QDear Tom and Ray:

We are having a crisis of conscience. My husband is an editorial cartoonist, and I'm quite certain he holds the world record for anti-SUV cartoons. Unfortunately, our moral superiority is about to be flushed down the drain. We are building a cabin in the north woods of Wisconsin. We have been using our trusty Taurus wagon, with more than 90,000 miles on it, to ferry building materials up to the work site every weekend. We've had to walk in several times during the winter (about half a mile or so) carrying our gear when the snow was deep. When spring came, we got stuck so deep in the mud that we had to be towed, and the tow-truck driver almost refused to come in himself. I'm afraid we need a different vehicle. -- Mary

ATOM: There are a couple of directions you can take, Mary. One is, obviously, to find a single vehicle that suits all of your needs.

RAY: But if you really need to navigate deep, unplowed snow and wet mud, you'll need a real SUV. And depending on how much comfort you want in a day-to-day vehicle, that could run into serious money. Not to mention the additional dough you'll fork over at the gas pump.

TOM: So instead of spending that money on an SUV, why not pay somebody to grade you a road? If you build a road that final half-mile to your cabin, you can have someone come and plow it when it snows. Mud won't be an issue at all.

RAY: Another option is to buy an old, beat-up four-wheel-drive pickup truck and leave it up there. Arrange with a friend or a local gas station to let you store it nearby. When you go up to your cabin, stop and swap vehicles, jump-starting the truck, if necessary, and take the old four-wheel-drive the final few miles.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I took my car to a mechanic because it was losing radiator fluid. The mechanic said that I would need a new radiator, along with a new thermostat and sensor, which would run about $600. I told him fine. He ordered the parts but said it would be a few weeks. While waiting, I had another mechanic look; he replaced the radiator cap, and now my car is fine! Now, the first mechanic says I need to pay a restocking fee -- 20 percent of the cost of the parts. Do I legally have to pay this fee? -- David

RAY: Mechanic No. 1 should be embarrassed to have almost cost you $600 when a $20 radiator cap was all you needed. He should be falling over himself apologizing for failing to check something as obvious as the radiator cap. I'd tell him to chase you for it. You'd win, hands down, in any small-claims court.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click & Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c)2005 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman