Question: My parents have a 1985 Cadillac Eldorado and a 1983 Cadillac Coup de Ville. The problem is with the corners on the trunk lid. When you reach into the trunk, you hit your head on the lid. It is very painful and happens all the time. A dealer said nothing could be done.--J.R.
Answer: The engineers at GM obviously weren't wearing their thinking caps when they designed a trunk that would clobber its owner loading or unloading cargo. But short of equipping your parents with football helmets, it's hard to see what sort of remedy could correct this problem.
You should not drop the matter, however, because it seems like a potentially significant flaw on a car that is supposed to be loaded with customer conveniences and attention to detailed engineering.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a federal government agency, has an auto safety hot line by which consumers may register complaints about car safety over the telephone.
The agency encourages people to file complaints, because the reports represent an important source of information for the government. The agency can't investigate every complaint it receives, but it files every report on a computer and then monitors the reports to discover widespread problems on specific automobile types.
The agency's toll-free telephone number is (800) 424-9393.
Q: While driving during late-evening hours, both of my dimmer headlights suddenly went out. To get home, I used my high beams. I took the car to the dealer, and he checked for a short but could not locate one. It cost me close to $100 to replace both headlights. Is this a common problem on Toyota Tercel station wagons?--A.B.
A: It's unusual to burn out both headlights simultaneously because there are few, if any, conditions that will cause both the lamps to fail.
You may have a problem in your charging system that caused the voltage to surge, but even this would be unlikely to burn out both headlamps and do no other electrical damage. Your alternator should be supplying no more than 14.8 volts to your electrical system.
A more likely explanation for your problem is that one of the headlamps had burned out earlier, and you did not notice the loss. If one headlight is burned out, the remaining headlight will burn out much faster. That's because the remaining headlamp tends to draw a higher voltage or more current.
Q: A few months ago, the back brakes on my 1982 Honda Prelude went out, requiring an expensive repair and replacement of the drum. My repairman said he was fascinated because back brakes never go out on Hondas. He also said my Prelude has Civic brakes. Can I expect more fascinating repairs?--R.R.S.
A: It is unusual to have a problem on rear brakes on Preludes, but it is noteworthy that Honda redesigned the rear Prelude brake in the middle of the 1982 model year.
A semi-metallic brake lining was substituted for the previous lining. The semi-metallic lining theoretically should last longer.
The Prelude does share some common brake components with the Civic, but it is unlikely that your problem was related to this design aspect. More likely, you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, which wore out the brake shoe. Continued use of a worn-out brake will quickly ruin a drum.
Ralph Vartabedian cannot answer mail personally but will respond in this column to automotive questions of general interest. Do not telephone. Write to Your Wheels, You section, The Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.