Q: Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a '92 Lexus ES 300. Great car, 68,000 miles. No problems except that my driver's seat has lost its "cush." My tush is sore and uncomfortable after a long drive. This didn't happen when it was new. What can a tender tush do? Replace the seat? Put another cushion on top (which would take away valuable headroom)? Replace the padding inside the seat (a difficult and messy job)? Or get a chauffeur? I suspect this is a common problem for aging cars. I don't want to unload the best car I have ever had because I am unhappy with the seat.

--Will

A: RAY: The problem may not be the car's seat, Will. It's been six years since you bought this car, and you may be suffering from PTE (progressive tush enlargement).

TOM: It happens to people our age, Will. Look at my brother. He's got what the airlines call a "two-ticket butt."

RAY: In your case, Will, you have a lot of options. You've got an otherwise great car that you love. You've only got 68,000 miles on it, and you can probably expect at least another 68,000 out of it. So the answer, in your case, is to replace the seat.

TOM: Right. On a heap like my '63 Dodge Dart, you'd toss a boat cushion on top, or just wrap it in a bunch of duct tape. But on a well-preserved Lexus, you fix the seat.

RAY: And you can either ask your dealer to order a new set of cushions for you from Lexus and install them (without the leather covers, they run about 250 bucks), or you can get a good upholstery shop to make a new cushion for you. That'll be cheaper. And they may even be able to customize it to fit your shape.

TOM: Just insist they leave room for future expansion, Will.

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband and I own an '88 Ford Taurus, charcoal color, which has almost 62,000 miles. In the past six months, we have noticed that the paint on the roof and hood is turning almost white. Now paint is missing from a 3-by-5-foot area on the roof and a 2-by-3-foot area on the hood. We brought it to the body-shop manager at our Ford dealership. The dealer contacted Ford, and we were told that since the car had "so many miles," they couldn't help us with a new paint job. Shouldn't a paint job last more than 60,000 miles, especially if the car is kept in a garage? What's your opinion?

--Lois

TOM: You've got a legitimate complaint, Lois. While you can't hold a manufacturer responsible for the normal degradation of the finish over the years, you certainly can hold it responsible for the wholesale failure of a paint job, which is what you have.

RAY: Many manufacturers had problems with paint in the mid- to late '80s. It was a time when EPA regulations required them to change their paint formulation and institute techniques that produced less air pollution.

TOM: The problem was, they really didn't have the hang of these new paints yet. As a result, the paint jobs on lots of cars (especially blues, silvers and grays) peeled off in sheets after a few years.

RAY: The publicity got so bad for Ford that it instituted an admirable program to repaint F-150 pickup trucks (its best-selling vehicle). But then it seemed that Ford got so tired of paying for paint jobs that it eventually shut down the program and told everybody else to take a hike.

TOM: In general, Ford, GM and Chrysler deal with these "delamination" cases the same way: on a case-by-case basis (i.e., they try to brush off one customer at a time). If the car is new, they'll generally eat the cost of the repainting. But if the car is not new, at most they'll pay part of the cost.

I'd get in touch with Ford's zone manager in your area and ask if the company will at least consider paying for a small portion of your repainting.

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