Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1987 Acura Legend that I enjoy tremendously. But I have a strange problem that has recurred four times. The original-equipment radio periodically loses its memory of the 12 stations and three equalizer settings that I program into it. The radio continues to function perfectly, except that it's forgotten everything I ever taught it! It has always occurred while the car is parked. The best explanation that the dealer (whose service has been fine) can offer is that it has lost power, but the battery has never been disconnected. Do you have an explanation? - RichardRAY: Well, Richard, it sounds to us like a secret plot by other automakers who are sick of seeing Acura top the J.D. Power customer-satisfaction survey year after year. Every few months, one of their operatives comes around, opens your hood and momentarily disconnects one of your battery terminals - wiping out your presets.

TOM: Actually, Richard, what you probably need is a new battery. The presets on your radio are very voltage sensitive. If, for example, the voltage falls from 12 volts to 10, these presets will get wiped out. A bad cell in the battery is all it would take.

RAY: The car would continue to start because electric motors (like your starter motor) are much less voltage sensitive. When the voltage drops a little, they just run slower. In the summertime, this would present no problem. In the winter, however, losing your presets may be the least of your problems. You may have to spend a week or two looking for the AAA card you haven't had to use in the last three years.

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband and I are having an argument that I hope you can settle. My key chain has a lot of items hanging on it, very few of which are keys. I have charms, key chains with funny sayings, polished rocks, a Swiss army knife, a bottle opener and other items. It's more of a lethal weapon than a key chain! Anyway, he thinks the weight of it will eventually drag the ignition slot out of line or damage it in some way. I say it won't. Can you enlighten us? - Allison

RAY: Enlighten or lighten? Actually, Allison, as usual, there are things that go unsaid in marital disputes. Luckily, we're going to help you get to the bottom of this. It's not likely that the key chain will damage the ignition. But that's not what's bothering your husband.

TOM: He's bothered by two things. First, he hates all the noise that your key chain makes as it swings around and bangs against the dashboard and the steering column. That's driving him absolutely crazy. Second, he gets embarrassed every time you hoist this thing out of your pocketbook in public. He's convinced that people think he's married to the Imelda Marcos of key-chain collectors.

RAY: He's trying to make his objections sound rational by focusing on the quasi-scientific "ignition damage" argument.

TOM: We think he should be up front about it, and tell you that he thinks you ought to spend your time collecting something more sensible like Star Trek cards or Click and Clack porcelain miniatures.

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