John Paul, AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader who lost connection to a van’s satellite radio after having the battery replaced.

Associated Press/File

Q. My 2012 Toyota Sienna minivan sat unused for three weeks while we were away. Upon returning, the van would not start. AAA replaced the battery, but I later discovered that SiriusXM wouldn’t load on the van’s radio – it read out “no signal.” Is it possible the radio was damaged from exchanging the battery?

A. Radios can lose memory when the battery fully discharges. I would start by calling SXM and see if they can send a refresh signal from their end. I had a very similar issue (no signal) with a used vehicle I purchased. After confirming the antenna was okay, I called SXM and after about 45 minutes on the phone and multiple attempts, the radio came to life.

Q. I’m planning to buy a new 2023 Toyota RAV4 hybrid soon, but I can’t get a straight answer to a question from any of the dealers I’ve talked to. I will be storing the vehicle for about half the year, every year. It can be connected to a battery tender, but it will not be started or driven. I’ve done this with my gas-powered vehicles without issues. My question is, would this kind of storage degrade a hybrid battery? Should I stick with the gas-powered model?

A. Toyota has a bit of a vague answer to this, stating that the traction battery should be left in a 20-80 percent state of charge, but other than that doesn’t mention long-term storage. Based on my conversations with hybrid vehicles owners who do something similar, I would say that the battery pack should be okay. Out of curiosity I also checked the recommendations from the all-electric Tesla, and was a bit surprised to read that If the weather is extreme – whether it’s extremely cold or hot – and you cannot park in an isolated area and are going away for more than two weeks, you may want to consider a different mode of transportation. If the car battery is drained completely, it could lead to battery damage, since the car can no longer keep the batteries at an ideal temperature, and it will no longer be able to protect itself from harsh weather.

Q. I’m a snowbird. Is it best to keep a vehicle in summer heat in Florida or northeast winter cold? Is there any difference between storing a hybrid or any car in heat or cold?

A. There are challenges with both. The summer Florida heat, humidity, heavy rain, and hurricanes versus winter cold, snow, slush, and blizzards. The summer heat and humidity can mildew the interior and age the tires and paint as well as shorten the battery life. The bitter winter cold can cause body seals to harden and crack. I have left a car outside (under a cover) in both Florida heat and Massachusetts winter, and I found the hot weather to be slightly less detrimental to the car overall.

Q. What brand qualifies as a “quality” fuel additive? I have seen you mention this but have never named any brands. Also, how often should it be added? My other question is how long have you been helping people with your column and radio program? Hopefully you are not retiring anytime soon.

A. I have had the best results with Techron fuel additive, which came with the very first fuel injected Corvette. The other product which I like is from Lucas. Both of these are simple pour-in products and work. I use these products more sparingly than the directions, about twice per year. When I can I also use gasoline with more cleaning additives, which help keep injectors and combustion chambers clean (www.toptiergas.com). I am in my 38th year at AAA, and started a column in our own publication which expanded to live chats and placement in several newspapers and websites. I hosted my first radio program about 30 years ago and have been on the air almost continually since then (I’m now on Sundays at 11 a.m. on 95.9 WATD). I don’t think I’m going anywhere soon.

Q. I have a 2016 Subaru Legacy with about 47,500 miles. I have always kept it in good shape, and it runs well. For the past couple of months, I have sporadically been having problems getting the key out of the ignition switch when I shut the car off. At first, I started the car again, moved it, and then tried again. This worked sometimes. Lately, I just turn the key to the on position without starting the car and then try again. Sometimes I have to do this several times. I took the car to a transmission shop and they said there doesn’t seem to be any problems with the linkage or neutral switch (whatever that is).

A. Subaru has had some issues with the shifter. I would go to the dealer and have them reference technical service bulletin 16-112-18R.

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE-certified master technician. E-mail your car question to [email protected] Listen to the Car Doctor podcast at johnfpaul.podbean.com.


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