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Q&A with Kit Foster: May 9, 2013


Q. I realize that you are concerned with problems with older cars, but I’m hoping you would let some of your experts give advice on my current problem. I now drive a 2004 Lincoln Town Car. I have a minor problem. Last week my driver’s side interior door handle broke off halfway between the swivel and the other end. I now open the door with two fingers behind what is left of the handle. Now, being old, fat and dumb, I went to my local Ford dealer to purchase a new handle. After I was told a new handle would cost $840 plus installation, I was left a little puzzled. The parts department explained that the handle is an integrated part of the door skin and I must install a complete new interior door skin to solve my problem. As the people who submit to this column are highly intelligent and innovative, perhaps one of them can tell me of any other way to solve my minor problem.

— Rolf Seebacher, Port St. Lucie, Fla.

A. I expect we’ll get some suggestions to your dilemma. My approach would be to scour junkyards for a complete inner panel. Hopefully you can find one in good condition in your color, and then just swap them out (jobbing out the installation if you’re not up for doing it yourself). If you can’t find an exact match on the panel, someone may be able to modify the mounting for the good handle so that it can be transferred to your panel.
This reminds me of the time a friend was told his 2001 Bentley needed new wiper blades. The dealer said the cost would be $600. My friend asked, “What, are they gold-plated?” The dealer’s service manager replied “Well, Sir, it is a Bentley.” His reply was equally terse: “That’s OK. I don’t drive in the rain.”


Q. Paul Pakan asked about foam-type carburetor cleaners (Apr. 4). I know of two brands that existed. I do believe there were some others, one for which dealers are listed on the internet. Sea Foam is a very good automotive product, albeit with an unusual name. The other was a GM product available through the parts department. It was an excellent product but very few people knew of it. Both of these products were aerosol. I worked in a service station in that time period. When we tuned up a vehicle, a lot of times we would use either one of these products and the vehicles would run excellent. Be sure to use them in a well-ventilated area or have the tail pipe ducted outside.

— John Birkholz, via e-mail

A. Paul Bubrick in Los Angeles says that ACDelco still makes a carburetor spray, called X-66A and available at Amazon. It is not, however, legal in California. Mr. Pakan said his Chevrolet dealer did not know about the product used by one of their mechanics on his car, which suggests it was not the GM brand. Scott Peterson, from Duluth, Minn., says he has used Valvoline spray cleaner for years on carburetors, fuel-injection bodies and vintage motorcycle carburetors to remove carbon buildup “to great success.” He says there is also a Ford carburetor/carbon cleaner. Both of these are in aerosol cans, but do not have foaming action.


Q. The “pennant” logo on Mr. Teply’s Studebaker (Q&A Apr. 4) is that of a Civil Defense Air Raid Warden. It was available as a decal or a patch.

— Ted Wylie, Brentwood, Tenn.

A. Thank you. Mr. Teply was right in his supposition: both stickers relate to World War II. We had quite a few replies on this one. Gary Estep, Bob Zaricor and Steve Hughes all concur with Mr. Wylie’s identification.


Q. As for Mr. Langelier with the 2011 Buick on which he wants to fit a hood ornament (Q&A Feb. 28), I suggest he should go see the DOT, as many states have outlawed hood ornaments (unless they are collapsible). If not, and it has a point or is not collapsible, then he won’t be allowed to fit it. It is way too dangerous if anyone comes sliding across the hood in an accident. That’s the reason car companies stopped using hood ornaments. Those that are still used will collapse.

— Dr. John Booth, AM900 CHML radio “Car Doctor,” Hamilton, Ont.

A. I neglected to address that concern in my response to the original question, since Mr. Langelier mentioned only the “crease in the middle of the hood” as the reason that body shops could not install his ornament. I’m not sure of the situation in Canada, where Dr. Booth is writing from, but in the United States, the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards are usually cited as requiring a collapsible ornament. I have been unsuccessful in finding the exact section that applies, however. It may actually have come about through a rule-making. In any case, Bentley was ordered to recall a number of 2007-2009 models because the retracting mechanism on the “Flying B” was prone to corrosion and failure to retract.

To submit questions to this column: E-mail or mail to: Q&A, c/o Angelo Van Bogart, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990-0001.

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