Question - For quite some time I've wondered about the support provided by the seats in today's automobiles. Specifically, I would like to know if there is an organization or individual who rates automobiles based on how "orthopedically correct" their seats are. - Peter
RAY: Not that we could find, Peter. Here's what we did find out.
TOM: We spoke to the International Chiropractic Association, and they recommend Geo Metros and Ford Aspires to everyone. Apparently, those little sardine cans really stir up the chiropractic business (just kidding, guys)!
RAY: The ICA actually says that people with back problems should look for seats with adjustable lumbar supports. No seat in particular stands out, they say, but it's important to find a seat that supports the normal curve of your back (to keep the discs in the back separated). Seats that allow you to slouch are the ones that create problems.
TOM: They also say that a softer, cushier ride is better than a hard, pounding ride for people with back trouble, although that doesn't mean a soft, cushy seat is better than a firm seat.
RAY: If your car does not have an adjustable lumbar support, the ICA recommends a product called Obus Forme, which is a movable cushion you place behind you. A cushion you already have around the house, or can buy locally, may do just as good a job.
TOM: I'll tell you what we'll do, Peter. Since a lot of people have back problems and nobody seems to collect this information, we'll try to collect it for you. So if any of you (our readers) have back problems and have found one car whose seat is particularly good or particularly bad for people with back problems, let us know about it.
RAY: Those of you with access to the World Wide Web, post a note on the bulletin board at our web site (http: //cartalk.com); the rest of you write to us in care of this paper. If we get any helpful information, we'll share it with you.
Question - Here's another Saab story for you! My girlfriend has a 1986 900 non-turbo. It starts fine, idles for a while, then stalls. If you try to start it, the battery just acts dead. If you jump-start it, it will run fine until you remove the jumper cables, then it stalls again. The gauges and digital displays jump around just before it stalls, with the voltage jumping from 5v to 27v. The alternator was replaced a year ago. Please help me! - John
RAY: While it could be another bad alternator, it's more likely to be a rare Swedish syndrome that Saabs suffer from called "ground-wire burnout." The ground wire that runs from the body of the alternator to the engine block somehow burns itself to a crisp. And without that ground, the alternator won't charge, and the car won't run.
TOM: We see this a lot when we're removing Saab alternators. You go to remove the ground wire, and it just crumbles. So we usually replace it with several ground wires. We gang them together and that seems to give them more staying power.
RAY: If a new ground wire doesn't fix it, then ask your girlfriend if you can see the original dealer invoice for this car. She may have inadvertently ordered Saab's Poltergeist Package. It didn't sell very well in '85, so in '86, they grouped it together with the sunroof and power antenna.
- Buying a car? Don't do it before you read "How to Buy a Used Car: Things Detroit and Tokyo Don't Want You to Know." You can order this booklet by sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No.10 envelope to Used Car, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.