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lou's garage

An Aston Martin DB9 was towed in recently as a no start. Before that, my eldest daughter couldn’t unlock, nor get into her Volkswagen Eos. And just this last weekend a friend called for help. His Lexus IS 350 wouldn’t unlock either. What do all three have in common? It was simple, the key fob didn’t work. For two it was a dead battery in the key fob and for the third it was a drained car battery.

The DB9 owner assumed the worst but a new key fob battery did the trick. The car started right away once we changed its battery.

As a backup to using the fob similar to many cars, my daughter’s older Eos has one exterior key door lock cylinder that can be helpful in exactly this situation. However, it had seized and was useless. I’ve been waiting for a backordered door lock cylinder for almost a year now. Come on VW.

The Lexus owner left an interior light on the night before and came out to a dead car battery in the morning, meaning the power door locks didn’t work with the fob. Unfortunately, their door lock cylinder was also seized from lack of use. They even tried to get in through the trunk to no avail. A tow truck was called to break into the car so they could access the hood release. A lot of work for a simple battery boost.

That fact that people don’t use their exterior door locks anymore is overstating the obvious. Why would you? The key fob can do all the work. That is until the day comes your key fob doesn’t work. If your main battery dies or the one in the fob, you need to know how to access the cabin. Most contemporary vehicles now only have one exterior point to insert a key. And that point is not as obvious as it once was. It is often covered by a piece of molded, painted plastic disguising it in and around the exterior handle area. An ignition key point is also often covered by a piece of plastic, if your car has one. The DB9 in question did not, the fob has to be present and in working order for the car to start.

As a side note, I’m also amazed most people don’t know that most key fobs have a small key hidden within them. You owe it to yourself to grab your owner’s manual while you still have access to the glove box and orientate yourself with all the access points. The external key access point also needs to be lubricated. Once you know where it is, ask your service provider to lubricate it on your next oil change. Changing the battery on your key fob should also be done with regularity. Newer vehicles employ key fobs that have proximity sensors in them, therefore they consume battery life faster than the older ones. If your car is newer, you should plan on changing the fob battery in all fobs every two years, before it dies and leaves you scratching your head.

Your automotive questions answered

We moved to Edmonton from London, Ont. The mechanic said I do not have a block heater on my 2017 Kia Rondo. It was suggested to get a “blanket heater” for my battery. I’m getting a new battery this week and am wondering if I need the heater and do car batteries freeze? I park outside (my townhouse complex) and I’ve had people tell me different things.

Also, I’m getting my oil changed...any suggestions? I’ve never done synthetic oil. Is it better?

Thanks for your help. - Julia

When I was a young driver learning to drive in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., I was taught that during the winter I had to pump the gas pedal a few more times when starting the car in the cold. If I didn’t pump the gas pedal enough, the late 1970s Ford my mom drove might not start. Every carbureted vehicle back then had its own personality that one needed to know, information that was typically passed down from parent to child. In extreme cold, a blanket heater would have been helpful in this situation, allowing the battery to stay warm and thus making it easier to start.

Contemporary cars are different. In the briefest of moments before your car attempts to crank over, the onboard computer has already sampled data from sensors such as the outside ambient and coolant temperature sensors. This information is analyzed and just the right amount of fuel for the current situation is injected into the engine, thereby removing the guess factor. Your Kia should start in extreme cold without a blanket heater 99.9 per cent of time. The exception to this is when your battery is nearing the end of its life. This discharged state is the only vulnerable time when a battery can potentially freeze. I think your money is better spent making sure you always have a strong battery.

Yes, synthetic oil is better, but if you are reliable with doing oil changes on time, you will be fine with conventional oil. However, if you are a bit tardy with your oil change intervals, then spend the extra money for the synthetic oil change.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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