Dear Car Talk:
I went to Toyota to buy a trickle charger for my battery. They told me the charger they will install in my 2014 RAV4 will remain connected all the time -- year-round. Does this sound right? -- Elizabeth
It sounds great.
As you probably know, a trickle charger (sometimes called a battery tender) is a device that you plug into the wall and attach to your car's battery. It keeps your battery topped up and ready to go.
You plug it in when the car is parked, and it provides a slow trickle of electricity to always keep your battery fully charged. It's particularly useful if you have a car that gets parked for long periods of time. So, while you're at the International Slanket Convention for three weeks, the charger automatically senses a drop in the battery's voltage and turns itself on and off as needed, keeping the battery ready to go when you get home.
Normally, when you buy a trickle charger at an auto parts store, you open the hood, you attach the clamps on one end of the charger to your battery terminals, and then you plug the other end into a wall socket. When you go to drive the car, you remove the clamps, close the hood and drive away.
Rinse, lather, repeat.
It sounds like Toyota has a trickle charger that gets installed under your hood and is permanently wired to your battery. There's probably what we call a "pigtail," which is like a short electrical cord that sticks out of the grill or under the front bumper.
So, when you're heading off to the Association of Ginsu Knife Throwers meetings in Ketchikan, you just attach your household extension cord to that pigtail, and bingo, you're all set. You never need to open the hood or fumble with any battery clamps.
It sounds very convenient to me, Elizabeth. I'd go for it.