Vehicle options for aging canine companions

Dear Car Talk:

My 13-year-old, 75-lb. rescue golden retriever can’t get in my 2005 GMC Yukon anymore. Unfortunately, she won’t use either the steps or the ramp I got for her.

She had been able to put her front paws in the car, and then I would lift her butt. However, she won’t put her front paws up anymore, and I can’t lift her (she does take meds for arthritis).

I tried using a 6-inch-high platform, but it slipped, she slipped, and then I slipped and landed on my butt. I’m 77 years old; 5-foot, 1 inch and shrinking; and 120 lbs. My pocketbook with my phone was in the car, as well as the garage door remote. If I had been hurt, I could have been there for days.

She’s so excited when she knows I’m going out and looks so disappointed when I leave her home, so I thought I should get a “dog” car (I’ll keep the Yukon). I’ve been wandering around the Walmart parking lot checking out cars, trying not to look suspicious and hoping they don’t call the cops.

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Sedans don’t seem to have very much space between the front and back seats, and I don’t think she’d be able to get on the seat. So I asked a nice lady if I could measure her minivan. It was 18 inches from the ground, compared to 24 inches for the side door and 33 inches for the back door entrances in the Yukon.

Is there a car that could accommodate my dog? A sedan where the back seat could be removed and didn’t have a transmission hump or other impediments would be OK. Even a small van. I just don’t know what to look for. Any advice is appreciated. -- Holly

RAY: Have you tried throwing a pork chop in the car, Holly?

Actually, she’s a lucky dog to have such a dedicated and loving human, Holly. Unfortunately, she’s 13 years old, and her arthritis is getting worse, so whatever you do, you don’t know how long she’ll be able to benefit from it. But if you’re willing and able to buy a car just to suit your tail-wagging friend, I think a minivan is probably your best bet.

Minivans have sliding side-doors that open very wide and provide great access. They have lots of flat floor space right inside the door, and most have seats that can be removed so they’re not in the dog’s way. And my guess is that the step-in height at the side door is quite a bit less than 18 inches. So, I would suggest you look at used Chrysler Pacificas, Toyota Siennas, Honda Odysseys, Mazda 5s or any other minivans that catch your eye.

And be sure to take the dog with you when you go to look, to make sure it works well for both of you. You don’t want to get something that clashes with her coat.

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If you can’t find a vehicle that works well, don’t despair. Even though she’d be excited to go for a ride with you, I’m certain she’d be just as excited to go for a walk with you. Or sit at your feet and wait for you to drop a Ritz cracker with liver pate on it.

Best of luck to both of you.

Ford F-250 owner is fed up with fill-up issues

Dear Car Talk:

I have an issue with my 2005 Ford F-250 Super Duty that’s causing me to lose my sanity.

When I am getting gas, the gas does not flow down the filler neck at a fast enough speed. It backs up and my nozzle gets automatically shut off -- as if the tank is full.

The real problem is that this happens every gallon or so when I am getting gas, meaning the nozzle is clicking on and off every minute or two until I am done filling up! This is driving me cray cray. PLEASE HELP! -- Freddy

RAY: But is it driving you crazy enough to spend money to fix it? Because then I’ll believe you, Freddy.

Usually, when you have trouble filling the tank, it’s related to the evaporative emissions system. When you pump gasoline into the tank, the existing vapors in there have to go somewhere. They used to just come right out the filler neck and into the air, but that caused smog and asthma, so we put a stop to that.

Now the vapors get pushed into a charcoal canister, where they’re stored until you start the engine and they can be combusted. But if the vapors can’t get into the evaporative canister, for whatever reason, they push back up the filler neck, and signal to the fuel nozzle that the tank is full and it’s time to “stop pumping.”

How do evaporative emissions systems malfunction? If you overfill your tank regularly -- if you keep squeezing in 94 cents more gas so you can get to a nice, round “$50.00″ on the readout -- liquid gasoline can get forced into the charcoal canister and plug it up.

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So that’s one possibility. There’s also a solenoid that controls the valve to the canister; that could be bad. And finally, there could be something mechanical, like a kink in the tubing that runs from the gas tank to the canister.

So, you need a good mechanic who’s willing to do some diagnostic work for you, Freddy. And depending on what he finds, the cost could be anywhere from $100 to $500.

If it turns out to be too much, you can always stick with the stop-and-start fill ups, and console yourself by thinking about what a great workout your hand muscles are getting. Good luck, Freddy.

Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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