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Ways to bring that accelerating, runaway car to a halt

Dear Car Fix: I hear all these news stories on cars accelerating on their own. I have an older Toyota and I'm concerned. What should one do to stop the car, and what is the correct thing to do? I hear so many conflicting stories. Please help me before this happens to me.

-- M.J.F., Williamsville

Answer: I've received many e-mails about many makes and models that have drivers concerned about what to do if their car speeds out of control. You may have a Toyota or another brand.

*Put the gearshift into neutral, if possible, to disengage the engine from its transmission and the rest of the power train without losing power steering or power brakes. Some cars may require you to hold the shifter in the neutral position for a few seconds until it clicks.

*Try applying strong, steady pressure to the foot brakes (do not pump the brakes), and engage the car's emergency brake, simultaneously if necessary.

*If you have a push-button ignition, shut off power to the engine by holding the button for 5 seconds or more. This also will result in a loss of power steering and power brakes, making it harder, though not impossible to steer and slow the car.

*If you use a key, try shutting down the engine by turning the ignition key to the off position. This will cut off the power steering and power brakes as well. Turn the ignition just one click, rather than all the way to the off position, to avoid the risk of locking the steering columns.

*As a last resort, drivers of a runaway car can try calling emergency-911 for assistance.

Try practicing putting your car in neutral in a parking lot. It's good to know your vehicle's controls.

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Jumping a dead battery

Dear Car Fix: I don't know how to jump a dead battery, and I'm worried about using jumper cables and how to connect them. Is there another way to recharge a dead battery?

-- L.B., Williamsville

Answer: I suggest that you learn to use jumper cables, but you can purchase a little battery jump starter at your local auto parts or mass merchandiser that plugs into the cigarette lighter. Black & Decker Simple Start is easy to use and will ease your concerns.

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Caring for tires

Dear Car Fix: I can never remember the "right way" to take care of my tires. I know you're supposed to rotate them every now and then to make sure they don't wear unevenly. Can you enlighten me about the best way to care for tires so that they'll last a long time (and so I can avoid buying a new set constantly)?

-- K.K., Akron

Answer: The best thing to do is get that owner's manual, the book in the glove box under all those napkins and ketchup packs. It tells you the proper way to rotate your tires. Some include the spare tire and others, while some criss-cross, some side-to-side or front to back. If in doubt on the condition of your tires, any tire store or dealer can check tread depth for you for free.

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DIY repairs

Dear Car Fix: What are the sort of quick and easy repairs that you recommend doing yourself, rather than having the garage handle it for you more expensively?

-- T.S., Wheatfield

Answer: Here is what you can "do-it-yourself" without getting in over your head:

*Battery (replace, jump or charge)
*Replace cabin air filters
*Change oil -- a little more difficult but you can do it!
*Check coolant/anti-freeze level
*Check fluids (brake, transmission, power steering)
*Replace engine air filters
*Replace headlight bulbs
*Change hoses and belts
*Rotate tires
*Lube squeaky door hinges
*Replace tail and marker lights
*Check tire pressure
*Add washer fluid
*Replace wiper blades

Which gasoline?

Dear Car Fix: How do you know what is the right gasoline for your car? -- W.B., Buffalo

Answer: Always use the grade of gasoline that is listed in your owner's manual or inside your gas door.

Have a question for Car Fix? Send questions to contact@laurenfix.com.

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