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Dear Tom and Ray:

I always thought my son had some sense. I am now beginning to wonder. He has a Honda Prelude with 55,000 miles on it, and it still has the original tires. He says the tread is good. He has three plugs in one tire, and he drives quite a distance to and from work; this is freeway driving and he says he goes 70-75 mph. Now, I say one would have to have suicidal tendencies to do such a thing and that he should buy new tires. This is no kid -- he is 43 years old. I think he is an accident looking to happen. What do you have to say? -- DonnaRAY: Well, Donna, you can always threaten to make him move out of the house. Most 43-year-old boys knuckle under to that kind of pressure.

TOM: But the truth is, Donna, he may actually be right. The plugs aren't anything to worry about. If they're installed correctly, they're just as safe as the original rubber. And if one ever does fail, the worst that will happen is that he'll develop a slow leak.

RAY: And although 55,000 is a lot of miles, it's possible that the tread is still good. If they were good tires to start with, if they've been rotated regularly, if he's been doing mostly highway driving, and if the car is fairly light (in weight, not color), tires can last that long.

TOM: On the other hand, Donna, most tires with 55,000 miles on them are junk. So he really ought to have a professional take a good look at them as soon as possible. The tread may be fine in some areas and worn out in others. Or the sidewalls may be cracking.

TOM: But you won't get him to do what you want by scolding him, Donna. I think you're going to have to turn up the heat a little bit. For some creative ideas, we refer you to Chapter 6 of the Mother's Handbook: "Whining, Guilt and Other Dirty Tricks."

Dear Tom and Ray:

Recently a reader wrote in about a problem with his '76 Volare which he described as a "great car." Although you answered his question, I beg to differ with some of the remarks you made. You warned him not to drive any other car while his was being repaired. Otherwise, you said, he might never again use the words " '76 Volare" and "great car" in the same sentence. I have been driving a '77 Volare since it was new and find it to be just as comfortable and driveable as any newer car I've driven through the years. My '77 Volare is a GREAT CAR!!! With 135,000 miles on it, I hope it will last another 100,000 at least. It's also been very economical and trouble-free, and it looks great! -- Carol

TOM: Gee, Carol. If I had to guess, I'd say you probably have exhaust leaking into the passenger compartment. That's the thing most likely to cause the symptoms you're exhibiting.

RAY: Yeah. One of the first signs of carbon-monoxide poisoning is an inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality. And if you think a '77 Volare looks great, you'd better get that exhaust system checked immediately. Good luck, Carol.

The Magliozzi brothers' radio show "Car Talk" can be heard each Saturday at 10 a.m. on KUER FM 90.1 If you have a question about cars, write to Click and Clack Talk Cars c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 East 45th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017.