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Automania/Repair & Maintainance


by Bob Hagin

Q. The antilock brake system on my 1994 GMC Truck Suburban has caused me to have two accidents. The dealer says that he can disconnect it and that's all I can get out of him. The "quality control" people who follow up on service problems at dealerships can't help either. My auto insurance deductible on my suburban is $500 so it has cost me $1000 in the past two years. Plus, I have lost my trust in the vehicle on a wet or rainy road. Is anyone else having this problem?
N.W. New Ibernia, LA

A. I haven't had any complaints about GMC Truck antilock brake systems failing in service but that doesn't mean that there hasn't been more problems like yours. Unfortunately, you don't explain exactly what happened (brakes didn't respond, certain wheels locked up while others didn't, etc.) so it's hard to find an answer to your problem. I'm not sure that disconnecting your ABS is legal so you'd better check with the Department of Transportation office near you before your dealer starts snipping wires. Also report the problem to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at 1-800-424-9393 as soon as possible. There may be others with problems like yours and a recall may be coming up. I just got a press release from the ABS Education Alliance (a coalition of antilock brake manufacturers) and in it Sam Memmolo, its national spokesman, says that one of the problems with ABS is that new owners of vehicles with the system need to be educated and practice in empty parking lots. He'll send you a free booklet on how to drive with ABS if you call him at 1-800-227-8958.

Q. I bought my 1989 Jeep Cherokee 4X4 new in 1989 that now has 125,000 miles on it. Occasionally the "Brake" light and "Check Antilock" light comes on, and the brakes would lose what felt like the power brakes, although they would still brake with heavy foot pressure. I would stop, turn off the key, wait a minute, and then everything was fine for several weeks until the above would repeat itself. Now the condition exists almost continuously, and two Jeep dealers have advised me that the entire anti-lock brake system must be replaced at an estimated cost of between $1400 and $1600. I'm not able to pay such a repair bill and was wondering if there is any way for the factory to compensate the dealer for this repair work.
W.G. Yuba City, CA

A. If it wanted to, the company could simply send your dealer a check. I don't think it will but it couldn't hurt to ask. Maybe you can cajole it into going for a piece of it anyway as a goodwill gesture. At 125,000 miles, auto makers feel that owners have long since gotten their money's worth out of a vehicle and should trade if off for a new one. I hope that you called the NHTSA hot-line when the problem first started and reported it. Sometimes the response letter from the government can be used as a lever with which to do a little cajoling down the line.

Q. Over the years I have been collecting toy cars (not models) that are really containers for other things. As examples, I have a small ceramic flower pot that's in the stylized shape of an old Corvette, an empty aftershave bottle that's in the shape of a dune buggy, a muscle massage "roller" that is in the shape of a Datsun 240Z, and a table radio that looks like the rear end of a '57 Chevy. Needles to say, my VCR rewinder looks like a late model Ferrari. I wonder if there is a national organization that's dedicated to the collection of these non-traditional auto collectibles. I'd like to know what other collectors have and what things like these are worth.
L.H. San Antonio, TX

A. I've found clubs that are dedicated to model and toy cars but I haven't found one that specialized in this type of memorabilia. If I get any letters from readers on the subject, I'll pass it on to you.

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