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Sodium Silicate

Sodium Silicate

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It's time to play "cash for clunkers." On Friday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released its 136-page set of guidelines for the Consumer Assistance to Recycle and Save -- or CARS -- program, otherwise known as "cash for clunkers." The program will contribute as much as $4,500 toward the purchase or lease of a new vehicle that gets substantially better mileage than the vehicle being traded in.

Although the program technically began on July 1, final details of the plan were not published until Friday.

Dealers must register to participate, and many waited to see the guidelines before signing up, so there were reports of the government computers crashing Friday as everyone rushed the Web site.

The program is now scheduled to have its formal start on Monday, though some dealers are already beginning to handle subsidized transactions.

"I'm working on three deals right now," said Ian Riding, sales manager for Sun State Ford in Orlando.

"It's a minefield of paperwork, but we're getting there." In a nutshell, the federal government will contribute $3,500 or $4,500, depending on the fuel mileage involved, toward the purchase of a new vehicle if you trade in an old vehicle that (1) gets no better than 18 miles a gallon, and (2) was built within the past 25 years.

The trade-in will be sent to a junkyard and cannot be driven again.

But there is fine print -- and some of it was unexpected when it appeared Friday.

For instance, the new guidelines require dealers to "permanently disable" the engine on trade-in vehicles before they are sent to the salvage yard, and NHTSA has very specific instructions on how to do that.

Dealers must drain the oil from the trade-in and replace the oil with at least two quarts of sodium silicate, a chemical typically referred to as "liquid glass." The dealer then starts the engine, and allows it to run until the sodium silicate heats up, binds to the internal parts of the engine like cement, and causes the engine to seize.

NHTSA said it considered having dealers drill holes in the engine block or damage the threads on the oil filter but settled on the sodium silicate method.

Dealers will receive $50 to disable the engine, handle the transaction paperwork and ensure the vehicle is sent to an "approved" salvage yard.

There are about 7,700 such yards nationwide, including 21 in Orlando alone.

The regulations also specify a civil fine of as much as $15,000 for those who violate the rules of the CARS program.

Most violations would likely involve falsifying paperwork.

The rules specify that the vehicle you purchase can't cost more than $45,000, though the new regulations modify that to make $45,000 the vehicle's base price.

Options, taxes, shipping and other features can raise the price to any level, as long as it starts at $45,000 or less.

The rules and fuel-mileage requirements are different for cars versus trucks.

Even within the truck category, rules vary according to weight and whether the vehicle is four-wheel drive or not.

It's all spelled out at the official Web site, Cole Smith can be reached at [email protected], at 407-420-5699, or through his blog at,0,7742616.story
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