Jumper Cables for Starting a Car PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

Is it safe to use jumper cables on my car to start another car? My husband says it will damage my car.

Thank you,


Dear Mitch,

Your husband is right with his way of thinking.

This is the reason why a lot of the car manufacturers since around 1996 are hiding the battery and or making only the positive battery cable exposed. It is better to carry a jump box instead of a pair of ole jumper cables in your truck.

I am a huge supporter of the jump box and exploit it every time I have possible. You can pick up a jump box at most any auto parts stores for about 45.00, and it makes it possible to jump start your car without having that 2nd vehicle around.

Thanks for writing in and I tell your husband that he may be right about this but not everything!

1998 Lincoln Mark VIII Suspension PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I have a 1998 Lincoln Mark VIII that has been a great car. At 80K miles, the check air suspension signal comes on at highway speeds. I can drive it all day around town and no signal. I can stop turn it off and restart. The car raises back up and the signal goes off. Two mechanics both say that it is not the air bags. They did not have software to communicate with the suspension. Help!

Dear Lincoln owner,

I think the question should be: How many Lincolns that are around do not have some sort of Suspension quirk?

I am being a little sarcastic because it has never failed showing no matter how many Lincolns that I bought for my mom, every single one of them ended up having some sort of suspension issue.

You need to take your car to the Lincoln dealer and specifically ask them to scan this air ride issue. It could be the sensors in the air bags, the vent valve, or many other issues. So it is well worth paying for the scan to determine what the problem is to fix it ASAP in order to prevent any further damage.

Thanks for the question,

Speed Control in 2007 Toyota Highlander PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I am an avid follower of your column and enjoy the information and advice that you provide to your readers.

I recently purchased a 2007 Toyota Highlander with a V6 engine and 5-speed ECT-i automatic transmission and have a concern over the rate at which the vehicle slows down after removing your foot from the gas pedal. The vehicle will very slowly reduce speed until the engine is running at approximately 1100 rpm and the speed is slightly over 25 mph. At this point, the vehicle acts as if the cruise control is engaged and you can continue traveling down the road without any input from the gas pedal. To slow the vehicle further requires excessive braking or by putting the transmission into neutral.

My inquiry to my local Toyota dealership yielded information that this behavior was "normal" for this transmission and the set-up yields better performance and improved fuel economy (something to do with the torque converter remaining engaged for a longer period of time). My opinion is that a safety concern exists because of the tendency to continue driving at speeds higher than anticipated when you expect the vehicle to drop to an idle speed of approximately 800 rpm. Also, I am anticipating several brake jobs in my future since this appears to be the only means to slow the vehicle.

Is this a Toyota design flaw or is it something that is working as intended?

Thanks in advance for your information!


Dear Jerry,

Your Toyota Highlander is under factory warranty so I would insist that your local Toyota Dealership correct this problem. I totally agree with you regarding how unsafe it is and will definitely be costing you tons of money in the future, equivalent to what you should be spending on pine-coladas while vacationing! I have had a similar problem in the past, would take it to the dealership; they would drive it around the block and tell me that nothing was wrong with it being as they could not get the problem to rear its ugly head while in their possession. They kept telling me that they would have to duplicate the problem in order to be able to repair it; so I left it with them and insisted that one of their service techs drive it to and from work, knowing that the problem would rear its ugly head eventually and sure-enough about 3 days after they had it, they were able to get the problem to duplicate the ugly symptom. So, take it to your local Toyota Dealership, ask for a loaner car, and wait for them to realize you are not imagining the dangerous and costly problem that truly does exist. If they are not of any assistance, call Toyota Corporate!

Thanks for being an avid reader and writing in!

Advice for the Reluctant Night Driver PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I am getting up there in age and I just do not feel comfortable driving at night. What suggestions do you have to calm my nerves?

Thank you and I love your Column in The Houston Chronicle.


Dear Mary,

You are not alone as I recently came across a survey that was put together by Sylvania that clearly states that nearly one in five drivers say they sometimes avoid getting behind the wheel at night because it is just too difficult to see, that’s about 37 million drivers. Many drivers do not realize that headlights don’t just burn out; they dim over time, up to 20 percent in just two years.

90 percent of all driving decisions are based upon visibility so it is crucial that we see better while driving. I am a huge fan of Sylvania SilverStar Ultra headlights. These particular bulbs will allow you to see 40 percent longer down the road and 50 percent wider as they are the brightest and whitest bulbs on the market. What is also very cool, it will only take you about 10 minutes to replace them.

Thanks for writing in and if you do not feel comfortable switching them out yourself, simply ask your mechanic, friend or family member for a little assistance.

I want to get you back on the road by feeling comfortable and most


Accommodating Advances in Brake Technology PDF Print E-mail

Dear Barbara,

I enjoy your columns in the Houston Chronicle. I have a non-emergent question about brakes. It seems that in the “old days” (I’m 56); the common knowledge was that to increase stopping power, one pumped the brakes a few times to build up pressure? However I have heard or read several times recently that pumping may actually diminish and/or deplete the vacuum (or whatever makes brakes work) and it is better to apply consistent firm pressure on the pedal.

My habit when stopping my car is to lightly pump the pedal several times briefly before actually pressing more firmly and steadily on it. I am interested in the practice that is safest and best for prolonging brake life and don’t anti-lock brakes function by automatic, rapid pumping?

I realize that over the years, many system functions in automobiles have been improved or changed entirely. No lives or money rides on this issue, I’m just curious



Dear Bill,

In modern cars it is not needed to pump the brakes for more stopping power as the diminishing comes from the brake booster.

Once the pedal is pressed more than once quickly it can use up the vacuum and cause the pedal to be hard to push therefore losing the power assist feature. I would keep it at one hit for the best power brakes possible.

Thanks for writing in,

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