My 2004 Mercury Mountaineer ran fine except when I went through a
particular area in a neighborhood. The engine would die about 60
percent of the time I went by this one particular house. I would
stop the car and restart the engine. It would run perfectly fine
after that and I never had any running or starting issues any other
time. My guess is that it was a particular house that caused issues.
I was wondering if the house had an alarm system or something
similar that would interrupt my car’s ignition system. No other
vehicles I’ve had or been in had any issues around this house. It’s
been driving me crazy. Any thoughts?
A: In the
early days of computer engine controls, there were several tales of
vehicles stalling when passing radio transmission towers or
high-tension power lines. It didn’t take the engineers long to
come up with a solution. Today, modules, sensors and actuators are
extremely well-shielded and should not be subject to such ghosts.
Maybe you could knock on the home’s door with a box of doughnuts
in your hand and ask the owners if they have a nuclear-powered
microwave oven or something.
Q: The last
time I took my 2013 Lexus 350 to the dealer for an oil change, they
told me that I needed to have my brake fluid replaced because the
fluid changed color. I don’t quite understand, and never heard of
this before. Have you?
Downers Grove, Ill.
A: The color
of brake fluid may change, but that is not a valid indicator that it
is bad. The only reliable test we know of employs BrakeStrip test
strips from Phoenix Systems that change color (from white to
magenta) based on the amount of copper in the fluid, which increases
Q: In your
column recently, you answered a question about jump-starting a
vehicle. A few weeks ago, our car wouldn’t start one morning after
I had left an interior light on overnight. Our neighbor helped me to
jump-start it and then, once it was running, I took it out for a
drive on the expressway. I seemed to remember from my younger days
that doing so was necessary to recharge the battery. Was that a good
thing to do? Could I have achieved the same result just by letting
it idle for a period of time?
letting the engine idle is not a great idea. You want to get the rpm
above 1,200 and drive for about 15-20 minutes. If you car has a
voltmeter, make sure it is showing over 14 volts. It wouldn’t hurt
to invest a few bucks in a charger. You can get a decent one for
Q: Why are
old-technology brakes (brake drums with brake shoes) used on 2018
production cars/trucks as emergency/parking brakes?
A: The drum
brakes you refer to are only used when the vehicle is parked. They
are parking brakes, not emergency brakes. In fact, the term
"emergency brakes" has been purged from the automotive
lexicon. The tiny brake shoes apply against a small drum found on
the inside of the brake rotor which resembles a hat. It is a simple,
effective design that should never need service.