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Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1989 Dodge Colt. I bought it on an impulse, and I'm just not happy with it. Do you have any suggestions on how I can relieve myself of it? Ads in the newspaper are expensive and haven't been successful. I have thought of trading it in, but I'll lose too much money. Any advice? - CathyRAY: Well, Cathy, since cars depreciate the most during their first year, I'm afraid you're going to take a bath on this one. You'll definitely get more money selling it privately than you'll get in a trade-in, so be patient - advertising in the weekend editions of the newspaper is your best bet.

TOM: But the most important thing to do is to come up with a really creative reason for why you're selling it. You don't want prospective buyers to hear that you're just not happy with the car. You might want to tell them, for example, that you've just been given use of a company car. If that doesn't work (or if they find out you're really a UPS driver), tell them that the Colt is just too powerful for you - that it smears your makeup every time you go zero to 60 - and you're looking for something a little more sedate.

RAY: Good luck selling it, Cathy. And after you sell, you should do something about this impulsive behavior of yours. It could get you into serious trouble someday. Why not spend some of the money from the sale on a BMW? A Behavior Modification Workshop!

Dear Tom and Ray:

My daughter's 1985 S10 Blazer has a standard transmission. It started losing clutch fluid regularly about a year and a half ago. No one has found any evidence of a leak. She thinks I know nothing about cars. If you could give me the answer, I could be a hero. - Buddy

TOM: Well, Buddy, I hope she hasn't picked up the paper today before you have, or she'll KNOW you know nothing about cars.

RAY: Anyway, clutch fluid can only leak from three places: the master cylinder, the slave cylinder or the tubing connecting the two. If you don't see any obvious leaks, the place to look would be on the driver's floor right above the clutch pedal.

TOM: If the master cylinder is leaking, this is where the fluid will wind up. The master cylinder is mounted in front of the driver, just on the other side of the fire wall. Fluid may be leaking down into the passenger compartment and collecting on the driver's floor. It could also run down underneath the carpet, where it would be absorbed by the padding.

RAY: Next time your daughter's glued to "The Simpsons," go out to the Blazer and pull up the carpet. If you see evidence of fluid under there, tell her the master cylinder needs replacing. If it's dry as a bone, trace the line from the master cylinder to the slave cylinder near the transmission. If there's no fluid on the line, the slave cylinder must be the culprit.

TOM: Tell her to replace it, and you'll be a hero, Buddy. But if you want this scheme to work, don't forget to destroy the evidence. Make sure you hide the article in a place she'll never look for it - like inside her school books!

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