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Mechanic double-checks work with Tom and Ray

Car Talk

Dear Tom and Ray:

Last week, for one of my best customers, I replaced a very difficult steering rack. The ALLDATA instructions called for air-bag and steering wheel removal, which I did, but I didn’t really see why. The locking mechanism on the yellow air-bag connector was absolutely impossible to solve. When I got it apart, the lock was shattered, but the electrical contacts were intact. I put it back together using nonconductive plastic ratchet ties … the same ties I use under the hood all the time to secure wires and connections. But now I’m wondering: Have I done the right thing for this air-bag connector and my customer? Since it’s the air bag, it’s concerning me. Thanks. — Doug

RAY: The reason they have you disconnect the air bag probably is for your own safety, Doug. Since you’re unbolting the steering column, they want to eliminate the very small possibility that you’ll accidentally deploy the air bag.

TOM: My brother still has the word “Ford” embossed backward on his forehead from a similar incident.

RAY: It sounds like you broke the little tab that locks together the two parts of an air-bag electrical connector.

TOM: So, to hold the two parts together, you secured them with those plastic ties. That should work.

RAY: The good news is that the air-bag system has a self-diagnostic test that it performs every time the car is started. So if that connection ever does come apart, your customer’s SRS ( supplemental restraint system) light will come on and keep flashing at him until he gets the connection fixed.

TOM: But you don’t want to wait until that happens. So if it were my customer, I’d have him stop in so I could really secure the connection with some silicone adhesive.

RAY: It shouldn’t take very long. You just remove the horn pad and then cover the connector in silicone adhesive. It’s non-conductive, flexible, watertight and highly secure. We even use it for connections under the hood now, since it works so well.

TOM: And if you ever need to undo the connection someday, you just cut the silicone with a razor blade and you’re in.

RAY: What you did probably is fine, Doug. And that warning light will let your customer know if there ever is a problem. But just so you can rest easier, have him come back so you can apply some silicone adhesive. Consider it a sleep aid, Doug.

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Changing your oil regularly is the cheapest insurance you can buy for your car, but how often should you change it? Find out by ordering Tom and Ray’s pamphlet “Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!” Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Ruin, P. O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475.

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Get more Click and Clack in their new book, “Ask Click and Clack: Answers from Car Talk.” Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper, or email them by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.

(c) 2014 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.



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