Q: I have a mint condition 1983 Lincoln Mark IV. The wipers will not shut off unless I shut off the engine. Then they will not start again unless I touch the wiper lever. Once again the wipers will not stop although the speeds are under control. The switch was removed but seems to check out with resistance readings between the contacts. Any solution other than replacing the switch, motor or both?
— A.T., Manchester, Conn.
A: Despite the mysterious goings on, there is a simple solution to the problem. There is a parking mechanism inside the wiper motor housing that trips a switch as the wipers come to the end of their cycle. It is most likely broken and easily replaced. Prior to solid state controls this was quite common. But don't overlook a faulty ground connection at the switch cover screw.
Q: With all of our cars we changed the oil and filter every three months and the air filter twice a year. We never had the brake fluid changed, nor the transmission fluid replaced, or a tune up. The tires never got rotated and all lasted about 50,000 miles per set. Why do you recommend that people should have these other things done? Were we just lucky or are people wasting money on unnecessary maintenance?
— J.N., Whiting, Ind.
A: We think you have had some luck, but we don't to rely on luck to get us down the road very long. With regular service, reliability increases. Tires last longer – maybe another 10,000 miles - when rotated periodically. Brake fluid may be fine, but if moisture gets into the system, the brake calipers and/or wheel cylinders will corrode and fail or lead to rapid brake lining wear. Worn out transmission fluid, which is usually due to overheating, will lead to transmission failure. If you want to hedge your bets, put your money on routine maintenance.
Q: I recently purchased a new 2012 Ford Focus Titanium. The car has a flex fuel system. The manual states I can use E85. I have heard conflicting stories. Some say the E85 is good for the engine. Some say not good. Also, I haven't purchased E85 because I can't find any gas stations in my area that sell it. Any help?
— J.C., Darien, Ill.
A: The engine does not care what it is burning. You are free to use the fuel of your choice. E85 is usually much cheaper than regular gasoline (which is usually E10 or ten percent ethanol), but provides poorer fuel economy. Using E85 does, of course, help reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Q: I have a 2006 Mercury Mountaineer and a 2009 Toyota Sienna. I would like to increase the oil change intervals (if possible) using a good quality synthetic motor oil and filter. I was curious as to what your thoughts on this matter would be. We live in the Chicago area and change the oil every 4,500 to 5,000 miles using conventional motor oil and filters. Also, could you recommend a particular brand of filter and motor oil?
— T.R., Mount Prospect, Ill
A: We don't want to get into the area of recommending oil brands as we don't have the wherewithal to test and compare them. But we feel safe in saying that you can easily extend your oil changes using synthetic oil to maybe 10,000 miles. But you risk voiding the warranty if you can't prove that you have changed the oil at the recommended intervals so this would be a post-warranty option. Consider also the economics of whether the higher price offsets the longer times.
Q: I'm in the market to replace my 2002 Ford Escape that has over 200,000 miles on it. Whenever I've purchased new cars over the years, I've always gotten a 6-cylinder engine. My logic is that since I drive a long way to work (120 mile round-trip every day) and I tend to keep my cars a long time, a 6-cylinder engine won't have to work as hard as a 4-cylinder. Is there validity in thinking that a 6-cylinder engine doesn't have to work as hard as a 4-cylinder on the expressway and therefore it should last longer?
— S.B., Carol Stream, Ill.
A: No engine works very hard when cruising on the expressway so you can easily get many miles out of a four-banger and save some money on gas to boot. The extra displacement of a 6- or 8-cylinder engine helps when it needs to do some grunt work like climbing hills, towing a boat or drag racing between traffic lights.
Q: I have a 2000 Chevy Prizm (identical to a Toyota Corolla) with 120K miles. I have to add oil every 100 miles. Looking on the internet, I have found that many Corolla and Prizm owners have had the same issue with cars from the late 90's and early 2000's. Is this a manufacturing defect that was fixed on later models? Did Toyota and Chevy acknowledge the defect? Why was there no recall?
— C.W., Orland Park, Ill.
A: The hydraulic timing chain tensioner may be the culprit. There is a rubber O-ring in the tensioner body that hardens, crack and allows oil to leak. Discuss it with a Toyota technician since this is a Toyota engine. Although it does occasionally happen, carmakers seldom issue a recall for issues other than safety.