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NEW FORD DEVICE SHAKES UP CARS TO DETECT FOUL SOUNDS

It's hot, it's cool and it shakes, rattles and rolls.

Instead of spending $20 million to equip its assembly plants with high-tech machines to find squeaks and rattles in new cars and trucks, Ford Motor Co. has created a $3.6 million tester that's contained in two truck trailers it can move from factory to factory.It's a mini-environment on wheels. Drive a new Lincoln up its ramp, close the doors and "Transportable Environmental Four Poster" can simulate a rough ride in climate conditions that range from 140 degrees to minus-20 degrees.

The idea is to find foul sounds before they get to the car buyer's ears by putting pre-production vehicles through conditions they might experience in real life.

A technician sitting inside listens and locates problems that cause buzzes, squeaks and rattles as four computer-controlled posts under the car's tires move to simulate real roads at Ford test tracks.

"Squeaks and rattles represent the most sophisticated set of engineering problems that exists in a vehicle," Ford engineer Ken Reuther said Monday at a demonstration of the tester at the company's assembly plant in Wixom.

"Now when we launch a new product, we can test it right at the assembly plant instead of shipping the vehicle to Dearborn," Reuther said.

At Wixom, Ford is using the machinery to shake the bugs out of its new Lincoln Continental, which is due in December. Next stop is Louisville, Ky., for the launch of the new Explorer sport-utility vehicle.