Is it the alternator or battery?

By John Paul
 |  Special to The Journal

Q: My car will only start with a jump start. Before jump starting the car, the lights are dim. After the jump start, the lights are very bright. Is this an alternator issue?

A: It certainly presents itself as an alternator issue. Depending on how often this has happened, the battery is most likely at the end of its life.

When a battery becomes completely discharged, that battery will lose about 30% of its capacity. At this point get the battery charged using a battery charger and have the charging as well as the battery tested.

Q: My VIPER car alarm is malfunctioning and will not shut off. I can’t control it. The most annoying part is the automatic door locks will not work remotely or with the manual door button. I did get to quiet it all down and went on errands.

I’m getting some neighborly advice of “just use of the key instead of the remote fob.”

The control unit for the alarm is wired into the main electrical unit for the car. The car is a 2003 Subaru Forester and has 70,000 miles. I love it. What should I do?

A: At this point your best bet would be to return to the alarm installer (or any reputable automotive electronics store) and have them start with testing the key fob. A weak battery can be at least partially to blame.

It is entirely possible that, after all these years, a loose connection or faulty control module is the problem. It may be cheaper to replace the entire unit either with an alarm or perhaps a remote car starter. The remote car starter could also be wired into your door locks.

Q: I am in the market for a new van. I currently have a extended version of the 2013 Chevy 2500 cargo van with a limited slip differential. So far, it has performed well in the snow.

There is a 2020 Chevy extended 2500 cargo van for sale at a reasonable price of $29,000 but has only the factory axle ratio of 3.42, (which is not a limited slip differential).

I have priced out ordering a new van with the limited slip and a few other amenities and it is almost $37,000!

My primary question is concerning the limited slip differential. Would I notice much of a difference in the snow with the factory differential versus the limited slip? I typically have about 800 pounds of tools and equipment in the van plus two occupants. I would really like to save the $8,000 difference in cost. Any advice would be helpful.

A: Limited slip sometimes referred to as Posi-Traction uses clutches that force both rear wheels to turn together when going straight in low traction situations. With just “one-wheel” drive you are more likely to get stuck in the snow or ice. That being said, dedicated winter tires will make a substantial improvement in how this truck performs in the snow.

Price out four winter tires and rims (for ease of installation) and — with the combination of winter tires for improved traction and factory all season tires for the rest of the year — it will be a long time until you purchase your next set of tires.

Q: Maybe you can figure out this problem that no one else can, including Ford.

I have a 2019 Ford Edge with 14,000 miles on it. I’m having a problem with the transmission. I find that every so often — when putting the vehicle in reverse to park — it does not move. This car has the new style shifter dial, rather than a shift lever. The engine does not rev when stepping on gas pedal either. There is no change in engine speed. When I put the dial back into drive and then back into reverse I can then back up without any problem.

They have already replaced the valve body in the transmission without any change.

I would appreciate your thoughts on this problem.

A: I did locate the technical service bulletin regarding a delay when shifting into gear. According to the bulletin, the valve body should come out of the transmission disassembled and any debris removed. It didn’t state where the debris ccomes from, but if it was from the assembly of the valve body, the replacement part may have the same problem. In addition, there are some software updates that could apply.

At this point, perhaps the dealer can get a Ford Field Service engineer to investigate the issue. 

John Paul is the AAA Northeast Car Doctor. He has more than 40 years of experience in the automobile industry and is an ASE-Certified Master Technician. Write to John Paul, The Car Doctor, at 110 Royal Little Drive, Providence, RI 02904. Or email [email protected] and put “Car Doctor” in the subject field. Follow him on Twitter @johnfpaul or on Facebook.

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