Q. What do you think of the new “E15” gasoline that I hear has been cleared for sale in Illinois and a few other states? — F.K., Melrose Park, Ill.

A. I don’t like it. It’s a new gasoline blend containing 15 percent ethanol, and few service stations offer it. None are in Illinois, as of this writing. Most gasoline now has a 10 percent ethanol blend. That’s bad enough because ethanol lacks the “firepower” of gasoline and thus isn’t as effective for engines. Ethanol is made from corn, and the ethanol industry is battling for its widespread use. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved E15 only for vehicles with a model year of 2001 and later, although it says E15 may may be more corrosive than other fuels and emits a hotter exhaust, which could cause leaks or greater wear in vehicles not designed to use it. Automakers have said they don’t recommend using E15 even in post-2001 models.  

Q. I’ve bought a 2004 Ford Thunderbird (two-seater) with 20,000 miles on it. The dealer wants me to buy a five-year/60,0000-mile warranty for the car for $2,400. I will drive it only 2,000 miles per year. Should I take the warranty? Will I have trouble getting parts, and will they be more expensive? — L.B., Geneva, Ill

A. Tell the dealer to take a walk. You don’t need that warranty. After all, you didn’t buy a 1955 Thunderbird two-seater. Your “T-Bird” has been driven relatively few miles and uses modern Ford parts, so they should be easy to get and shouldn’t be unusually expensive. The one exception may be obtaining parts such as trim items, but the car is still fairly new so that shouldn’t be much of a concern. Incidentally, even parts for a classic 1955-57 Ford Thunderbird two-seater can be obtained from specialty outfits because that Thunderbird model is popular among collector-car folks..   

Q. I read that a vehicle’s air filter should be replaced. Why? — E.L., Phoenix

A. A clogged air filter prevents sand and dirt from restricting air flow to the engine—thus hampering a vehicle’s performance. This is especially true with older carbureted engines. All vehicles should be well-tuned for the best performance and fuel economy. While modern cars largely “self-tune” and don’t require the maintenance of older models, manufacturer-recommended maintenance is still needed for newer cars, notes Royal Purple, which makes vehicle lubricants such as motor oil. After all, they’re still just machines.

Q. Is the American full-size van dead? I have fond memories of my 1970s van, which had colorful murals on its side and shag carpets in the interior. — E.C., San Francisco

A. The full-size van, which often was converted to a “living room on wheels,” looks as if it’s on its way out because smaller, lighter commercial vehicles that use less gas will replace it. Minivans and sport-utility vehicles caused the full-size van to lose much of its popularity, although it’s used by plumbers, electricians and repairmen.

Q. What do you think of new federal rules mandating a near doubling of fleet average fuel economy by 2015?— M.S., Arlington, Virgina

A. Those rules will force Americans to pay more for many vehicles they don’t really want and will cut down on the variety of vehicles offered. But what do you expect from Washington and the mass media, which are virtually brain-deal when it comes to cars? 

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