Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1987 Chevrolet Nova. For over a month now I've noticed that the "Emergency Brake" light on the dash stays on for the first 15 minutes of driving every morning. It seems to be taking longer and longer now to go off. I tried the emergency brake, and it seems to be OK. What could it be? - BettyTOM: Good question, Betty. The "Emergency Brake" or "Brake Warning Light" has two functions on most cars. One is obvious (even to my brother); it tells you when the parking brake is not completely disengaged.

RAY: But that light also tells you when the brake fluid level is low. In your case, the level is right on the hairy edge. In the morning, when it's cold, the brake fluid shrinks. After you've driven a while and things have warmed up, the brake fluid expands, crosses the "minimum" line, and the "Brake" light goes out.

TOM: So, your next question is probably WHY is your brake fluid low? Another good question, Betty! There are two possible reasons. One is that your brake pad linings are worn out. When they get thin, the brake fluid fills up the space once taken up by the linings. When the pads wear down enough, the light goes on to warn you.

RAY: The other reason the brake fluid could be low is that you have a leak in the system. In either case, you should take the car in immediately and have the brakes thoroughly checked. It's probably just pads, but you never know.

TOM: You might also think about reacquainting yourself with your owner's manual, which explains all of this. It's probably still in the glove compartment. Try looking for it under all those unpaid parking tickets.

Dear Tom and Ray:

Knowing how you love to give marital advice when it involves cars . . . I mean car advice when it involves a marital dispute, we want your opinion on what we should do with our old VWs. We're going to buy a new car, which will be my wife's car. What do we do with a 1980 diesel Rabbit with 130,000 miles, and a 1983 gas Rabbit with 100,000 miles? My wife says to trade one in because we could get a better price on the new car. I say keep them both because we couldn't get squat for either. To me they're worth more as transportation (what little may be left in each). I'd like to drive the '80 into the ground, then use up what's left of the '83. What do you guys think? - Lee

RAY: We're on your side, Lee, more or less. Since your wife is getting the new car, who cares what she thinks? If she wants to give you the new car, then she can decide what to do with the old Rabbits.

TOM: And they're definitely worth more to you as "transportation" than you'd ever get for them in a trade. In fact, the dealer will probably ADD money onto the price of the new car as compensation for the embarrassment of having to display one of these in his lot.

RAY: But we do have one suggestion for you. You say you plan to drive the 1980 diesel into the ground first. We suggest you drive it WAY into the ground - and then throw a bunch of dirt on top of it. In the name of the environment, and the drivers who have to sit behind you at traffic lights, take that stinking diesel off the road and drive the gas-powered Rabbit. And good luck, you love birds.

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