Q: I have a 2013 Ford Escape SE with a 1.6-liter engine. I was averaging 28 mpg until Ford's December recall where they did something to the cooling fan (to prevent engine fire). Now I'm averaging 25 mpg. Is this due to winter weather, or should I go back to my dealer and complain? — G.C., Grayslake, Ill.
A: It was not the fan, but a freeze plug (core hole plug) that was replaced. If it popped out or leaked, the ethylene glycol in the antifreeze could catch fire. They sealed the plug and put a cap over it. But that would have absolutely no impact on your fuel economy. Chances are, the winter-blended fuel is the cause of decreased mileage — that, plus longer warm-up times, thicker lubricants, running many accessories that put a load on the charging system and slower traffic.
Q: I have a 2009 Chevrolet Aveo. Recently, I had the fuel injection cleaned. I was told to use 87-octane BP gasoline with Invigorate. Do all gasoline grades contain cleaning additives? — T.G., Bel Air, Md.
A: By law, all gasoline must have cleaning additives, not necessarily to clean fuel injectors, but to keep intake valves clean. Even unbranded fuels are supposed to have the minimum amount. But some marketers go further and blend in more or better additives. Many of them voluntarily belong to a group of Top Tier fuel marketers (toptiergas.com) and pledge to go well beyond the minimum. Some companies, such as BP, choose not to join, but that does not mean their fuels are subpar.
Q: While I agree with the answer you provided about topping off fuel in auto tanks, there seems to me an additional concern. At some major chains, at which the gas is priced low and the real profit is made on the junk food, etc., inside, I suspect they have installed nozzles that trip a little early in the hope that their regular customers will visit more often. — J.M., Allentown, Pa.
A: Do you really think a retailer would be so devious just to get repeat business? OK, maybe they would, but the fuel-dispensing nozzles are not easy to tamper with, so we're afraid your suspicions don't hold water (or gasoline).
Q: I have a 2005 Chrysler Pacifica with 62,000 miles. We change our oil regularly and have had no oil problems with the car. The oil light on the dash went on recently. It has gone on and off after a few minutes twice in the last couple of weeks. I checked the oil level, and that was good. I looked under the vehicle where it usually gets parked, and that was dry as a bone. I looked around the engine and oil filter and saw nothing. Do you have any ideas? — B.M., Algonquin, Ill.
A: The oil warning light illuminates when the oil pressure drops, not when the oil level drops. One of two things could be the cause. First, the oil pump may be malfunctioning, but since you regularly change the oil, we doubt that it would be damaged or that its pickup screen would be clogged. The other is a faulty oil pressure sensor. We suspect the latter.
Q: I have lovingly cared for 1998 Nissan Sentra which has 220,500 miles on the clock. Lately, the manual transmission will not engage in first gear, but if you turn the engine off, you can put it to the first gear, then by pushing the clutch, restart the engine and off you go. I know it's time to get to the mechanic. At 190,000 my mechanic fixed the clutch for another problem. It had poor acceleration on first and second gear. What major parts am I expecting to purchase for my mechanic? —B.I., Round Lake, Ill.
A: It sounds like the clutch is not fully releasing when you depress the pedal and this is a fairly common problem. Ask the mechanic who worked on it before to take a look. He may have to adjust the clutch pedal height or service the clutch hydraulic system. If you don't take care if it, the clutch friction disc will wear prematurely.
Q: We have a 2009 Ford Focus which we bought new. About two months after the warranty expired, half of the Sync display board went black. First thought was a blown fuse, but nope. Then there was a master reset after calling Sync but that did not help. I took it to the dealer who estimated the fix at over $1,000! Now we find out that Sync has been a reliability issue for Ford for quite some time. Do we have any recourse, or are we doomed to go without knowing the time or radio station? —B.K., Valparaiso, Ind.
A: Ford had a number of issues with the Sync system in its 2008-09 vehicles including an inoperative USB port, problems with the audio mating with non-Apple devices, background noises, poor sound quality, contact lists not downloading, and trouble with the steering wheel switches. We think you may have some luck asking your dealer (talk to the principal, not the service writer) for help, especially if you have been a good customer. Beyond that, you could look into the possibility of a class action suit.