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Dear Car Coach: Any tips on how to prevent doors from freezing shut? I have a 2003 Dodge Durango and have had problems already.

R.M., Buffalo

Dear R.M.: Plan your attack on frozen locks in advance, before you get stuck out in the cold.

The first thing you should do when encountering a frozen door is to try accessing the car through other doors or the rear hatch if necessary. Jump in, start the engine, and let it run for several minutes. It won't take long for your car to heat up and warm the locks on all the doors.

Here are some other quick thawing solutions:

1. Heat your key. Sometimes a frozen lock needs a little warmth to get the tumblers moving. Wearing thick gloves, carefully use a match or lighter to heat your key and then insert it into the lock. The heat will melt ice inside the lock and allow you to unlock the door. WARNING: Modern key fobs contain computer chips that are easily damaged. Unless you have a single key, this is NOT a good option.

2. Keep a straw or toilet paper tube handy during winter months. In the event that your lock freezes, place the tube over the lock and warm it with your breath or a hair dryer. This technique may look silly, but it works. Your breath can be all that it takes.

4. Using a hair dryer to heat the key or the lock is another good option, but finding an electrical outlet can be a problem. You'll need a long extension cord or a portable hair dryer if your car isn't within reasonable range of an outlet.

5. Prevent your locks from freezing by keeping a can of de-icer or WD-40 on hand and spraying your locks at the end of the day. Since most frozen door locks are the result of condensation inside the tumblers, de-icer will help keep the condensation from freezing. You can find de-icer in most hardware and automotive stores or in gas stations and convenience stores during the winter months.

NEVER pour hot water over your lock. This will increase the amount of water inside the lock and result in future frozen locks.

If you think that using a remote is the best solution, think again; doors freeze shut too.

One final tip: Cover a rag with WD-40 and wipe the rubber door seal in the evenings to prevent your door from sticking in the morning.

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Dear Car Coach: The rules on child safety seats seem to have changed. My son and daughter-in-law are concerned about me taking the kids for the weekend. Where can I get the right information and make sure that I installed the seats correctly?

J.B., Amherst

Dear J.B.: Child passenger restraints are not an option - it's the law.

All children must be restrained in an appropriate child restraint system while riding in a motor vehicle. Each state has its own specific safety laws, but consider this fact: Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injury for children between 2 and 14 in the U.S.

Additionally, child safety seats reduce the risk of fatal injury in passenger cars by 71 percent for infants and by 54 percent for toddlers.

Every day in the United States, an average of five children age 14 and younger are killed and 568 injured in motor vehicle crashes.

The best way to protect your child in the car is to put them in the right seat, at the right time, and use it the right way. A state trooper or Erie County sheriff's deputy will be more than happy to check the seats as a community service.

The right car seat or booster should fit your child and your car, and is one you will use correctly every time you travel. Not only will your child ride as safely as possible, you will be establishing the foundation for a lifelong habit of seat belt use every time your child travels.

Select a car seat based on your child's age and size, and choose a seat that fits in your vehicle and use it every time.

Always refer to your specific car seat manufacturer's instructions; read the vehicle owner's manual on how to install the car seat using the seat belt or LATCH system; and check height and weight limits.

To maximize safety, keep your child in the car seat for as long as possible, as long as the child fits the manufacturer's height and weight requirements. Car seats do expire, so don't buy seats from garage sales or that have been lying around for years. Also if the car seat has been in an accident it must be replaced.

Keep your child in the back seat at least through age 12. Check these websites for specific details.: www.safeny.com; www.nhtsa.gov; www.safercar.gov/parents/carseats.htm

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