Q: 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?
J.S., Naperville, Ill.
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?
R.P., 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 with depletion.
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?
J.H., Evanston, Ill.
A: Just 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 about $30-$40.
Q: Why are old-technology brakes (brake drums with brake shoes) used on 2018 production cars/trucks as emergency/parking brakes?
L.T., Bethlehem, Pa.
A: The drum brakes you refer to are only used when the vehicle is parked. 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.
Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and Master Automobile Technician.