Dear Tom and Ray:

Why aren't compasses provided in cars by the manufacturers? In their quest for high-tech instruments, idiot lights, bells, buzzers, digital readouts, etc., why can't they furnish a simple, useful device like a good quality compass? The compasses you can buy at auto/discount stores are cheap, hard to mount, short-lived and ugly. - LarryTOM: Well, Larry, you'll be glad to know that Chrysler is setting new directions (ha-ha) in compass technology these days. Having been outdone by General Motors in cup-holder technology, Chrysler is now blazing the trail in automotive navigation. You'll find a built-in, electronic compass above the rearview mirror in a number of new Chrysler models.

RAY: And we agree that there are times when it would be great to have a compass in the car. I've been in unfamiliar territory and driven 20 miles in the wrong direction before realizing it. If I had a compass in the car, I probably would have figured it out after only five or 10 miles.

TOM: I often find myself driving in the wrong direction, too, but it usually happens to me on the way to work.

RAY: Anyway, Larry, next time you're ready for a new car, take a look at a nice Chrysler New Yorker. See if they're still selling the Christopher Columbus Edition. That's the one with the compass and the navigational sextant.

Dear Tom and Ray:

First of all, I really enjoy your column, even though I'm not a "car person." I own a 1983 Volvo DL wagon. It has 125,000 miles on it, and it runs well. My problem is that, when the tank gets almost half empty, the car will stutter and die until I fill it up again. Once it's filled up, it runs smoothly. I have owned it for eight years and love it a lot, but I have not always had the money to take the best possible care of it. Now is one of those times. I would like to continue to drive it for at least another five years or 75,000 miles. Am I hurting it by not having it fixed? And what's the problem? - Judith

RAY: It sounds to me like you need a new pre-pump. Your Volvo has two fuel pumps, one in the gas tank, and one outside the tank. When the tank is more than half full, the outside pump works fine. When the tank gets closer to empty, it needs the pre-pump to help push the fuel out.

TOM: Since your pre-pump isn't working, not enough gas is getting to the engine, and that's what makes it stutter and die.

RAY: And while you may not be doing any damage by not fixing it you may end up spending more if you wait. After a while, you'll not only need a pre-pump, but a regular pump too.

TOM: But we think that's a good thing, Judith. We can tell you haven't been spending nearly enough annually on your Volvo repairs. You're pulling the national average way down!

RAY: So when you go in for the fuel pump, take some corrective action. Ask for a new transmission, a timing belt, some control arm bushings, some trailer arm bushings and a rear main seal. That should cover your contribution to Volvo for the first half of the year.

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