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My four-cylinder Dodge Caravan has miles on it The dealer...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



My four-cylinder 1997 Dodge Caravan has 20,000 miles on it. The dealer says I
need new plugs ($60), plus I need to have the "throttle body" cleaned ($80).
This sounds like the old gag from Mad magazine about replacing the "thelman
wire." Is this throttle-body cleaning really necessary? Why isn't it recommended
in the owner's manual? -- Eleanor

TOM: Ah, spring is here, Eleanor. Leaves on the trees, birds chirping and car
dealers taking their boats out of storage.

RAY: And I'm afraid this dealer's boat must need some work. That must be why
he's hitting you up for some unnecessary maintenance.

TOM: After one year and 20,000 miles, you shouldn't need anything done to this
engine. An oil and filter change every 5,000-7,500 miles should be plenty.

RAY: At 30,000 miles, you can consider changing the spark plugs. And at some
point, you can clean the throttle body if it gets gummed up with deposits --
which they do. But I find it hard to believe you need either of these procedures
done now.

TOM: So I'd just take this incident as a sign, Eleanor -- a sign to look for
another mechanic, before you get a bill for a new "thelman wire."

* * *

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Used Car: Things Detroit and Tokyo Don't Want You to Know. You can order it by
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