I have trouble getting gas into my Explorer

Q. I have a 2002 Ford Explorer Ltd. and for the past several years I have been having trouble getting gasoline to go into my vehicle.  The gas starts to go in then the pump clicks off. I give it another try and the pump clicks off again, taking lots of time to fill the tank.  I have tried to figure out if it is better to let the fuel go down below a quarter tank or if weather is a factor but nothing is a consistent with this issue.  Another person I know has had the same trouble with their Explorer.  I brought the vehicle to the dealer and they said they would have to take out the fuel tank at a cost of over a thousand dollars.  According to them, this is not a common problem and Ford has not issued anything on the subject. Would you have any idea what is causing this and also recommend a remedy?  It feels like there is a vapor lock that is not allowing the fuel to enter. Any explanation or advice would be greatly appreciated. Winter is coming and standing out in the cold trying to pump gas is not fun. We always enjoy and read your Car Care column.

A. Two possibilities come to mind. First is an obstruction in the fuel filler tube. There is a “roll-over” valve that could be the problem. The filler neck can be removed and checked without removing the tank. The second issue is a clog in the venting system. This clog can be from dirt/mud or spider webs.

Q. I have a 2009 Ford Escape Hybrid which has been running fine and has gone through regular maintenance services. Recently the vehicle had a 35,000 miles maintenance service performed. Yesterday afternoon I came home and locked the car with no issues as usual. Today (Sunday) afternoon when I tried to unlock my car I was unable to do so. I unlocked the car with the key and heard a continuous cricketing sound coming from the inside of the car. Every time I tried to start the ignition, the sound stopped. I called AAA and the roadside assistance team helped in jump starting the battery and starting my vehicle. Should I be concerned about the battery and get it checked from the dealer?

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A. Certainly you should have the battery checked. As the garage (it doesn’t need to be the Ford dealer) is testing the battery, they should also check to see if there is a parasitic drain on the battery. The battery drain could be caused by an accessory or light staying on or even one of the cars computers not shutting down.

Q. I want to know if I am doing the correct thing for my Honda Civic. Every three months I have an oil change done with Mobil One oil. Recently I have had the transmission fluid flushed and replaced. Now I have been told I need to have the car winterized and the coolant replaced?

A. You may be over maintaining your car (which can’t hurt). Following the service schedule, the oil should be changed every 5,000 to 10,000 miles depending on how the car is driven. The transmission fluid has no specific service interval and should be changed only if it shows signs of contamination. The coolant is a long-life type and according to my maintenance records should last 100,000 miles.

Q. Every once in a while there is a squeak after I release the brakes on my 2005 Toyota Corolla. The mechanic thought the pedal just needed grease, but I can still hear the noise. Do you have any suggestions of what might be causing this?  Although the brakes are new, they squeaked before the repairs were done. Any thoughts?

A. There are a series of bushing that support the brake pedal and they need to be lubricated with a specific type of glycol grease. In addition to the bushings, it could be the pushrod that connects from the brake pedal to the power brake booster causing the noise. 

Q. I am told by two mechanics that the undercarriage on my 2001 Ford Focus wagon is too rusty for any expensive repairs and to look for another car. Currently, it vibrates badly until it has warmed up and the mechanics cannot find a reason. I would like a fuel efficient wagon. What do you think of the VW Jetta diesel? What about a used model?

A. The Volkswagen Jetta diesel Sportwagon is a well handling, fuel efficient and practical car. Currently used cars are at a premium so you may find that buying a new car compares favorably with a one year old used car.