Dear Car Coach,

We bought a Madza Tribute in 2005. Recently, we took the car into the dealer for an oil change and tire rotation, fluid-level check and general upkeep. We are a retired couple that drives moderately. The car has recorded 29,700 [miles].

On our recent trip to the dealer, we were advised that both the control arm bushings were separating and the dealer recommended replacing them before we need an upcoming New York State inspection, because he said it would not pass.

Failure of these parts seems premature to us. If you are familiar with the Mazda, is this a premature failure? We called Mazda's national office and they agreed to pay half of the costs. We feel they should cover all the costs. Is this possible? – JP, Boston.

Dear JP,

Bushings can wear because they are made of rubber and can crack and rot over time. When the bushings deteriorate, they affect alignment and vehicle handling.

Without having any technical service bulletins or recalls listed on the specific vehicle for this specific problem, I would say you are lucky Mazda would even cover half of the cost for the bushing replacements. Mazda makes a great car, and it's good to know customer service is important to them.

Dear Car Coach,

My 2001 Monte Carlo SS leaks water on the driver-side front and back when it rains. Also, I have a flat spot on my Goodyear tires. My car sat in a closed garage for five years and I got it started only two weeks ago. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you. – DS, Farmington, Mich.

Dear DS,

Let's start with the tires. Flat-spotting can happen when cars sit for a long time without being moved. If you feel a ride disturbance or shimmy during the first few miles of driving after the vehicle has been parked for a few days, weeks or even months, it should smooth out and feel OK.

Heavy duty, high performance and high-speed tires can "remember" the position in which they were last parked. Unfortunately, their "memories" become a problem when the tires experience swings in air temperature or are parked for extended periods of time.

Without getting too technical, tires on vehicles stored on the ground for many months can be permanently flat-spotted. To minimize that effect, it's best to put a vehicle on blocks when storing it for more than a few weeks.

As for the leak, you will need to track it down. Rubber seals can crack with age. The leak could come from the windshield or rear glass. Sometimes leaves can get caught in the area and prevent proper draining. If the water cannot drain properly, it ends up in the car. Hope this helps.

Dear Car Coach,

We purchased a new 2010 Dodge Ram 4x4 with the Hemi in April. What is your opinion on extended warranties? We purchased one from Chrysler, which was a lifetime warranty. Later, we found out it only covered factory errors. We were looking for an extended warranty to cover breakdowns. Is there such a thing? If so, do you recommend buying it? We value your opinion. Thanks. – VH, Springville.

Dear VH,

An extended warranty is an insurance policy on your vehicle that safeguards against expensive, unforeseen repairs. The term extended warranty is a misnomer, since in the strictest sense of the phrase, a warranty is included in the price of a product. Extended auto warranties are really service contracts that cost extra and are sold separately.

In deciding whether an extended warranty is right for you, go through the following checklist:

• How much of your current warranty is left or already covered?
• What's the reliability record of the model you're purchasing?
• What company is behind the warranty?
• What's the deductible?
• Who is doing the work or repairs?
• Can repairs be performed at any repair shop?
• What exactly is covered?
• Check with the Better Business Bureau for complaints.
• If the extended warranty is offered directly from the factory, then make sure you can go to any dealer of the manufacturer before signing on the bottom line.

The rule is that "what the big print gives you the small print takes away" so make sure you read it before buying.

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