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THE CAR DOCTOR

Battery TLC ensures long life after drainage, storage

Plus: Wrangler thumps, racing Camry transmission

By John Paul
Boston.com Columnist / August 25, 2009

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Q. I will be leaving my 2009 Honda Accord in my garage for more than three months this winter when I go to Florida with my girlfriend in her car. What should I do to ensure that my car starts and runs properly when I return?

A. Three months should not be much of an issue, but there are a few tasks you should perform. Just before you put the car away, have the oil changed and let the shop know that the car will be idle for three months. A good shop will take a little extra time to top off any fluids and lubricate items such as bushings and seals. In addition, you may want to consider buying a battery charger designed for storing a vehicle.

The Battery Tender available in many stores does a good job of keeping the battery fully charged without damaging it. Once you return and have driven the car for a few days, have the oil and filter changed again. Even though there are almost no miles on the oil change, the oil will have picked up some moisture and other contaminants from sitting.

Q. Recently the interior lights of my automobile were left on and it drained the battery completely. Has this damaged the battery or affected the life of the battery in any way? The battery was brand new. I'm sure this may have happened to others, and I'm interested to find out.

A. The batteries manufactured today are far superior to batteries from years ago, but they are still affected by a total discharge. Having this happen once over the life of the battery should not make much difference. But do make sure the battery receives a full recharge with a battery charger, because a jump-start and simply driving the car may not be sufficient.

Q. I have a 2008 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara purchased used with approximately 26,000 miles on it. I've had to bring it back to the dealer several times for a noise problem. The noise comes from the left side column between the front and rear doors. It is a thumping noise that crops up when you go over bumps in the road.

The dealer has tried different fixes to eliminate this noise, and replaced the door latch assembly in the left front door, which stopped the noise for only a short while. After the noise returned, I brought it to the dealer, and they claimed that the latch assembly cannot be replaced again. Are you aware of any others that have reported similar problems and is Chrysler aware of this problem?

A. Last year I drove a 2008 version of the same vehicle, and it had exactly the same problem. The vehicle I drove only made the noise on uneven surfaces. My feeling was that the body may have actually been flexing enough to cause the thumping noise. The last "fix" I can find for this problem is to lubricate the door striker plates. Have the Jeep dealer reference technical service bulletin number 23-024-08.

Q. I have a 2007 Toyota Camry XLE, which occasionally races forward. The transmission was re-programmed at the dealer, but the problem persists. One person told me a solenoid needs to be installed in the transmission. Your advice would be appreciated.

A. I have not heard of any solenoids that need replacing, but I've received a couple of comments from other readers with a similar problem. It is usually described as annoying, but certainly not dangerous. According to AllData, the technical data base I use, there is a computer update to the powertrain computer that is designed to enhance shifting performance. Have the dealer check technical service bulletin number EGO56-06. This bulletin was revised, and may help with the problem.

John Paul is the public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England. He can be reached at jpaul@aaasne.com or on Twitter @johnfpaul.