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Q: Like a lot of people, I haven't been driving much during the pandemic. I couldn't start the car one day, had it jumped and drove right to the dealership, where they replaced the battery. A clerk told me that four computers are operating at all times in the car, draining the battery, and that I need to drive the car more to charge the battery. When I said that I don't want to drive around just to charge my battery, he suggested I buy a battery charger instead. But I do not have an electrical outlet where I park my car. Is there a workaround?

A: A solar battery charger might be the answer. You simply place it on the dash and let the sun work its magic. Of course, this won't work if you park in a condo's underground parking ramp. And in the winter we have short days, so be sure to park your car facing south to get the most sunlight. Select a 12-volt charger with a 10-watt or higher rating.

Built with use in mind

Q: My daughter just bought a 2021 Subaru Forester that has a mechanism that stops-restarts automatically every time she stops at a light or stop sign. I read it has something to do with reducing emissions. But my question is, doesn't that put added stress on the starter, alternator and other parts? Wouldn't that reduce the life of these parts?

A: The automatic stop-start feature is becoming standard in many cars. Yes, the frequent starts would put stress on typical parts, but the parts in these vehicles are designed to stand the increased strain.

Stay in gear

Q: When I have a downslope ahead of me that is clear of other traffic, I frequently shift into neutral on my automatic transmission and coast to save gas. Can I create engine or transmission damage when I shift back to drive?

A: First, shifting into neutral doesn't save gas on fuel injected engines. The injectors will adjust to the reduced demand on the engine. Second, while I wouldn't worry about engine damage, there is a safety issue, Keep the transmission in gear in case you need to speed up to avoid an accident or an animal.

Leaking tires

Q: The alloy wheels on my 2009 Mazda6 are slow-leaking air along the tire beads, necessitating trips to an air pump every two or three weeks. I understand that this is because of corrosion on the rim flanges in contact with tire beads. With the advent of cold weather, the tires are leaking faster. What should I do?

A: You have a couple of options. One is to get a set of steel wheels for the winter. They leak less, and your alloy wheels will avoid the ravages of winter road salt. The other is to have the tires removed from the wheels, the corrosion sanded off and bead sealant applied. But there is no guarantee that this is a permanent solution.

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