•Q. This past year, I got some kind of fungus in my ears that deteriorated my eardrums to the point that I needed hearing aids. It is great being able to hear again, but with one drawback: I drive a ’97 Ford F-150 extended-cab long-bed pickup, and when I open the door, the warning bell reverberates in my hearing aids and drives me crazy. And to top it off, the bell continues even with the door open and the key removed. I want to shoot the little guy under my dash who’s ringing that bell! My regular car mechanic says he’s afraid to try to disconnect it. What can I do to get some relief? I love the truck, and it has been perfect for me through the years. Help!•
TOM: It’s not easy. You should see if one of the guys from the local bomb squad moonlights. He can probably handle it.
RAY: We know it’s not easy because we tried it once for a customer. It was a similar Ford truck, and I think the guy wanted to sneak back into his house after his late-night book-club meetings without his wife hearing him. So he asked us to disconnect the door chime.
TOM: We took the simplest approach, which is to remove the thing that makes the noise. We located it way up under the dashboard. And after a great deal of difficulty, one sprained elbow and two dislocated shoulders, we removed it.
RAY: Only once we removed it, something else important didn’t work ... like the headlights, or some other lights. It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember. I just remember we had to trick the guy into picking up his car during daylight hours.
TOM: The problem is that that same chime is also used to warn you when, for instance, you leave your headlights on. And it turned out all that stuff was wired together.
RAY: So if you want to kill just the door chime, you’ve got to perform a more surgical operation.
TOM: The wiring module that controls this thing is in the steering column, so you have to start by removing the steering collar.
RAY: On the left side, you’ll see a little plastic junction box with a bunch of colored wires attached to it. You want to find the black and purple wires, and carefully cut them.
TOM: Be careful. If you cut the red wire by mistake, Harrison Ford may have to come in and rescue you.
RAY: The real reason to be careful is that it’s much easier and cheaper to cut these wires than it is to put them back!
TOM: Also keep in mind that the chime is there for a reason: because lots of morons like us have locked their keys in the car, or left the headlights on.
RAY: So another idea would be to try dulling the chime first. If you find the chime itself up under the dash, you can remove it and then wrap it in some sound insulation and duct tape. That may mute the sound enough so it doesn’t hurt your ears, while still leaving a slightly audible warning chime in place. That way, just as you slam the locked door with the keys still in the ignition, you can say to yourself, “What’s that faint dinging noise I hear?”
•Q. Am I putting my 24-year-old daughter in harm’s way by teaching her to rotate the tires and change the oil on her car? She is strong, capable and willing. I would take it very hard if anything were to happen to her as a result of this endeavor.•
RAY: Well, everything has some risk attached to it.
TOM: For instance, if she weren’t changing the oil on her car, she might be hanging out with Bernie, the nursery-school dropout down the street, in his van, looking at his etchings. And that’s riskier.
RAY: So while there is some risk associated with car repair, the jobs you’ve selected for her are relatively low-risk, if done correctly.
TOM: So that means when rotating the tires, you don’t want her using the jack that comes with the car. Those are notoriously flimsy, in our opinion, and really only for use in roadside emergencies — if that.
RAY: So if she’s going to be yanking wheels off a 3,000-pound car, you want to buy her a real, hydraulic floor jack and a set of four jack stands.
TOM: After securing the car on flat ground, she’ll jack up the rear end and put two jack stands under the frame there, and let the back of the car rest on the stands. Then she’ll do the same in the front. At that point, she can push and pull all she wants and rotate the tires diagonally, and the car shouldn’t go anywhere.
RAY: When she changes the oil, you’ll show her how to unscrew the drain plug and filter without pouring hot oil down her arm and giving herself a tattoo in the shape of the River Nile.
TOM: But the greatest danger she’ll face is the risk of having a car fall off its jack. So that should be the focus of your paternal risk-management program. But with some reasonable care, and the right tools, she’ll impress the heck out of all the boys (hope that doesn’t cause you to reconsider).
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