Q: Earlier this year, I heard a lot about a new Ford model called the C-Max. It came in two models and got great gas mileage. Lately, I've not seen it featured in any Ford advertising. Can you shed some light on what has happened?
— A.M., Oak Lawn, Ill.
A: The C-Max is still available as either a hybrid (SE and SEL models) or as a plug-in hybrid (Energi model). The C-Max is similar to the Toyota Prius, having five doors — four doors and a hatch.
Q: Can you suggest the best and safest method for removing salt and dirt stains from (a car's) carpeting?
— G.J., Des Plaines, Ill.
A: For safety, nothing beats distilled white vinegar.
Use a 50-50 mix of water and vinegar in a spray bottle and spray the stains directly. Use a damp rag to rub away the stains. To remove dirt, you may need a commercial rug and carpet cleaner.
Q: You recently mentioned a solar charger that sits on the dashboard and trickle-charges the battery. I would appreciate if you could direct me (to) where I could obtain one.
— S.H., Skokie, Ill.
A: They are not hard to find online, but if you prefer a bricks-and-mortar store, try RadioShack, Harbor Freight, Wal-Mart and many auto parts stores.
Q: We have a 2008 red Volkswagen with a camel-colored convertible top. The top has heavy black marks on it due to putting it up and down. Normal washing does not remove these marks. I am afraid to use heavy scrubbing on it. Can you recommend something that might clean it?
— M.P., Huntley, Ill.
A: I posed your question to the International Detailing Association. Here is the reply from Jim Lafeber, past president of the IDA: When it is a light-colored top, those black marks are nearly impossible to get out. The marks are from the mechanical arms that raise and lower the top, and they have oil and grease that saturate the area when it is in the closed position. A good degreaser dwelling in that area should loosen it up. Get a brush with nylon bristles to help agitate the area. If the marks (are) a couple of years old, it should come out. However, if they have been baking there for years, I would suggest a new top, this time in black.
Q: Winter's gone. My wife's set of four steel wheels are particularly rusty and unsightly. What method do you recommend to strip the rust and repaint them? Liquid rust converter? Sandblast? Also, during the process, can tires stay on with proper masking, or must they be removed? Is this a do-it-yourself project?
— P.B., Glastonbury, Conn.
A: This is a job you can probably handle yourself. Remove as much loose rust as possible using a wire brush and sandpaper. Next, apply a rust converter paint that creates a phosphate coating, which also serves as a primer. Then, use a good weatherproof enamel to finish the job. Leave the tires on, but tape and paper them off.