Dear Tom and Ray: Can you tell me which cars are now available with passenger-side air bags? - Bill

RAY: I'm afraid you've taken the bait, Bill. Your wife wrote to us a few weeks ago and asked how she could get you to buy her a really expensive car. We suggested she insist on a passenger-side air bag.TOM: You see, the only cars that now come with passenger-side air bags are Porsches and Mercedes. Every new Porsche comes with a passenger air bag as standard equipment. (I guess that's the only way guys who drive Porsches could convince anybody to ride with them.) And every Mercedes model from the 300 series on up has a passenger air bag as either standard or optional equipment.

RAY: So you can be a sport, Bill, and go for one of those. Or if you can hold out a little longer, you'll soon have some less expensive options. Starting later this spring, you'll be able to order a passenger air bag on the Acura Legend, the Lincoln Town Car, the Lincoln Continental, the new (1992) Mercury Grand Marquis and the new (1992) Ford LTD. But I'd go for the Porsche, Bill, and by the way, your wife said she likes red.

Dear Tom and Ray:

This letter is to thank you for your column on GM power-steering problems. I, too, was having a problem with the steering on my 1983 Chevrolet Cavalier wagon. It was just as you described - it was hard to turn the wheel for the first few minutes when the car was cold. Since the mileage was under 50,000 (49,000+), I took the wagon to the Chevy dealership and told them I wanted the problem fixed for free. They told me that they were unable to fix it free because it was more than five years old. I told them this was unacceptable, at which time I was given the telephone number of the "Customer Assistance Center" in Detroit. A gentleman there said he would start a "case file" based upon the "under 50,000 miles" claim. To make a long story short, after several more conversations, I was told that they would fix it for free. I just wanted to let you know what a valuable service your column provides. Keep up the good work! - Jean

TOM: Well, Jean, we're glad you got your car fixed. GM has said it will fix for free the power-steering rack of any GM car less than five years old or with less than 50,000 miles on it.

RAY: But fixing any car outside those limits is at the discretion of the company. And even when the company is willing to pay the bill, individual GM dealers may give you a hard time because they make much less profit on warranty work.

TOM: You were lucky, Jean. If anyone else reading today is in the same situation, ask your dealer for the company's toll-free Customer Assistance number and try insisting (nicely). If they won't fix it for free, they might at least offer to pick up some portion of the cost.

RAY: By the way, Jean, I'm not sure GM shares your sentiments about the "good work" we've been doing.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack Talk Cars c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 East 45th Street, New York, N.Y. 10017.