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Motormouth: Fuel lid frozen shut?

Q: My car is a 2011 Subaru Outback. During this prolonged extreme cold spell we've been having, the fuel filler lid will not open. When the lid release lever is pulled, there is no result even though there is no visible ice around the lid. Do you have any suggestion to open the lid or do I just have to wait until the weather gets warmer?

— M.G., Chicago

A: It may be a long time before it gets warm in Chicago. Try pulling the release lever while a friend attempts to pull the fuel door open. If you have no friends, wedge something that won’t scratch the paint between the door and fender and then pull the release. If it opens, you may need only a new door spring. If it does not open, you may need to visit the dealer.

Q: Your column is always read on Sunday, despite fact that I am not mechanically minded. Your answers are usually in layman terms. I have a 2014 Highlander with 86,100 miles. My last oil change was mid-March, 2020 at 80,000 miles. Should I go more than 12 months between changes because it will be more than 2 months before we reach 90,000 miles?

— D.Z., Westville, Ind.

A: Although I don’t encourage it, you may fudge a little when it comes to oil changes. A couple months or 10,000 is stretching it a bit so I suggest that you at least check the oil level and add some if it is low.

Q: My 2011 Honda Pilot sits most of the time and the battery slowly drains so I keep it on a battery tender. Since I live in Minnesota with its winter 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, I'm hardly driving either of my cars. My other car, a 2019 Toyota Highlander, is used sparingly but regularly. It's the Pilot that sits.

— B.R., Eden Prairie, Minn.

A: Driving the car for short trips such as errands is probably not enough the fully charge the battery. Short trips, where the engine may not reach normal operating temperature, is considered severe operation. Engines enjoy road trips. Let the Pilot rest and drive the Highlander.

Q: My one and only car remote fob to my 2006 Cadillac STX is in a snowbank in my yard somewhere. I have ordered online and received two remote fobs that are identical to the one I lost, part numbers match, etc. I am seeing various videos on YouTube, etc., that show how I can program the two new remotes myself. Is it really that easy? I have called two different Cadillac dealers, and have gotten quite a price spread for another key, from $33 to $68. For programming the two remotes, I got price quotes from $86.44 to $153. Can a regular locksmith do this kind of programming of remotes?

— M.W., Cambridge, Minn.

A: Do not trust the simple 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 may pair the new fob for free. If your dealer charges, a locksmith will usually charge a lot less.

(Bob Weber is a writer and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking certification every five years. Weber's work appears in professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer Guide and Consumers Digest.)

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