motormouth bob weber
Q: I have a four-cylinder 2.5-liter, 2012 Nissan Altima. I drive to Florida twice a year because we don't fly. Now, looking for a new full-size car, I see that the dealer offers a 1.5-liter turbo, but we load the car up on our trips and drive mountainous roads.
Would I be better off staying with a non-turbo four-cylinder 2.0-liter to 2.5-liter engine? Don't want that turbo kicking in every time I need to increase speed on a hill or enter a highway. The Altima has been great on trips so far.
J.W., Woodridge, Ill.
A: The smaller turbocharged engine will do the job, but you are right that it would kick in quite often. Call me old-fashioned, but I subscribe to the motto that there is no replacement for displacement. Yet, the current engines for cars competing in the Indianapolis 500 are 2.2-liter twin-turbo V-6s developing between 500 and 750 horsepower!
Q: In reference to your answer to J.H. in Minneapolis, the person who was asking about cars built for different climates, cold-weather option packages or group packages that would include things such as heated seats and steering wheel, remote start and so on. I have a feeling many, if not all, dealers in Minnesota and other cold-weather northern states probably order most of their cars with these option packages.
G.H., New Lenox, Ill.
A: The key words here are "option packages." Carmakers built the drivetrain, chassis, suspension and such in common. Hence, the answer we provided that, no, they don't build cars for different climates.
Q: I recall two situations that I encountered regarding vehicles for northern vs. southern climates. Driving a rental car in Columbus, Ohio, during a heavy snowstorm, the car had no rear-window defroster, causing me to periodically get out of the car to clean the rear window. Someone had rented a car one-way from Florida to Columbus. When I asked the agent about this, his response was there was no need for a defroster in Florida.
During spring break I had to replace the battery in Florida. No replacement battery was available that had the cold cranking amps needed for a car operating in a northern climate. The rationale provided is that the battery could be made lighter for cars in the south. This was many years ago, so perhaps these particular items have been standardized across the nation. Thanks for your great column!
W.B., Naperville, Ill.
A: Sorry to hear about your travails traveling in Columbus. Yes, batteries installed for warmer climates do not need the cold cranking amps of those in the north. In fact, the rating on those southern batteries is simply cranking amps — no "cold" in the specification.
GNB Systems, a major battery distributor, explains the difference: Cranking amps are the numbers of amperes a lead-acid battery at 32 degrees F. can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12-volt battery). In other words, CA/cranking amps determine how much power you have to start your car in most climates. Since it is more difficult for a battery to deliver power when it is cold, and since the engine requires more power to turn over when it is cold, the Cold Cranking rating is defined as: the number of amperes a lead-acid battery at 0 degrees F. can deliver for 30 seconds and maintain at least 1.2 volts per cell (7.2 volts for a 12-volt battery). In other words, CCA/cold cranking amps determine how much power you have to start your car on cold winter mornings.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician.