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Q.   In 2000 I bought a used Chevrolet Cavalier with the four-cylinder
engine. It had 34,000 miles. I purchased an extended warranty from the 
dealership for $2000. Last year I had a water pump, an oxygen sensor 
and a cruise control module replaced. It was done at the dealership 
because of the zero deductible insurance. In December of last year the 
engine started to knock. We parked it and had it towed to the 
dealership. The service representative there said that the motor needed 
to be torn down and the insurance company would pay on the zero 
deductible but if the cost of the repair was over $1000, the insurance 
company would send out a mechanic to look at the car. This was done and 
the representative said that the company denied the claim because the 
engine ran out of oil. Four days before the incident the car was 
serviced for the cruise control module at the dealership and no 
mechanic there saw the engine oil light on. At that time, the engine 
had oil. I have done everything maintenance-wise to the vehicle. I have 
all the oil receipts that meet all requirements by GM. I had the engine 
replaced by an independent engine replacement shop. The mechanic there 
told me that he didn't know what caused the failure but it didn't 
indicate engine failure due to lack of oil. An attorney said he was 
confident I can win in court but it would cost $4000 in legal fees. 
Service contract people know that they can get out of paying for these 
claims because it's going to cost too much to sue them. What would you do?
                           R.B. Romeoville, IL
A.   If an engine totally runs out of oil and starts to rattle, it has a
life expectancy of about 10 seconds before it comes apart. Small claims 
courts vary from state to state and from county to county and it's 
worth a try, but you'd best get a detailed written explanation of what 
happened to the original engine if you want to prove your point. 
Extended warranty insurance companies are in the business of making 
money and if they can figure a way to not pay claims, they'll do it.

Q.   I will be getting a new four-cylinder Toyota Highlander soon and I
would like to know what the correct warn-up procedure is. Do I need to 
keep the engine RPM down or the vehicle speed down when warming it up? 
How long should I go in distance before bringing it up to normal speed?
                             S.W. Wilton, CA
A.   You don't have to worry much about how long to warm up your
Highlander once you get it broken in and in my experience, that takes 
at least 500 to 1000 miles. During that period, I suggest that the 
engine oil level be checked by the owner pretty often. The new Honda 
S2000 seems to use a lot of oil for the first 1000 miles or more before 
it settles down to a normal consumption level. Once the initial break 
in is over, it's a good idea to get underway as soon as you start the 
engine and then proceed at about half throttle until the temperature 
gauge indicates that the engine is warming up. As you're rolling along, 
it allows the rest of the running gear to warm up at the same time.

Q.   I get the motor oil and filter changed regularly on my 1988 Mercury
Grand Marquis and have the fluids checked and changed periodically but 
I wonder about how often I should have the wheels aligned. Is it 
necessary to do it on a schedule or only when I hit a curb?
                            L.B. Westbury, NY
A.   Experienced technicians will give your Mercury a cursory exam
whenever the car on the lift. Tire wear and the condition of the 
suspension hardware and bushings indicates if the wheels are in need of 
service as will tire wear. Also your own perception of a "pull" to the 
right or left or highway wander will indicate a problem. There's no 
schedule for wheel alignments. Try to avoid hitting curbs. it hard on 
the nerves as well as the machinery.