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What to do with son's old car while he's away at college

Dear Car Fix: My son is leaving for college in the fall; I'm really worried about what to do with his car. He can't have a car as a freshman and none of us want to drive that old thing, and I can't sell it because when he's back home during breaks he'll have nothing to drive. What do I do with this car until he returns? Should I start it every once in a while or just let it sit?

-- D.L., Clarence

Dear D.L.: This is a nagging question with many parents who send their freshmen off to school and don't want to give up their car when they are back for the summer or during breaks. Here's what I suggest:

1. Fill the gas tank and add a fuel-stabilizing additive to prevent the gas from oxidizing and deteriorating.

2. Change the oil and repair any leaks or drips from the engine, transmission, brakes and rear end.

3. If possible, choose a garage or other storage facility that's dry. Damp air will cause rust over a long period of time.

4. Wash and wax the car well to prevent corrosion.

5. Disconnect the battery, so the battery doesn't fail. A trickle charge can be purchased at a parts store and will protect the battery if stored inside. If you remove the battery, use a battery box and store it on wood blocks.

6. It's not recommended to start the car every once in a while, because it will create moisture in the exhaust.

7. If you decide to reduce the insurance coverage for the duration of the semester, don't forget to leave fire and theft insurance coverage on the vehicle.


Dear Car Fix: I have a 2005 Grand Caravan with a problem. I have contacted the dealer and Chrysler with no response. When we bought the car new we purchased extended coverage up to 70,000 miles. The problem is serious -- our gas pedal sticks when it is depressed. It feels like it gets caught and you need to use additional pressure in order to properly depress the pedal. There is a Technical Service Bulletin issued for Jeep models recalled due to sticky pedals; perhaps this needs to be investigated further.

Another problem is the automatic door entries fail to work; keyless entry failed to work as well. The service technician at the dealer checked the fuses and rapidly knew they weren't at fault, but he wanted to charge me to investigate further. One door works with a key and the hatch -- this is inconvenient.

These issues are minor but they are safety issues. If you need to accelerate to avoid a traffic problem, I definitely will experience a delay. If I fail to lock my doors manually, they don't lock.

-- J.M., West Seneca

Dear J.M.: The most important issue is the sticky gas pedal; what is happening is the inside of your throttle body around the throttle plate has a lot of carbon built up around it, causing the throttle plate itself to stick. The best fix is a combustion chamber cleaner that you spray in through the throttle body. Concentrate on the sides next to where the throttle plate pivots and also clean off the back side of the plate itself. Chrysler should do this for you for free, as you bought the extended service and this is a simple repair that costs $7 for the can.

The door locks are more than a safety issue; they are frustrating. There is a technical service bulletin on the door locks, TSB 08-040-04, which states to "reflash of BCM to fix intermittent door lock and alarm problems." This is a factory defect on 2005 Dodge Caravans and Grand Caravans and the dealer must repair the problem for free.


Dear Car Coach: I have a problem with intermittent acceleration with a 2011 Toyota Tundra. The manufacturer says nothing's wrong with it, the dealer won't even look at it anymore. I went through arbitration and was denied. It had acceleration problems six times since June 2011.

-- D.O., Lockport

Dear D.O.: Toyota claims that software glitches were an early suspect in the rash of reports of sudden, unintended accelerations reported in Toyota vehicles in 2010, some of which caused severe accidents and several fatalities. But both Toyota and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded that electronics were not at fault, instead blaming bad floor mats, sticky accelerator pedals and, in some cases, driver error. Toyota has never conceded that an electronics or software problem could be responsible in any way for sudden acceleration in its cars and trucks. As there are no technical service bulletins or recalls, you can either sell the vehicle, if you can afford to, or continue to check the forums online. Be careful on the roads and create a log for when these issues occur and continue to report this to Toyota on their online safety portal and