Q: I have what you might call a classic vintage car, a 1988 Lincoln Town Car. When I was returning from the store about a month ago, I heard a loud screech from the engine. I turned the key off, but it kept screeching. About a quarter-mile later, the noise stopped. I had it towed to a shop where they replaced the starter and solenoid and everything was fine for about two weeks, but the problem came back. I opened the hood and smacked the solenoid with the handle of a screwdriver and the noise quit. Do you think the repair shop left the old solenoid in the car?

J.G., Chicago

A: If the solenoid looks old and cruddy, yeah, they probably didn't change it. However, even a new component can be faulty. Give the shop a chance to make it good.

Q: We have a 1980 Lincoln Mark VI. Everything checked out fine during a recent tuneup except that it blows black smoke. The mechanic can't find the problem. Any ideas?

E.L., Allentown, Pa.

A: We don't often have an opportunity to answer questions about classic cars, but two in a row and both Lincolns? Wow. If memory serves us, the engine in that car had a variable venturi carburetor. That's right, an old fashioned carburetor. It needs attention. Black smoke indicates excessive fuel being incompletely burned. By the way, blue smoke comes from oil, not gas.

Q: How do you clean an engine compartment?

B.R., Yorktown, Va.

A: You could have it professionally steam cleaned, but if you want to save some money, clean it yourself. You will need an engine cleaning product and there are plenty on the store shelves. After spraying it all around, and waiting the prescribed time, rinse it off with water. If you have a pressure washer, all the better. Just avoid any electrical connections. You don't want water to get inside them.

Q: Have a wedding and need to drive five family members and luggage 850 miles. Two are seniors and I'm looking for comfort for the 14-hour drive. Obviously a minivan will do, but when in seven-seat mode, the luggage space is often small. Small SUVs seat five, but have little luggage space. Larger SUVs seem to be what I want but there are a lot of models. Plus it seems the luggage space can be an issue if all three rows are used. I'm confused. So I thought perhaps you'd have an opinion on some "premium SUV" or "large SUV" models that would fit the need. Give me something to use as a baseline to judge the offering of the rental car company.


A: We don't do car reviews, but three SUVs come to mind: The Chevrolet Suburban, Ford Expedition (especially the EL version) and Toyota Sequoia. The standard Suburban seats eight. It also has about 40 cubic feet of cargo space. The seats in the Expedition will accommodate seven. The Sequoia seats eight, seven with the second-row captain's chairs, which may suit the elders. All have adequate luggage space unless Grandma insists on bringing her steamer trunk.

Bob Weber is a writer, mechanic and ASE-certified Master Automobile Technician.