Q. I bought a 2009 Toyota Avalon, which runs great. My previous car was a 1999 Cadillac DeVille, which required premium gasoline and ran wonderfully for ten years. Toyota says the Avalon can use just regular fuel, but would it help the engine run cooler, and thus last longer, if I used mid-grade or premium fuel? I keep cars for a long time.-- E.V., Chicago

A. The Avalon is designed to run on regular-grade gasoline. You're wasting money by buying higher-grade fuel. Incidentally, a "cooler running" engine won't last longer. Rather, an engine is designed to be run at a prescribed temperature. There's no reason why it should overheat unless there is something wrong with its cooling system.

Q. Why doesn't the Chicago area have a world-class car show, like Michigan and California? -- J.F., North  Barrington

A. It has such a show--the Auto Historica IX show, held July 12 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Highland Park Historical Society. Joe Bortz, who is well known in collectible car circles for his restorations of fabulous 1950s and 1960s Detroit auto show "dream cars," says more than 50 invited cars will be at the show on the lawn of the historical society, near the downtown Highland Park, Illinois, business district at 326 Central Avenue. "The public selects the winners," Bortz said. "There will be a selection of high-end classic collectible autos, but also antique Indian motorcycles." Admission is $5 for adults, with children under 12 given free admission.

Q. The latest thing in car waxing/cleaning is supposed to be a clay bar. Eh? Sounds weird. -- M.K. West Chicago

A. Such a bar will grab and gently remove stubborn stains, blemishes and bonded contaminants such as tree sap mist on a vehicle body that won't flush off with washing. The bar leaves the body surface silky smooth, says Meguiar's, a  large car care products producer. It says anyone who has played with Silly Putty can used a clay bar.

Q. My 2007 Honda Accord has a four-cylinder engine. I'd like to use a synthetic oil, not regular oil as recommended by the owner's manual. I've read that synthetic is superior to regular and that I can improve fuel economy with it. Would I make the right decision by using synthetic oil or should I stick with regular oil? -- S.O., Chicago

A. Stick with regular oil. The more costly synthetic generally is best for high-performance, high-horsepower engines cars or for towing heavy objects.

Q. What's you opinion of rear-wheel-drive cars in Chicago winter for traction and handling? -- F.W., Chicago area

A. Millions of older Chicago area motorists drove only rear-drive cars with no major problems because front-drive wasn't available. We're fortunate in that there now are special winter tires that provide exceptional traction on slippery winter roads. Tread compounds of standard all-season tires progressively lose flexibility and road adherence when temperatures fall below 45 degrees. However, special winter tires are mostly for high-performance cars. With plowed and salted roads, and such increasingly available features as anti-skid systems, rear-drive cars are OK with regular all-season tires. Front-wheel drive, however, provides an edge during certain winter driving circumstances because more weight is over the drive wheels for better traction.

Q. How did General Motors, Ford and Chrysler make it through the Great Depression of the 1930s without a dime from Uncle Sam? --M.S., Highland Park

A. The "Big Three" were larger and thus had more money and resources than smaller U.S. automakers, some of which went out of business. There also was no foreign competition.

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