Question: Help!! My friend has a 1989 Dodge Caravan 3.0 V6 with an automatic transmission. The driver's-side axle has been replaced three times in four days. The same thing keeps happening. The inner CV joint keeps blowing apart within about 250 yards. All three motor mounts have been replaced. The dealer says the side-to-side adjustment of the engine is not enough to do this. Please help me. My friend lives only four doors down, and I can still hear all the profanity! - A.C.

TOM: Well, good for you guys for checking the motor mounts, A.C. The mounts hold the engine in place. And if the engine is sliding around, that could certainly cause the axle to pull out of the transmission and blow apart the inner CV joint in the process.RAY: But since the motor mounts are OK, several other things come to mind. One is that he's put in the wrong axle - three times. If he's putting in an axle that's just a little bit too short, it would blow apart just like you describe. So go back to square one and make sure he's got the exact right axle for this engine and vehicle configuration.

TOM: I also suppose it's possible that a REALLY badly worn ball joint or strut mount could cause the geometry to be off by enough to cause this problem, too. But it would have to be really worn badly, and that should be obvious to a good mechanic.

RAY: The other possibility is that the car was in an accident. Did he buy it used two weeks ago? Or does he have a 16-year-old son that drives it? Or has he been in an accident himself recently and neglected to mention that?

TOM: A bent frame from an accident could do the same thing as bad engine mounts. It could cause the engine to be shifted out of place and change the distance between the wheel and the transmission.

RAY: So even though we've given you a few things to check, A.C., this is no guarantee that the profanity will stop. Whether your buddy's kicking himself for spending hundreds of bucks on three of the wrong axles or kicking himself for buying a used car that had been in an accident, I'm afraid that string of foul language is likely to continue for a while. I'd invest in some ear plugs. - Are you inadvertently wrecking your poor car? Find out by reading Tom and Ray's pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!" Send $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No. 10 envelope to Ruin, P.O. Box 5541, Riverton, NJ 08077-5541.