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What to do, when your car's manufacturer decides to stop making parts?

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Dear Tom and Ray:



I purchased a Nissan Sentra GXE brand new in 1999. The reason I chose Nissan was its reputation for reliability. At 120,000 miles, the "service engine" light came on, and I brought it to the dealer. He found that the metal fuel-filler tube was corroding and leaking fumes. But here's the rub: The dealership said Nissan doesn't make the part anymore, and they could neither fabricate it nor find the part anywhere else. They said, "Sorry, we can't fix it, these things sometimes happen," and sent me on my way. I questioned whether the car was safe to drive, and they said yes. Is this true? And why did Nissan stop making parts on a car that's only 8 years old? I suppose I could have some shop look into it, but I don't want to spend $1,500 on a car that's worth only $3,000. What can you suggest? By the way, I will never recommend a Nissan. I should have gone with a Dodge. At least I would still be able to get parts for it when it breaks. -- Lorne

TOM: That would frost my shorts, too, Lorne. We checked with Nissan, and, after some hemming and hawing, they confirmed that they no longer make the part. And they had no explanation for why they stopped making it. One has to assume it was a business decision. But it's not a very nice one.

RAY: You can check with your state's consumer-protection agency, but there are no federal laws that require a manufacturer to provide parts for any length of time. Most companies just do it because it's good for business -- especially repeat business.

TOM: You could understand if they stopped making cosmetic parts once the car got old. If you couldn't get a piece of side body molding, or a latch for your glove-box door, it's no big deal. But this part -- which connects the fuel filler to the gas tank -- is crucial to the operation of the car. And no, it's not a good idea to drive around with gasoline fumes seeping out. It's not good for your health, or for the health of the environment.

RAY: In fact, there's no way you'll pass an emissions inspection like that in any state that requires one.

TOM: Your best bet is a junkyard. Oops, pardon me. I mean an "auto recycling center." It may be hard to find a good used one, because if your fuel-filler hose is rusting, so is everyone else's. But your local junkyard can "put it on the wire," and see if any other junkyards (oops) have one. Maybe they'll find you one in a region of the country where rust isn't as much of an issue.

RAY: If that doesn't work, you have two choices. One is to pay someone to fabricate a part for you or repair the one you've got. I doubt that'll cost you $1,500, but it will involve some labor.

TOM: And if that doesn't pan out, then you're down to frozen-orange-juice cans, Lorne. I've got a collection of them from the exhaust system on my '74 Chevy, if you need any. Good luck.
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