A friend and I both have Chevrolet Berettas His is...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

A friend and I both have Chevrolet Berettas. His is an '88, mine is a '90. We both have the same problem. At times, when the ignition key is turned on, a puff of smoke and even a flame shoot out of the ignition. I never had this problem until six months ago when I started a new job. We both work in a blueprint shop. My Chevrolet dealer says I must be getting some work-related dust or lint on my key. He didn't seem too worried about the whole thing. What's going on?

RAY: Work-related dust?? This guy must be taking a creative writing course at night. It sounds like he's working on his fiction.

TOM: I don't believe the magic dust theory, Wally. And I WOULD be worried about it. Where there's smoke, there's what? Fire! And this certainly qualifies as a fire hazard.

RAY: My guess is there's a bad connection in your ignition switch. And when you turn the key, instead of making good contact, you're getting some "arcing."

TOM: Arcing is when electricity "jumps" from one contact to another. That's creating the spark, and who knows what's smoking in there? It could be some grease on the switch, some sheathing on one of the wires, or a Duraflame Log that someone on the assembly line stuffed in there.

RAY: Ask your dealer to open up the steering column. Once he can see inside there, he should the see charred evidence of arcing somewhere, and then he'll know what to replace. Until then, I'd drive with a fire extinguisher at the ready.

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