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lou's garage

I have a Toyota Auris hybrid car in Europe – similar to the smaller version of the North American Prius. The car stays for a year in a garage with nothing disconnected. A battery tender is attached to the small 12-volt battery all the time. I return to Europe for vacation every summer. I do normal car start after a year of storage. It runs well. The gas tank is one-third full, so I add some fresh gas to it before starting. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, I will not be able to travel, so it will be idle for two years. Do you expect any problems after two years in storage? Do I need to tow it to a dealer and have them restart it?

I would appreciate your advice.

Ivan P I


Two years is a long time for any vehicle to sit unattended. Seizing brakes, cracked belts and hoses and fluids that have become laden with moisture are just some problems universal to any car that sits. With the vehicle in question being a hybrid, the chances of there being problems is elevated.

The battery minder will slow down the sulfation of your smaller 12-volt battery but not stop it completely. However, this is not a big issue. I’d be concerned about the high-voltage hybrid-battery system, as it will likely become depleted over that extended period. Ideally, if you can contact a friendly neighbour and ask them to drive it for a week or two every six months, this will alleviate most concerns. If this is not possible, then I think you definitely need to get the dealer you mentioned involved, preferably at the midway point.

My VVT-i 2000 BEAMS engine has made a knock sound since the mechanic replaced the timing belt. When I asked him why the sound was happening, he said the head requires shimming. Please help me.

Thank you,


Breakthrough Engine with Advanced Mechanism System (BEAMS) was available in Lexus and Toyota products in Japan and some European markets. I’m not familiar with any of these 2000-cc engines because I don’t believe any made their way to North America, so I am going to assume this reader is on another continent.

Regardless of this, some things are just universal and don’t require specific product knowledge. I believe that with the statement “knock sound,” you are referring to pre-ignition or ping. The fact that this started after the timing belt was replaced suggests to me that the timing belt was likely installed incorrectly and is now sitting one tooth off.

I have never shimmed a head, nor would I recommend that it ever be done, other than in a racing engine application where a compression ratio needs to be addressed. Go back to your mechanic and insist he revisit his work. If he resists, then you will have to seek a second opinion from another repair facility. Good luck, Godfrey.

What’s on my radar

As internal combustion engines become more complicated, your vehicle’s Malfunction Indicator Lamp (MIL) can illuminate for an ever-increasing amount of reasons. One such item is a newer technology feature commonly known as Variable Valve Timing (VVT), which made its first production-car appearance in the 1990s. Outside of the enthusiast crowd, not many understand this technology, so here is the Lou-lowdown of what it is. That way, if faced with a VVT repair, you’ll at least have a basic idea of what is going on.

For those of you old enough to remember the golden age of muscle cars, one of the most common and easiest engine modifications was to upgrade the exhaust and carburetor. However, serious car enthusiasts often didn’t didn’t stop there and also replaced the stock engine camshaft with a high-lift performance camshaft.

Everyone on the street knew which car had the performance camshaft installed, because sitting behind that car at a set of traffic lights would make your eyes water from the raw fuel smell spewing from their exhaust. The point of the performance camshaft was to make engine valves open further and longer. Enthusiasts liked it because the engine was more powerful when needed, but a downside was that when the engine was idling, it struggled to stay running because it now had too much fuel, hence the reason for the strong odour.

Enter VVT. Some smart engineers started designing engines with camshafts and timing systems that could offer the best of both worlds. They designed a camshaft that had both a normal camshaft profile and a performance profile built into one device. The result was a fuel-efficient car that idled perfectly and also benefited from the extra power provided by a performance camshaft. Every manufacturer now has their own version of it, and just about every newer car on the road makes use of it.

Engine oil performs double duty in VVT engines. It lubricates and is also used to hydraulically drive the various components that make VVT systems work. Because of that, most problems related to VVT usually have something to do with the oil system and lack of proper maintenance. Extended oil-change intervals don’t help either. Be forewarned, as the importance of being on time with your next oil change is of utmost importance on these engines.

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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