Q: The battery on my husband's 2014 Lexus ES350 died this weekend. He hadn't driven it for three days. This was about one week after a routine service checkup. The dealer jump-started it and after checking it out in the service department said there is absolutely nothing wrong. My husband is very uncomfortable with this diagnosis and is reluctant to drive the car. The dealer is keeping the car and checking it daily for drainage. He's lost confidence in the dealer and his car. It only has 19,000 miles. Any advice for next steps?
A: Yes, counseling for your husband. I don't really understand the lost confidence/reluctance to drive the car. This is not a serious issue and not driving the vehicle won't resolve it. To restore his confidence, buy him a jumper battery pack for his birthday or a late Father's Day gift. Have him learn how to use it to start a vehicle with a dead battery and leave it fully charged in the trunk.
Only 19,000 miles on a three-year-old vehicle indicates relatively infrequent use and/or frequent short trips — neither of which is particularly beneficial to long battery life. It's time to fully test the battery. Voltage while cranking the engine should stay above 9.6 volts. After fully charging the battery, then turning on the headlights for 20 seconds to remove the surface charge, voltage at the battery should be 12.5 to 12.9 volts at 70 degrees F. By the way, Toyota/Lexus specifies battery maintenance for vehicles in their lots — operate the engine for 30 minutes after 60 days in storage and every 30 days thereafter to help to maintain battery state of charge). If the battery passes these tests the problem may be some type of parasitic current loss while parked. This is what the dealer is checking for. Speaking of the dealer, what exactly did they do during the "routine service checkup"? Perhaps a relay is stuck on or the glove box lamp is still on or something similar.
In a continuing effort to improve fuel economy, carmakers now tightly control alternator output to minimize power loss. The alternator on the Lexus actually is fitted with a clutch on its pulley so that the ECM can regulate its function. It might be worth checking this clutch.
Q: I have a 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan. I have recently noticed two black vertical lines in the back-up camera view when I put the vehicle into reverse. These lines appeared only recently. Are these part of a screen centerline marker that was a part of an automatic software update of which I am unaware, or is there an issue with the camera that needs repair/replacement? The service person at the dealership said that their dealer runner Grand Caravan has these same vertical black lines in its back-up view. So I have now contacted Dodge Customer Service to get some clarification/insight. Any thoughts on this matter?
A: I believe these vertical lines are guides for backing up — that's why they only appear when you shift into reverse. Although I can't explain why they suddenly appeared, I believe you can choose whether or not these lines appear, through the back-up camera "settings" menu.
Q: Both my son and I own Toyota products — a 2009 Corolla and a 2013 Camry. Both have a similar problem — getting the screws out of the rear license plate. Do you have any ideas?
A: I found a number of suggestions online. Heat the bolt heads carefully with a small butane torch or soldering iron. Spray the back side of the bolts inside the trunk with a penetrating lubricant. Tap the bolt heads with a small hammer or slightly tighten the bolts before trying to loosen to break up the rust.
When you do get them out, clean and coat them with anti-seize or replace them with stainless steel bolts.
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.