TV show takes mystery out of caring for your car

By , Automotive editor of The Christian Science Monitor

So it's costing you a mint to keep your old clunker on the road and you don't really want to give it up.

Or you can't quite describe to the auto mechanic that funny sound the car makes when you step on the gas. Perhaps you'd like to save a few bucks by changing the engine oil or adjusting the belts under the hood.

The best chance you'll have to ''learn how'' could be at the Last Chance Garage.

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Produced and directed by Russ Morash, who has to his credit such how-to-do shows as This Old House, Jim Crockett's Victory Garden, and others, now has a new show all set to go.

Some 20 years ago an unknown woman came into the studio and asked for a hot plate, says Morash.

''We scoured around and came up with one,'' he adds. Soon a TV institution was on her way: Julia Child as The French Chef, then Julia Child & Company, and even later, Julia Child & More Company.

The point: Channel 2 (WGBH) in Boston has a long string of successes to its credit and now it hopes to add to the total.

Last Chance Garage will debut Thursday evening, April 15, on WGBH, as well as other PBS stations from coast to coast (local listings may differ) - a new 13 -part series, funded by Fram and Autolite Corporations, subsidiaries of Bendix, a major supplier to the auto industry.

Host is Brad Sears, a long-time auto mechanic, full-service garage owner, and consultant. Sears now has a radio program on CBS-affiliated stations entitled ''At Your Service for Car Owners'' and writes a syndicated column on car repair.

Purpose of the new show is ''to take the anxiety out of owning and maintaining a car,'' says Sears. Also, by becoming more familiar with his automobile, a motorist can communicate more effectively with the mechanic when he takes his car in for service.

''They're on the same wavelength,'' says Sears.

The first program looks at an ailing battery as well as defective brakes. Sears also will review the latest anti-theft devices for cars, rate the '82 Ford Granada station wagon, and decide if there's something fishy about a used Chevrolet Nova advertised as a ''whale of a bargain.''

On future shows the mechanic-cum-TV host looks at numerous other complaints that not only dog most car owners, but too often befuddle the garage mechanic as well.

''We've tried to get rid of the lingo,'' he reports, ''and make any dialogue between the owner and the dealership back shop or service-station mechanic a two-way street.''

If the Last Chance Garage draws the business over the next 13 weeks that it expects, the TV station will probably renew the lease.

In effect, Sears concludes, it's a visual owner's manual, not only for the novice do-it-yourselfer but for the more sophisticated car enthusiast as well.

The owner who never opens his car manual may prefer it in full color on the tube.

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