Honest John: Will my hybrid car's battery go flat if I don't drive it for a few weeks?

Our 'agony uncle' responds to questions over charging the battery on a hybrid, selling a Cat C car, and where to get good paint protection.

Toyota Prius engine bay
Hybrid cars are no more likely to get a flat battery than any other car, but you can use a battery charger to prevent the 12V battery losing its charge, according to Honest John. 

If your car has developed a fault, or for consumer advice, turn to Honest John by emailing [email protected]

Last volts

One of my neighbours has a Lexus hybrid that had a flat battery after two weeks of inactivity. My other neighbour has two Toyota hybrids and is concerned that they will also get flat batteries through them not being used during present restrictions. Will he need to get a charger to keep them topped up? DP

You are referring to the 12v car system batteries, not the hybrid drive batteries. It is common for them to go flat if the car is not regularly driven distances, simply because the combustion engine is only running part of the time and therefore not always charging the 12v battery via the alternator. The best answer is to regularly use the cars to drive distances of at least 20 miles every two weeks or so. Tell them to ask a dealer whether they can use a battery conditioning float charger to keep the 12v battery topped up via a power point in the garage and also ask how to connect it because there are separate jump start points under the bonnet from those on the battery itself. They will need a smart charger such as a CTEK CT5. which is specifically for AGM stop/start batteries. 

Recess shun

I have just bought an ex-demonstrator Honda Jazz, first registered in November 2019, and asked the dealership to order a space-saver wheel kit. They came back to me with apologies, stating that, on checking, they had found that the car was one of the first 2020 models to be issued, which now came with a boot recess but no threaded hole to take a wheel securing bolt. I am highly disappointed, having little time for the box of glue and compressor that now takes the place of a spare wheel. I cannot see why the workshop could not modify the boot floor to accept a securing bolt but my suggestion fell on stony ground. What do you think? DL

Some Jazz models were not fitted with the captive nut for a spare wheel bolt right from the first MkIIs in 2008. The answer is to have one fabricated and fitted, with proper attention paid to rustproofing. This thread on the Jazz forum helps: https://clubjazz.org/forum/index.php?topic=2815.0. I also found these: https://ukshop.alko-tech.com/uk/spare-wheel-carrier-cone-nut-kit.html and https://www.ebay.co.uk/b/spare-wheel-clamp/bn_7024758737.

Motorway services

I need to sell our Renault Kangoo, which has been converted for wheelchair use with a hoist. It is a 42,000-mile 2008 automatic, has been regularly serviced, is in fab condition and has just passed its MoT. We’ve only had it for a year and used it no more than six times. It was bought from Eccleston Motors, who deal with such vehicles, but they do not want to buy it back as they already have quite a few on sale. I tried webuyanyvehicle.com but they offered a ludicrously small amount and now keep troubling me. I bought it in December 2018 for almost £4,000. Have you any ideas? We live in Cheltenham and have offered it locally with no luck to date. CMS

You could look at www.motorway.co.uk. Whereas webuyanyvehicle.com buys cars for auction, Motorway places them directly with dealers. You could likewise try www.wavsgb.com/we-buy-your-wav. And eBay has a specific section:  www.ebay.co.uk/b/Automatic-Disabled-Vehicles/36626/bn_75746220. I think you can probably realise £2,500-£3,500 and help someone else on a low income who doesn't want to spend their entire mobility allowance on a Motability car. 

Wish upon a Starlet

I own a 1993 Toyota Starlet GLI. It has only done 47,546 miles, is in excellent condition and will always start first time, even after a six-month break. I bought it for £2,000 20 years ago and the only work it has needed in all that time is a clutch master cylinder. It is great fun to drive and I used it regularly up until five years ago, when someone drove into the back of it at a roundabout and put a dent in the tailgate. The insurer wrote it off because of its age, but we kept the car because otherwise it was in perfect condition. We had the dent fixed and re-registered it with DVLA. My circumstances changed and I got another car but kept the Starlet on a Statutory Off Road Notification certificate . I now want to sell it but am finding it difficult because it was written off. Do you have any advice?  I don’t want to give it away because it is in such good condition. KB

It will have been a Cat C under the old classifications. But that is no reason not to obtain a fresh MoT, insure it and put it back on the road (assuming it can be easily and cheaply recommissioned). Without an MoT and needing recommissioning, I don't think it has any value. If you don't want to go through all that fuss you could give it away to charity via  http://www.giveacar.co.uk/

Shining example

You frequently recommend refusing a car salesman's offer of ”paint protection” at anything up to £400 and instead finding someone other than the dealer who may be cheaper. My wife has just taken delivery of a new Toyota Aygo, so I set about finding such a company. The very first body shop I tried offered to sell me the necessary product as used by, for example, Audi, suggesting I do the work myself. Any thoughts? JW

If the product was Autoglym Lifeshine, then it is very good. My Fiat dealer supplied the kit to me free of charge when I bought my 500 12 years ago and I applied it myself. Depending on how much I needed to use the car, I waxed it up to three times a year using Autoglym Hi Def Wax (about £50 a tub, but it lasts for years).

Worn peace

I bought a new BMW 523i SE in 1998. The tyres at that time were Continental 225/60/R15s and whenever I have had to change I have stuck to these. I only drive about 5,000 miles a year nowadays and so haven’t needed to change my tyres for some time. When my car passed its MoT recently, I was advised that a couple of the tyres probably had less than nine months tread left on them and that I would have a problem as that size is not made any more. It was produced exclusively for my car at that time. A BMW dealership confirmed that Continental didn’t make that size any more, but they could fit alternatives from Accelera – a name I didn’t know. A local tyre firm told me that although they could get them they were a very basic tyre and would not recommend them. Any thoughts? NT

I found Kumho 225/60 R15s at blackcircles.com, which will deliver to a local tyre fitter. 

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