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Only you can decide if it's time to buy a new car

Dear Car Fix: I have a 2003 Audi A6 with 84,000 miles on it. I was wondering if I should be trading it for a newer model. I'm thinking about trading it in and it has no problems, but it needs tires and basic maintenance, which will be around $1,400. What do you think?

-- L.M., Buffalo

Dear L.M.: If you are to trade in your car at a dealership, they are most likely going to offer you around $5,700 toward a new car, assuming your car is in good condition with normal wear and no major damage or need of repair. You can get the cost of any vehicle at www.kbb.com or www.edmunds.com. So now you have the trade-in value, and the repair value is about $1,400. This is a matter of personal choice.

Can you afford new car payments, higher insurance rates and still all the basic maintenance? Yes, the new car is safer, looks better and you get to pick out the options. If you can afford to do that, then shop around online and with local dealers to find the car you want. If not, you may opt to keep the car if it's in good shape. My rule is: If the car costs more to repair and maintain than the value of the car, then it's time to sell it.

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Dear Car Fix: I have a 2001 Chevrolet Tahoe and my "Service 4WD" light keeps coming on, and every time I make a stop I hear a humming sound. Please help me to get this problem fixed.

-- A.S., Niagara Falls

Dear A.S.: There are seven possible technical service bulletins on the 4-wheel-drive system of that car. Please check with your local GM dealer, as they may be able to fix it at no cost or at a minimal cost to you.

Many of the problems are related to the intermediate steering shaft that rattles, common on all Silverados, because of insufficient lubrication from the factory or wearing in the splines. In either case, the end result is excessive lash in the steering shaft link; in some conditions this will result in a rattle or humming sound.

GM has released a repair kit that requires removing the steering shaft and packing it with very thick graphite grease. This repair looks like it is going to fix the problem.

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Dear Car Fix: I bought a new car outside the Buffalo area. Now my local dealer is telling me I can't get service calls at local dealers, and I have to go back to the dealer I bought the car from out of state. This is crazy. What is the truth?

-- M.P., Buffalo

Dear M.P.: Every once in a while I hear this complaint, and it frustrates me, too. The truth is that the dealer is a franchise of the manufacturer. A good dealer who wants to create a relationship with consumers will never say this; however some salespeople use this as a tool to attempt to sell a car locally. The manufacturer stands behind the warranty and factory maintenance packages throughout its entire dealer network in Canada and the United States. If your local dealer refuses to stand behind its franchise agreement, I would contact the corporate offices or speak with the general manager.

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Dear Car Fix: I'm looking for a performance car that gets good fuel economy. I've always wanted a Mustang. Can you get both performance and fuel economy with all the new technology available today?

-- M.J.W., Lewiston

Dear M.J.W.: Yes, you can have your cake and eat it, too: The new Ford Mustang is available with a 3.7-liter Duratec 24-valve V6; producing 305-horsepower and 280 pound-foot of torque, it's a vast improvement over the previous generation. Despite the undoubtedly impressive engine, it earns 19 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway with the optional six-speed automatic. The V6 offers a Mustang Club of America package that really is worth the extra price for the upgrades to suspension and appearance. The new 5.0-liter V8 Mustang has 412-horsepower and 390 lb-foot of torque with EPA numbers of 18 city/25 highway with the automatic. Both engines allow for 10,000-mile oil change intervals. Both are decent improvements over the current GT models.

Do you have a question about cars for Car Fix? E-mail contact@laurenfix.com

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