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Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 12:26 AM   #1
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Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Youbet's post made me think:
Quote:
Originally Posted by youbet
I find the definition of "tune up" on modern cars interesting. Generally it means changing the plugs and some filters and closing the hood. There really isn't anything for the mechanic to "fine tune" or adjust. They change the plugs and filters, look at some high profit wear parts for opportunites to do some additional work, and close the hood spending as little time as possible.
I always "tuned" my own cars when that meant changing points and plugs, setting timing and dwell, etc. It was labor intensive, needed to be done frequently and you could save a bundle doing it yourself with inexpensive tools and gauges. Then, pollution control do-dads were added under the hood and the job got tough so I stopped. Now, there isn't much involved in doing a 'tune up" so I'm back to doing them myself again.
Cars are indeed much more reliable these days. Thank goodness.
While they're more reliable, they're also a lot less user-friendly. More like a black box than an integrated assembly of independent systems.

For example, under the hood of our '94 Ford Taurus wagon is a four-foot-square chip covering the entire engine that says "Intel Inside. DO NOT TOUCH! Contact dealer for assistance."

OK, it's probably not that bad, but it certainly discourages the weekend mechanic from trying to figure out which carburetor screw needs tweaking. (To you slackers who're thinking "Screw?" or even "Carburetor?!?", don't provoke me any more than you already have.) Do you more experienced folks remember when you could buy the $25 manual telling you exactly which whatsis to tweak with a left-handed whoozit? Now you can't even figure out the ECU codes without a hacker's website guide.

Our Taurus' idiosyncrasy is its cruise control. When we bought the car (five years old with 58K miles) the cc worked fine. One day it stopped working, which made me think "Oh, well, cheap used cars." A few months later it started working again ("Cool!") and after a couple weeks it quit again.

It works when it wants to, and it either works perfectly or it doesn't work at all. It doesn't seem to be dependent on other symptoms and there are no other problems on the steering column or the dash. I've read through the manuals and the troubleshooting guides but there's no answer to the "on again, off later" issue. It's flip-flopped like this for nearly seven years

At one point I thought it might be the equivalent of a bad boot or a software bug. However the problem comes & goes whether or not the car's ECU has been completely powered down (battery disconnected) or not.

It's a lot easier to fix something that's broken hard than to figure out an intermittent glitch. Anyone heard of a similar problem or know of any troubleshooting references/websites?
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 01:14 AM   #2
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Just a dumb question, but the fuse it sits on, you've changed it?

On one end of the spectrum, we have CFB with 100k of car purchases YTD, on the other end, we have Nords, shade tree mechanic-ing a 12 year old detroit 'beater. Hey don't get me wrong, that car has personality - wasn't it green? My step-mom had a dark green '75 Ford Grenada, we called it the Green Bomber. A 280ZX ran a red light and nailed it. Grenada - grapefruit sized dent. 'Z - totalled.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 08:15 AM   #3
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

It could be something as simple as a sticking brake light switch or an intermittent fault in the wiring to the set / resume switch itself.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 08:20 AM   #4
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

I'm assuming that the 12 year old description puts that as a 1993-1995 model taurus?

Congratulations! Your taurus is probably equipped with the same defective switch in it that my expedition was, only Ford has yet to acknowledge it and issue a very expensive recall on it. Yet.

The switch can overheat under unknown conditions and become non operational, and has also been known to catch fire, sometimes hours after the vehicle has been stopped and shut off.

I guess the good news is that its pathetically easy to find and replace, at least it was on my expedition. On mine it is a couple of inch square unit that was on the front of, and below, the master cylinder and has a group of wires plugged into it. You can test to see if this is your guy, unplug it and the cruise will stop working...wont even light up.

That may or may not be your problem though. Cruise controls have a lot of components and are connected to a lot of things. There are about 4 parts involved in the standard issue modern ford cruise control, and they can fail themselves or a faulty connection to ground or vacuum can cause them to operate badly. As far as not operating at all, you're down to two parts...the one I mentioned and another one thats under the dash, usually near the steering column...it looks like this - two connectors, one with six wires, one with eight.

Really good news is that if you take it to the dealer, or with a mechanic that has the dingwingy that reads the EEC engine control codes, theres a 2 minute test that will pinpoint the problem by code.

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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 08:34 AM   #5
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Nords,
Who needs cruise control in Hawaii? Isn't everything within walking distance?
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 11:26 AM   #6
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Some one was on the verge of bringing up a good, valid point: Have you checked on the possibility of an existing recall? If the part is faulty and isn't too expensive, just have it replaced. The mental anguish of having to argue with a dealership is not worth shortening your life.
Dissociated note: I love the concept of the online car buy. Any entity who sets itself up as the only avenue to any purchase contributes nothing to the value of the deal and is only ...and I will let it go there.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 12:54 PM   #7
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Quote:
Who needs cruise control in Hawaii?*
That's exactly what I was thinking. I never use my cruise control.

If it is the switch and you want to fix it check Ebay Motors for the part. The power window master control switch recently died on my car. The dealer wanted $$$ so I checked ebay and picked up one for $10 including shipping. I bought it from a college student in Oregon. I looked at some of his other listings and it looks like he buys junk cars, disassembles them, and sells the parts.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 01:01 PM   #8
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
Just a dumb question, but the fuse it sits on, you've changed it?
The fuse looks fine. *I wish it would blow because then I'd have a symptom linked to a possible cause. *But you're right-- swapping fuses might make a resistance/connection difference. *I'll try that. *It might even clear something.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
... shade tree mechanic-ing a 12 year old detroit 'beater. *Hey don't get me wrong, that car has personality - wasn't it green? *My step-mom had a dark green '75 Ford Grenada, we called it the Green Bomber. *A 280ZX ran a red light and nailed it. *Grenada - grapefruit sized dent. *'Z - totalled.
Exactly-- two tons of light-green sheet metal with ABS, power steering, and a tank-worthy rebuilt automatic transmission. *Almost 100K miles and a perfect starter car for our kid. *One missing hubcap gives SUV drivers that lane-changing pause to reconsider. *And I'm not sure that a teenager needs a cruise control to help with the driving so that she can juggle a latté and a cell phone. *Wait until she realizes that it's a rolling bordello...

Hey, lemme know when your mom's ready to sell the Grenada. *You can deliver it on your next business trip here, right?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Non sequitur
It could be something as simple as a sticking brake light switch or an intermittent fault in the wiring to the set / resume switch itself.
Yeah, real simple-- unless you're trying to troubleshoot it. *Those "simple wiring faults" were the bane of my military existence. *It's a bad sign when you know your car's wiring harness better than its automatic transmission, but of course handling a 12-year-old wiring harness is an invitation to a whole avalanche of problems.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
I'm assuming that the 12 year old description puts that as a 1993-1995 model taurus?
Dingdingding. *Born on Sep 93.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
Congratulations! *Your taurus is probably equipped with the same defective switch in it that my expedition was, only Ford has yet to acknowledge it and issue a very expensive recall on it. *Yet.
The switch can overheat under unknown conditions and become non operational, and has also been known to catch fire, sometimes hours after the vehicle has been stopped and shut off.
Yeah, I've read a lot about that. *(It makes it really hard to search for a website devoted to fixing a cruise control instead of merely extinguishing its flames.) *We haven't had any of those symptoms (except for the non-operational part). *I haven't checked into the recall status for a couple years but some Taurus models (e.g., ours) are not included in the recall that Ford is not issuing. *

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
I guess the good news is that its pathetically easy to find and replace, at least it was on my expedition. *On mine it is a couple of inch square unit that was on the front of, and below, the master cylinder and has a group of wires plugged into it. *You can test to see if this is your guy, unplug it and the cruise will stop working...wont even light up.
Light up? *It's supposed to do that? *Is there literally a dashboard flasher or some other indicator that the cruise control is turned on or engaged? *Because I've seen that on other cars but never on ours. *I just assumed that it was too cheap for wasn't equipped with any visual indication of being active. *Hunh. *Now I'm gonna have to search through the owner's manual again to see what the dashboard display is supposed to look like.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cute Fuzzy Bunny
That may or may not be your problem though. *Cruise controls have a lot of components and are connected to a lot of things. *There are about 4 parts involved in the standard issue modern ford cruise control, and they can fail themselves or a faulty connection to ground or vacuum can cause them to operate badly. *As far as not operating at all, you're down to two parts...the one I mentioned and another one thats under the dash, usually near the steering column...it looks like this - two connectors, one with six wires, one with eight.
Really good news is that if you take it to the dealer, or with a mechanic that has the dingwingy that reads the EEC engine control codes, theres a 2 minute test that will pinpoint the problem by code.
Excellent-- I'll read up on those two and take a look. *It's been a couple years since I checked into the fault codes. *Mechanics used to not get the full scoop unless they were working at the dealers, but maybe the aftermarket has hacked built more cooperation with the manufacturers. *We're about to go in for the 100K checkup rotation/alignment & spark plug replacement and this should fit in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arif
Who needs cruise control in Hawaii? * Isn't everything within walking distance? *
Nobody needs cc, least of all Hawaii drivers! *I turn it on at the H-1/H-2/H-3 onramps, get in a 60 MPH lane, and sometimes leave it running for as long as, gee, five or ten minutes. *That's part of the issue-- I figured that I'm cycling it so frequently that it's glitching and crashing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gpax7
Have you checked on the possibility of an existing recall? If the part is faulty and isn't too expensive, just have it replaced. The mental anguish of having to argue with a dealership is not worth shortening your life.
*
Yeah, but nothing up until a few years ago. *I'd stopped checking when the car celebrated its decennial. *We haven't had any dealer problems (indeed, we haven't even spoken with them) because we haven't really pursued the issue.

You're right about eBay, JB, I replaced our Altima's muffler from one of their vendors for a lot less than local prices. We've also spent quite a bit of time stripping down junked Taurii at some of our finest local graveyards.*

These are all good ideas that I'm gonna pursue on my own before I chase after a dealer or a mechanic. *Thanks, everyone!
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 01:57 PM   #9
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

I don't know if this is still the case, but cruise controls used to use the intake manifold vacuum to operate the throttle, and if there was a leak in a vacuum hose somewhere then the cruise control wouldn't work. I fixed a couple of cruise controls by replacing hoses or the vacuum plastic bubble thingy (what is that for, anwyay? A buffer or vacuum "storage"?). BTW, the hoses and bubble have no obvious relationship with the cruise control system other than they both use the manifold vacuum.

As far as newer cars, they are extremely frustrating for a carburetor-era shadetree mechanic, however they do have some standardization in the on-board diagnostics computers ( OBD II ). You can get a code reader or often borrow one for free (my local Autozone read my codes for free). Then the trick is interpreting the d%@##! code into a course of action. The codes are listed on websites. My numerical code was a Chevy-specific "CMP/CKP CORR" or something quite similar. It took me weeks of sleeping on it and asking people to finally figure out this meant the camshaft position sensor and crankshaft position sensor were disagreeing on where top dead center was. (CMP/CKP CORR = Camshaft position sensor / crankshaft position sensor correlation). In my case the remedy was re-aligning the distributor.

The point is, the newer diagnostics are quite apt but cryptic.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 05-13-2006, 05:14 PM   #10
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

I hate these multipart quotes... :P

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Yeah, I've read a lot about that. (It makes it really hard to search for a website devoted to fixing a cruise control instead of merely extinguishing its flames.)
Like this? http://www.thorssell.net/hbook/cruise.html

Quote:
We haven't had any of those symptoms (except for the non-operational part). I haven't checked into the recall status for a couple years but some Taurus models (e.g., ours) are not included in the recall that Ford is not issuing.
They arent recalling the taurus yet...but its the same part. Its just that so far no tauri have burst into flames, so they arent going to spend a gajillion dollars replacing them when a few hundred million dollar liability suits will do...

Quote:
Light up? It's supposed to do that? Is there literally a dashboard flasher or some other indicator that the cruise control is turned on or engaged? Because I've seen that on other cars but never on ours. I just assumed that it was too cheap for wasn't equipped with any visual indication of being active. Hunh. Now I'm gonna have to search through the owner's manual again to see what the dashboard display is supposed to look like.
Yes it does. There should be a green "Cruise" light in the dashboard somewhere. My 85 t-bird and my dads 96 Sable had the same setup...question though...the cruise buttons are on the steering wheel and not something on a stalk coming out of the side of it, yes? If its buttons on the wheel, its factory cruise...if its some buttons on a turn signal stalk or similar, its dealer or aftermarket installed, and a whole different ball of wax.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-03-2006, 05:59 PM   #11
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Just a little note...Ford widened their cruise control recall today to cover a bunch more trucks due to the cruise control module catching fire, sometimes hours after the vehicles been parked.

As I mentioned above, its the SAME PART they've put in many, many vehicles. I would imagine the same risk exists in any ford product with that cruise control module. They just dont feel like paying for those to be replaced yet...

If you're not an avid cruise control user, disconnecting the module will eliminate the risk. It was easy to do in my expedition, it was just a wired plug that connected in front of and just below the brake master cylinder.

Heres a photo...the switch is the thing that plugs down into the orange colored dingy in front of the master cylinder, which is the white oval shaped thing. Pull it out and cover it with electrical tape until ford issues a recall for your car.


If a recall has already been issued, ford will unplug it for you for free until a part comes in.

Note that the recall 'repair' doesnt fix the actual problem, just places a fusible link in front of the device thats catching fire that will fuse and stop supplying it with electricity before it catches fire. You'll still have to drag the car down and have it fixed out of your own pocket. But at least your truck wont burn and your house wont burn down.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-03-2006, 06:04 PM   #12
 
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords
Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?r know of any troubleshooting
You don't do your own root canals do you Nords?
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-03-2006, 06:34 PM   #13
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

If you haven't* tried this yet then you should--I temporaily fixed several CC's this way.
Take a can of computer air (with tube attached) and blow out the area around your stalk or wheel switch ( whatever the case may be)
Corrosion can disable some of these switches and and a well placed shot of air can give you new, albeit temporary life.* Then again, it may be way to late for this trick.
Now if you think this could be your problem, you can go one step further and use contact corrison cleaner for a better job.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 11:25 AM   #14
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cut-Throat
You don't do your own root canals do you Nords?
C'mon, Cut-Throat, you're just trying to get me to say nice things about Navy dentistry. You should know that can't be done!

Actually the cruise control unreliability may be a harbinger of a more severe problem or a totally separate distractor. At this point a burst of flame would actually assist in the troubleshooting. Gosh I love old cars.

Here's the symptoms list:
- The cruise control works sometimes.
- When the cruise control works, it works fine.
- When the car's parking lights/headlights are on, the cruise control never works.
- Depressing the brake pedal dims the dashboard clock LED display.
- Activating the left turn signal dims the dashboard clock LED display when the turn signal's bulb is lit. (Dim BRIGHT dim BRIGHT vs BRIGHT dim BRIGHT dim.)
- When activated, the left turn signal sometimes stays on and does not blink.

I need to figure out if any turn signal lights are on when the left-turn signal doesn't blink. Hmmm, I guess I'll also have to see what happens when I engage the cruise control and then turn on the headlights.

And then I'll consult my good buddies at DC Electric or Pearl City Electric. This type of problem was the beginning of the end for our '90 Honda Civic...
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 11:41 AM   #15
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Nords, you're a new-clear engine-near so you've probably already eliminated this one, but those symptoms sure sound like a ground problem to me. Have you looked at the negative battery cable connections and the cable itself?

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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 04:50 PM   #16
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Quote:
Originally Posted by REWahoo!
Nords, you're a new-clear engine-near so you've probably already eliminated this one, but those symptoms sure sound like a ground problem to me.* Have you looked at the negative battery cable connections and the cable itself?
Yep, but thank you for checking. The battery cable is clean & tight and reading zero ohms resistance to ground. Or as near as I can tell with my 1985 Radio Shack analog meter...

I've verified that if I'm running on cruise control and then turn on the lights, the cruise control shuts off.

Everything works fine until I touch the light switch, the left turn signal, or the brake pedal. They're all pretty far apart from each other, so my fear is that a cable bundle is brittle and falling apart. I have way too much negative experience with brittle cable bundles so I'm not going to manipulate any of them... and I'm hoping that the professional car electricians have all the fault codes for this car's CPU.

I'm not worried about safety or drivability, although the car may fail its inspection if the guy notices that the front parking lights illuminate when he pushes the brake pedal. ("Eh, brah, they just extra, the brake lights went on, OK?") All of these problems can be avoided if I stop using turn signals and drive a tad more aggressively. But I don't mind spending a $75 troubleshooting fee to avoid the consequences of benign neglect.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 05:31 PM   #17
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Nords, if you were the one driving the car, I think it would be ok. But I don't think it's a good idea for your daughter or wife to drive it in this condition. Sounds like you have a serious electrical problem that is going to get worse by the day. You could potentially lose all electrical power while driving.

If the troubleshooting is sucessful, it would be the best $75 spent. Good luck.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 06:54 PM   #18
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

So if the $75 doesn't reveal the problem, will you consider buying another car? A provisional recommendation is the Pontiac Vibe, it's a Toyota Matrix rebadged, and sells for a discount on the used car market compared to it. Great gas mileage and very useful for hauling since its that hatchback/mini station wagon design. We were going to buy it ourselves after an Aunt had a great experience, but we came across that great deal on the Volvo.
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 07:01 PM   #19
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Laurence
So if the $75 doesn't reveal the problem, will you consider buying another car?
Whoa whoa whoa, have you been talking to our daughter?!?

How 'bout pulling the fuse on the cruise control and maybe replacing the bulb holders in the left turn signal?!? Heck, even in a nuclear reactor we'd just turn off one channel of instrumentation and reduce max power settings a tad.

I don't have an eye on the car market, but if we had to buy a new one tomorrow we'd start cruising Craigslist and the library's Consumer Reports on used cars. Then we'd move to CarFax, KBB, and Edmunds. I'm guessing something bigger & boxy, about two tons of ballast with an automatic transmission for a budding new driver who'll get her license in 2008.

Of course the Chevy HHRs and the Dodge Magnums (Magnas? Nope, bad pluralizing) just look cool. I wouldn't start a car quest by just researching them...
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?
Old 08-04-2006, 07:05 PM   #20
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Re: Anyone fixed a cruise control before?

Yeah, but a big car is a nightmare for a new driver ("Hey Dad, I'm calling you from the parking lot of the ABC store, I ran into a car parking...again.") and the Vibe has a five star crash rating...can pick one up with low miles for 10-11k (2003 model year is the first). Reliability has been excellent (hey, it's a Toyota). Gas mileage is 36 on the highway....just a thought....
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