- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 5, 2004

Q: In one of your columns a reader asked for advice regarding a continual problem with a dead battery.

I had a similar problem for two years, until an alert fellow at a battery-only store in the Spokane Valley thoroughly checked all the little lights on my visors, in my trunk, etc. He discovered that the tiny light in the glove compartment was staying on after the compartment was closed.

He took the light out — who needs it, anyway? — and I haven’t had a problem since.

A: Smart mechanic! In situations involving repeated dead-battery or low-battery problems, checking the trunk lights, glove-box light, under-the-hood lights, visor lights, ashtray lights and other “little lights” is a good starting point, to make sure that none of them is staying on after the vehicle has been shut down.

Q: My husband says that you don’t have to change your spark plugs much anymore. He takes them out and wipes them down. He says that this is good enough. I say, since they are not that expensive and since you already have them out, just replace them. Maybe this is why my gas mileage isn’t as good as it used to be. What do you think?

A: While it’s not uncommon for today’s spark plugs to last as long as 100,000 miles, drivers should still have their plugs inspected periodically.

But your husband should do more than simply wipe them down. They should be cleaned thoroughly and then regapped to specifications. Spark plugs have a tendency to increase their gap with age, so regapping is important.

If the electrodes on the plugs show only normal deposits and minimal wear, however, cleaning and regapping are all they need to be like new. You would simply be wasting money to put in new plugs.As for your decreased miles per gallon, if your spark plugs show only minimal wear and are gapped properly, they should not cause your gas mileage to diminish. You may have to look elsewhere for the source of the problem.

Q: I have a 7-year-old Lincoln Town Car that has served me flawlessly, except for one thing: In recent months, off and on, the trunk does not open when I use either the remote or the button in the glove compartment. Sometimes it will respond for days, then suddenly not work. Can you give me an idea of what I should look for? Service stations have tried to find the problem, but so far without success.

A: I think a clue lies in the fact that the trunk won’t respond either to the remote or to the glove-box opener. To me that rules out the possibility that either of these units is defective.

The next time it won’t open, try opening it with your key. If it still doesn’t respond, the problem probably is in the trunk-latch mechanism itself. Something is hanging up on occasion and not allowing the trunk to release, and the answer could be as simple as cleaning the latch mechanism and lubricating it .

It could also be that the latching unit has become misaligned or loose, so that at times it will bind up and not allow the trunk lid to open freely.

There are other possibilities, but I’d look to the latch to find the cause of your problem.

General interest questions should be addressed to Bob Sikorsky in care of the New York Times Syndication Sales Corp., 122 E. 42nd St., 14th floor, New York, N.Y. 10168.

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