Subaru transmission issues, Jeep starter problems, PHEVs, Jeep shifter problems

Q. My Subaru Forester is two years old and drives fine. Today I received a letter from the company telling me about a warranty extension on the continually variable transmission. Years ago, I had a Subaru and had all kinds of problems with the timing belt. My concern is that Subaru wouldn’t send out this notice unless they are having problems with the transmission. Do you think my car will have problems and should I consider getting rid of it?  

A. Subaru has extended the transmission warranty on some Subaru CVT equipped cars from five-years or 60,000 miles (whichever comes first) to 10-years/100,000 miles. From what I have read there are no customer complaints or specific conditions are behind this warranty extension. Instead, Subaru reports that it wants to provide customers with added assurance regarding the reliability of the CVT assemblies. I also believe this is the case, continually variable transmissions have odd and slightly quirky characteristics and I believe this is a way to restore faith in an otherwise dependable vehicle.  

Q. My 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee has been having some hesitation when starting. The battery is only one year old. Today when I tried to start the car, there was some loud clicking. I went to the garage to have the battery, alternator, and starter checked, and after the check, the guy said everything was fine. When I tried to start my car, it would not turn-over. It was as though there was no life in the battery. This was immediately after his check with some type of device he hooked up to the battery.  He tried to jump it and after four tries of me turning the key, some smoke came out of the engine as though something had burnt. It was towed by AAA to the Jeep dealership. Any idea what happened? Did the guy at first garage, with their battery/alternator check and resulting jumpstart, do something that caused this additional damage?

A. If the testing equipment and the jumpstart pack were used correctly, the battery and associated components shouldn’t have been damaged. I suspect that since you had an issue that prompted you to have the battery tested, your Jeep was suffering from some sort of electrical issue prior to this testing. It could have been electrical corrosion casing a voltage drop between the battery and the starter. My concern is that during testing you mentioned you saw smoke in the engine compartment. This smoke indicates either a poor electrical connection or a short circuit and possible additional repairs.

Q. I have been reading about plug-in hybrid cars and have a question. With some drivers who only drive short distances on just electricity and potentially going months without refueling, how long can someone go without worrying about gas going bad?

A. This question just came up recently when I was at a press introduction of the Mitsubishi plug-in hybrid SUV (best kept hybrid secret). An engineer for Mitsubishi explained that every so often the gasoline engine will run to use up some fuel and well as keeping the engine lubricated. With just about every plug-in hybrid that I have driven, there are times the gasoline engine takes over from the electric motor. If you just wanted to add an extra margin of protection, you could add a fuel stabilizer twice a year to prevent stale fuel.

Q. I have a 2015 Jeep Cherokee limited and for the past week my car is telling me to shift into park while driving. When I switch to park and turn it back on the car stalls and takes a while to start back up. The check engine light does not turn on, but the battery light does when it tells me to shift into park. I also have an oil light that quickly turns on and goes right away before I even get a chance to read it. I bought it to my mechanic and there are no diagnostic codes. I don’t know what to do and I’m scared to drive with my child in the car in fear it’s just going to leave me stranded.

A. There have been several problems with the electronic shifter on this vehicle. From your description, it sounds as if the vehicle is sensing that the engine is stopped (when it is not) and at that point, the vehicle should be placed in park. The first thing that I would do is make sure that any recalls (there is at least one that involves the shifter) and technical service bulletins are up to date.

John Paul is AAA’s Car Doctor. He is an automotive expert who has been writing and talking about cars for more than 30 years. He also hosts the Car Doctor radio program on WROL radio in Boston. Email John at jpaul [at] aaanortheast.com.

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