Q: My car is a 2011 Subaru Outback. During our recent prolonged extreme cold spell, the fuel filler lid would not open. When the lid release lever was pulled, there was no result, even though there was no visible ice around the lid. Do you have any suggestions that might solve the problem, or do I need to start driving the car only in warm weather?
A: The next time this happens, try pulling the release lever while a friend attempts to pull the fuel door open. Another approach is to wedge something that won't scratch the paint between the door and fender and then pull the release. If it opens, you might only need a new door spring. If it does not open, you probably need to visit the dealer.
Don't ignore oil
Q: I have a 2014 Toyota Highlander with 86,100 miles. My last oil change was mid-March 2020. At that point, it had 80,000 miles. Should I go more than 12 months between changes because it will be more than two months before I reach 90,000 miles?
A: Although I don't encourage it, you can fudge a little when it comes to oil changes. But if you do want to push things a bit, at least keep an eye on the oil level and add some if it is low.
Let car sit out the cold
Q: My 2011 Honda Pilot sits most of the time and the battery slowly drains, so I keep it on a battery tender. Because I live in Minnesota with its wintertime cold, how often should I unhook the tender and drive the car for errands and such?
I change the oil regularly, but during the pandemic, hardly drive it. My other car, a 2019 Toyota Highlander, is used sparingly but regularly. It's the Pilot that sits.
A: Driving the car for short trips such as errands is probably not enough to the fully charge the battery. Short trips, where the engine does not reach normal operating temperature, is considered severe operation by automakers. Engines enjoy road trips. If you're never going to take the Pilot on a longer trip while it's cold, let it rest and drive the Highlander.
Know-how is key
Q: I lost the only remote fob to my 2006 Cadillac STX. I have ordered online and received two remote fobs that are identical to the one I lost. Part numbers match, etc.
I have found multiple videos on YouTube that show how I can program the new remotes myself. Is it really that easy? I have called around and have gotten price quotes from $86.44 to $153 for programming the two remotes. Do I really need a professional to do this kind of job?
A: Do not trust the instructions you find on the internet. Leave this job to a dealer or locksmith. If you bought the car and have taken it to the same dealer for service, they might pair the new fob for free. If your dealer charges, check out a locksmith, who usually will cost less.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician. His writing has appeared in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest. Send automotive questions along with name and town to firstname.lastname@example.org.