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you & your car

My husband gives me grief about not using the emergency brake every time I park the car in our driveway or garage. Both are flat, there is no chance of the car rolling away. A co-worker told me not to use it as it could become stuck. What do you advise? – Alberta in Toronto

Listen to your husband.

There are two good reasons to use the emergency brake, neither of which have anything to do with preventing the car from moving – the first is that frequent use will prevent it from becoming "stuck" and the other is that it will help keep your brakes adjusted.

There is concern about an emergency brake becoming stuck – but that is generally because of a lack of use and the resultant corrosion of various components. It is unlikely an emergency brake would become stuck in the employed position unless it has been left that way for an extended period of time after not being used.

The second reason for using it is that on the vast majority of vehicles, the emergency brake is used to activate the self-adjusting feature employed in most rear brakes, especially when drum brakes are involved. The frequent use of this system and that feature will ensure the brakes are kept up to snuff.

Check engine light

The check engine light on my 2000 Chevy Malibu won't go out. The first time this happened was a plugged catalytic converter, which I had removed. The light stayed on, so I took it back to the garage and they said there was a problem with the oxygen sensor. They replaced it and the light is still on. I can't afford to keep throwing money at this old car but don't want to take any chances that something dangerous is wrong. What should I do? – Mark

The days of cutting out some parts and swapping others is long gone. I suggest you get the car to a qualified technician and/or shop with the proper electronic equipment that can be plugged into the OBD (On Board Diagnostic) port of that Malibu.

Vehicles built in the last 25 years have a mandatory ability to monitor, diagnose and report problems. These systems allow a technician to access the onboard computer's data storage which will report a fault code according to which sub-system is having issues. These systems use a standardized port and in addition to providing the fault code which can be used to narrow down the issue, allow the technician to run tests to identify problems.

They also allow that technician to reset the system once a problem has been corrected and everything is working as it should.

In your case, if the cat has been removed, the engine will no longer be able to meet exhaust emission standards and this alone will likely prevent extinguishing the light.