Q: I have always been the kind of person to help people. I would change a tire, offer a ride to the gas station or flash lights to alert no lights or radar ahead. Now I have been told some people drive without lights, and those who flash their lights are the targets they decide to shoot. I now mind my own business. Help no one!
— M.V., Chicago
A: This is an urban legend that, as far as I could find, goes back to 1993. Despite such stories bouncing around, this is not part of a gang initiation. Please don't let unfounded rumors prevent you from being a good Samaritan.
Q: I have a 1997 Dodge Ram 5.2-liter, V-8. The rear main engine seal keeps leaking oil. What should I do?
— R.B., West Chicago
A: You could try a couple of chemical solutions. One idea is an engine oil stop-leak product you can add through the regular oil hole. The other is to use engine oil designed for older engines. Both are stopgap solutions. Eventually you will have to replace the rear main seal.
Q: I recently had the electric fuel pump replaced at 205,000 miles in my 1998 Mazda 626. The Mazda dealer estimate for the job was $840. A local quality shop did the job for $410. Why the great disparity?
— P.K., Portland, Conn.
A: Many dealership shops are prohibited from using less expensive aftermarket replacement parts. They must use original equipment parts that they can warranty. Yet, most aftermarket parts also come with their own warranty, so you should not be afraid to use them. Aftermarket parts often cost less, and independent shop labor rates are often lower.
Q: I have a 2001 Ford Escape. This past November I blew a spark plug. Now, three months later, I blew a second spark plug. Can this actually happen? We couldn't afford to replace the cylinder head, so we had the mechanic rethread it. I can't afford this to happen four more times, but I love my car and hate what's out there now.
— V.K., Westmont, Ill.
A: Ford has had issues with spark plugs blowing out of their aluminum cylinder heads, but will not cover the repair once the car is out of warranty. In warranty, the company will replace the heads. Out of warranty, the company suggests installing Lock-N-Stitch thread inserts in the heads, essentially creating new threads to prevent the spark plugs from popping out again. That is about the only advice we have to pass along.