Q: My wife has a 2010 Chevy Suburban that I had to replace the battery in recently. The old battery was only 4½ years old. I suspect the cause of the battery's premature demise was that she leaves her phone-charging cable plugged into the power port continuously. I noticed that the tiny power light to the cable stays on even with the ignition off and the key removed.
Could that small power demand weaken the battery even though the vehicle is driven daily? She says that's bunk. What do you say?
A: You haven't actually accused your wife of shortening the life of her battery with the phone charger, have you? I mean, out loud? Oh, you have. That's embarrassing.
First of all, batteries typically last about five years. While yours didn't make it quite that long, I'd hesitate to call its demise premature. Five years is just an average; maybe you'll get 5½ from the new battery and be right back on schedule.
The charger is completely irrelevant in this conversation. A phone charger that plugs into a power port typically draws about one amp. And it'll only draw that one amp if there's a phone that's actively being charged. Otherwise, all it's drawing is enough power to light up that tiny green LED that tells you it's plugged in. That takes a fraction of an amp. It would have a negligible effect on the life of the battery.
Repair took a bad turn
Q: I have a 1997 Cadillac Seville. The power steering was making noises, so I took it to the dealer, who said the fluid was leaking from the pressure hose, pump, and steering rack and pinion. They replaced all three for $2,200.
The remanufactured pump they put in made a grinding noise, so they replaced that with another one. After that, the car was harder to steer, so I took it in yet again. And they put in a third one. Now the car drives like it barely has power steering at all. They confirmed that it's harder to steer than it should be, but said the third pump is "operating as designed."
What do I do now?
A: I'm guessing you've already tried crying. If not, we'll send you a box of our patented, extra-soft Car Talk tissues.
The issue could be a seized universal joint in the steering column, but if they missed that when they changed the rack and pinion, shame on them.
They're using remanufactured power steering pumps because new ones aren't made anymore for this car. And the parts obviously are not of great quality because at least two out of three of them failed — and the jury's still out on the third one.
It's possible that your current pump is subpar, too. You could ask them to take one more shot at it, especially because they agree the car is supposed to be easier to steer. Perhaps they could order it from a different supplier.
If it's harder to steer primarily when the car is cold or primarily in one direction rather than both directions, then they might have given you a defective rack and pinion. I would think that they would have checked that, but who knows?
And as you now know, power steering racks are very expensive to replace. It's not a cheap part, and there's a lot of labor involved. So they're going to whine if you push them for another new one. But after all the money you spent, they owe it to you to solve this problem.
The pump, rack and pinion, hoses and universal joint represent pretty much the whole system, so there's not much else it can be.
Contact Car Talk via e-mail by visiting cartalk.com.