fluid is being flung around inside the converter, but not very forcefully. As such, there is very little, if any, input into the transmission and so there is no problem with leaving the selector in gear. But, since heat is the bane of transmission fluid, you will sometimes find stop-and-go fleet drivers such as cabbies, popping the tranny into neutral in an effort to cool the fluid a bit. The transmission cooler inside the radiator doesn't help much if there is little airflow.
Q: What is the lowest temperature you would recommend getting my car washed?
- A.J., Elmhurst, Ill.
A: We answered a similar question four years ago. What, you missed that column? Didn't save it? Here is what we said: Many washes are closed when the weather is too cold to operate, but we asked the folks at the International Carwash Association. "Unless there is damage such as a crack or chip in the windshield, and the weather is extraordinarily cold, temperature is really not an issue for car washes," said Eric Wulf, CEO. "The issue of freezing locks is one that many people are worried about, but it almost never happens. The keyhole is covered, and unless water is poured into the door and/or air is blown straight into that keyhole, this is also not really a risk. Plus, most drivers hardly ever use their keys anymore, with the advent of keyless entry." We say, if the car wash is open, go for it no matter the temperature.
Q: During this recent streak of below-zero weather, my car battery died in our two-car garage. When I went to jump it from my wife's car, I discovered that I could not access the battery on her 2013 Ford Escape. I put the trickle charger on my car overnight and drove to get a new battery in the morning. While at the store, I asked them about the location of the Escape's battery and they told me they won't even install that battery because it is so far back in the engine compartment. What can you tell me about that, and what would my wife do if her battery were to die when she was away from home?
- B.O., Coons Rapids, Minn.
A: The Escape battery is at the rear of the engine, partially under the cowl on the left (driver's) side. There is a plastic cover over it and squeezing the two tabs on the sides releases the cover. You can access the positive (+) terminal, but the negative (-) terminal is hidden beneath the cowl. However, there is a ground lug on the firewall sheet metal about 18 inches away where the negative jumper cable or charger may be clamped.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to firstname.lastname@example.org.