Q: I have a Jeep Cherokee that has an annoying issue. The electronic parking brake is set to automatically engage if the car is running, even in neutral, and the driver's side door is opened. This is a problem when going through an automated car wash and the attendant opens the door to dry the door frame. The brake will engage while the car is still on the car wash track, and I have to hurry to disable the parking brake, which requires me to press the brake pedal. I have checked the owner's manual and cannot find a way to disable the auto park brake feature. Is this something that cannot be disabled, or am I missing something?
A: Your Jeep has a feature called SafeHold through which the parking brake automatically engages to prevent the vehicle from rolling. If you look through your manual again, you'll discover that "SafeHold can be temporarily bypassed by pushing the Electric Park Brake Switch while the driver door is open and brake pedal is pressed. Once manually bypassed, SafeHold will be enabled again once the vehicle reaches 12 mph or the ignition is cycled to the OFF position and back to ON again."
Q: I need to replace the battery in my BMW and have been told that it can be done only at a BMW dealership because of the need to reprogram the computer. Is this true? I live in Nevada, and the only BMW dealers are in Reno (three hours away) and Las Vegas (five hours). If my battery dies, do I need to have it towed all the way to one of those cities?
A: There's some very sophisticated technology in these cars, and it requires that the replacement battery be registered to the vehicle. If computer memories are not kept alive, functions such as power window operation might be lost. In your case, if your battery is showing signs that it's nearing the end of its life, I'd take a drive to the city while you still can.
Q: I live in the Chicago area and prefer to drive a sedan rather than an SUV. I have concerns about winter driving but have been told that getting a good set of winter tires would alleviate those concerns. I am retired, so I usually drive fewer than 8,000 miles per year. Your opinion?
A: With the worst of the driving behind us for this winter — we hope — you don't need to do anything right now. But come fall, I'd suggest putting winter tires on both the front and rear, not only the drive wheels. You can switch back to summer tires or all-season tires in the spring.
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.