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Q. I ran over a piece of sharp scrap metal. Two miles later, I had a flat tire and a cut about one inch in length on the sidewall. Now, it will cost approximately $100.00 to replace the tire. Is there any way to patch the tire? I know that plugging it won't work since it's not a nail puncture, but is there a patch that will work? If not, since it's a tubeless tire, will an inner tube do the trick?

A. There is no way to make any repairs whatsoever on the sidewall of a tire. That's called a "road hazard" failure and all you can do is replace the tire. Chances are, there is more damage than that one cut in the tire after a two-mile ride on it low or flat. When the tire is removed from the wheel, you will find little rubber pieces in the inside that kind of look like hair.

Q. We have a 1996 Escort station wagon and cannot get the key to turn in the ignition to start the car. One garage, having never seen the car, has suggested that the entire ignition will have to be taken out. This seems a bit extreme since the steering wheel just cannot be unlocked. We've tried pushing, turning, pulling, and jiggling every which way though and it just doesn't give the way it normally does. Any suggestions?

A. The garage is right. The ignition lock cylinder will need to be replaced.

Q. The coil spring on the front driver side wheel of my car is broken, about midway. It will take three days for the repair shop to get a new one to replace it. Both sides will need to be replaced and I have to get new struts. I was told it would be all right to drive the car this week as long as I didn't do heavy highway driving. I do not have an alternate vehicle, but would rent a car if advised. I drive about 20 miles to and from work each day. Would it be ok to continue to drive the car with the broken coil spring?

A. Unadvisable! Why even consider taking the risk? Coil springs support the weight of the car. Unplanned changes in weight distribution can cause loss of stability or control. Rent a car, better to be safe than sorry.

Q. My Volvo 2001 V70 XC has developed a serious problem. After parking my car at my parents' home for about 10 days while I was out of the country, I find that I can't get it to accept fuel. The first time I tried to fill it up, the pump kept shutting off as if the tank were full (the low fuel light was on). I was able to dribble about 1/4 tank full into it, but I stopped trying in frustration, assuming there was a problem with the service station pump. The gauge shows nearly empty, but the filler nozzle keeps shutting off and spitting gas. The car has suffered no physical damage; no work has been done on it since a brake job six weeks ago. Anyone have any ideas as to what my problem might be? I looked behind the rear tire, and there is no damage to the tire well in the area of the filler tube.

A. Maybe the evaporate vent valve is stuck closed and the tank can't vent while filling the tank. If it was sitting for ten days, a mouse could have chewed on a wire. That wire could have been sitting against the frame and grounding out, giving you the indication that you needed gas. Push the gas nozzle all the way into the filler tube. Then pull the nozzle out without squeezing the handle all the way, and then push it back in. You should get it checked by a reliable mechanic or take it to the dealer.

Q. My front passenger window is stuck in the down position, and will not respond to the electric up/down button controller. Could you please tell me how to fix this?

A. You either have: a bad window motor, a bad window switch at one of the front doors, an open wire connection, or the window is binding on the guides. If the window doesn't seem to be getting any power, check the switches first. Nine times out of ten all you need to do is take the switch apart and clean up the contacts. This is the part of the switch that completes the circuit when you push down on it. Because of the design; the switch housing facing up lends itself to filling up with dirt, rain, spilled drinks, etc.

Q. I only get my 30,000 mile service done and skip the 15,000 mile service. I always get my tires rotated every 5,000 miles and my oil changed every 3,000 miles. What am I missing with the 15,000 mile service?

A. You have a good plan. Regular oil changes and tire rotations are the most important. Checking belts and topping off fluids at oil change time, along with a visual inspection of the engine for leaks as well as the overall car for burned out bulbs, bad wipers, etc., should do it. The spark plugs should be changed every 30 - 50 K unless you have the new extra long life plugs. Keep up the good job.

Q. Yesterday, my car died in the middle of the road. I tried to restart it, but it just made a ticking noise. So I got out of the car and a kind gentlemen pushed it to the side, let me use his cell phone and I went back to the car to get my stuff. I tried to start it again, and this time it started, so I was able to drive it up to a store parking lot, but it died again right before I got to the parking space. Later on that day, my husband was able to drive it to his office parking lot. What can the problem be?

A. The next time your car dies, see if you can turn on the headlights. If they don't come on, it's a dead battery or a shot alternator. If it's the alternator, you're running only on battery juice and when it's empty, it dies and slowly recharges itself. If the lights come on, it could be something like an oil pressure problem or maybe even a speed sensor depending on how fast you were going. If you stop at a light and the car kind of stumbles before it dies, it's probably something like a speed sensor. Take it to a garage and have it checked.

Q. The Check Oil light on my '96 Cavalier stays on after the engine is started; if I turn the engine off and restart, the light goes out. The crankcase is full and the filter is new. This all started after a new starter was installed. What's up?

A. Check the connector on the oil level sensor that goes in the oil pan. It may have gotten knocked loose or is broken. If you paid to have the starter done, take it back and have them check it.

Q. I'm hoping someone can give me an idea of what's wrong with my daughter's truck. It is a 1991 GMC Sonoma, standard transmission. She is having a hard time getting the gearshift lever to move into the first and second gear positions. It goes into third without a problem and the truck runs fine once it is in third gear. The clutch was replaced about six months ago. Do you think it could be the transmission? I believe she got her money out of it, but I don't know it it's worth sinking a lot of money into fixing it. Does anyone have any ideas about what could be the problem?

A. First and second gears are both on the far left side of the shift pattern. Look to ensure nothing got dropped down under the shift boot and is blocking the shift lever, then look under truck to ensure linkage is all secure and not hitting something there. Try changing the gear oil to synthetic before taking the truck in for diagnosis. Have her use the truck for several days to see if the problem gets better. Check the clutch master cylinder to see if it is full of fluid.

Q. I have a 01 Ford F150 with the AOD switch on the shifter. The fuse is blowing. It does not blow immediately. The first one lasted a month and the second time a week. Has anyone experienced this?

A. Pull off the plastic covers around the steering column. At the bottom of the trans shifter, the wire is rubbing the metal surface and blowing the fuse. You will need to replace the shifter handle. The switch is not the problem - it's the wires coming out of the shifter handle. It is rubbing the wires bare. To get the ignition key and tumbler out, turn the key to run and you will see a hole in the plastic cover that does not have a screw in it. On the right side under the collar, take a small pocket screwdriver or punch and push in on the release. Pull the key and tumbler out.

Q. I have 3-year-old gasoline in a 1978 Dodge 440c.i. motor home. Do I need to do anything more than drain the fuel and replace it? Will there be varnish left in the fuel tank that I need to worry about?

A. The problem won't be in the tank; it will be in the carburetor. Get the fresh gas in the tank and see how it runs. A couple of bottles of carbonator cleaner in the tank wouldn't hurt.

Q. I have a 98 Plymouth Breeze, 2.0L 4 cylinder ,60K miles. The car has been acting up for about a year. What I mean is when brake is pressed, immediately before the car stops, the engine kind of goes to low rpm, and then picks up speed again back to normal idling. The engine died once last week. What should I suspect?

A. Start by cleaning the throttle body and idle speed control motor. See if that clears up the problem. The throttle body is where the air enters the engine, usually where the black tube from the air filter ends and the engine begins. You should be able to remove the tube and get a good look at the throttle body.

Q. How do I remove the tail light assembly to replace the brake lamp?

A. Drop the gate down. There are two screws on the side. Using a 10mm socket or wrench, remove two screws and gently pull it straight out. If you have a bed liner and tailgate extender, remove them first.

Q. Does anyone know procedure for replacing strut bearings?

A. Remove the strut assembly. Then compress the spring with a spring compressor. Remove the nut on top of the strut plate. The bearing will be below plate.

Q. I have a 1993 Cadillac Sedan Deville and I have a small rolling wheel that rolls every time I open and close the door. It's between the door hinges that's tearing up, and I need to replace it. What is this part called?

A. That part is called a door check.

Q. I own a 2002 Saturn L300. It is driven primarily to work and back (5 miles total) and it is also the car that goes on road trips. When I start it, a cloud - sometimes small, sometimes large - of white smoke puffs from the exhaust. This happens most notably in the morning, but my wife drove the car on a 230-mile round tripper last Saturday, and after sitting for two hours, a small cloud spewed upon start-up. It does not smell like oil, but has a chemical odor and can be thick in the morning. I took the car to the dealer last year for this problem when it was very infrequent and they could find nothing wrong and suggested that it was just moisture that accumulates because the car does not get fully warmed up in my daily driving. What can it be?

A. If you are getting large clouds of white smoke, you most likely have a cracked engine head or a bad head or intake gasket. Watch the coolant level - if it drops, you will know what your problem most likely is. GM had a huge problem with their V8 and V6 Vortex engines for several years with leaking intake gaskets. I personally have two of the 97 PU vehicles and both had the same problem. I am not sure about the Saturn engines (is this the Ecotech 2.2?). You might want to have your dealer pull all Technical Service Bulletins for this vehicle; you are probably not the only one having this problem.

Q. I have an '88 Isuzu Trooper and when I make a left hand turn while running the air conditioning, the water under the dash on the passenger side tends to drip onto the floor. Is there something that's stopped up that needs to be cleaned out?

A. Your drain for your evaporator core is probably blocked up. To find where the drain tube is, run your a/c and look to see if there is any water coming from under the car. This is where the drain tube will be.

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