QUESTION: A recent experience with my 2007 Acura CSX has left me confused and a little concerned.
On a hot July day, I drove 60 km into Toronto, the A/C at low power. I made one stop, turning the engine off. About 20 minutes later, the car started fine. I drove about four blocks to my next stop, turned the engine off, returned in about 15 minutes, turned the key - and heard nothing except the dreaded clicking sound that indicates a dead (or nearly so) battery.
A roadside assistance serviceman jump-started the car and advised me to let it idle for 30-40 minutes to charge the battery. I did, drove to my last stop, parked the car, and returned an hour later, fully expecting to call roadside assistance again so I could drive home. But the car started instantly, and did the following morning when I drove it to my Acura dealer.
With six months and almost 40,000 km left on the warranty, I expected the dealer to replace the battery. Instead, the service manager said the battery tested fine. Acura specs required 550 CCA; my battery tested 480 CCA, an insignificant difference, the service manager assured me. There was no need, he claimed, to replace my old battery. I have never had a battery fail after a long run with no excessive drain from accessories, and be declared "fine" the next day. Nor have I had a battery fail due to hot weather.
The car has about 60,000 km on the odometer and is driven moderately. Perhaps hot weather is hard on a battery, but surely not as hard as a January night at minus 10 C with lights, seat heaters and other devices turned on. What will the battery do then? And isn't four years of service pushing the envelope for any car battery? Should I insist on a new battery while the warranty is in effect? Is there some rational explanation to the battery's temporary demise that escapes me?
ANSWER: Intermittent problems like this are a nightmare.
Since the battery checks out at nearly 500 cold cranking amps, it may not be the culprit even though it is approaching the average life expectancy of a battery these days.
It lives in a terribly hot environment. The engine compartment of a modern vehicle is cramped and emission and fuel economy concerns require engines to run very lean and hot. But batteries are designed for that environment. If it passed a load test, it may be OK.
You can try something yourself. Turn on the interior lights - if they are bright and remain so when you turn the ignition key, the battery is not the issue. Possible problems are, in no particular order: the automatic transmission might not have been exactly in Park or Neutral. There are safety switches to prevent the starter from operating in such conditions. A heat shield that protects the starter and solenoid may have fallen off or shifted out of place. It could also be the ignition switch itself or poor or corroded connections, including a poor ground.
QUESTION: Why do so many pickup trucks have gigantic tail pipes?
I know kids like to put aftermarket systems on their "rides." I used to do so myself. But I'm seeing a lot of pickups with single exhaust pipes that appear to be fresh from the factory with monster pipes.
ANSWER: The answer in one word - emissions.
Diesel fuel is not as clean as engineers would like so they have to find a solution to cleaning up the "nasties" left over after combustion takes place. The biggest problem is particulates - the tiny particles that cause black smoke from older diesels or diesel engines that are running too rich.
In a new low-emission diesel, particulates are trapped in a special filter. When the filter reaches a certain level of saturation, the engine control computer sets in place a process to burn them off at very high temperatures - like a self-clean oven. The accumulated particulates become harmless ash.
The big pipes are designed to create airflow that draws extra air from under or beside the vehicle inside to help cool the exhaust gases that might otherwise burn anyone or thing near the exhaust outlet. This occurs about once per tank of fuel, takes a few minutes and only at speeds above 50 km/h to ensure cooling air flow.