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Miles left on lease? You have options

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Saturday, Dec. 1, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Q I leased a new Scion xD for 36 months, and the lease ends in November. The value of the vehicle at the beginning of the lease was listed as $16,700. The purchase option at the end of the lease is $10,296. My problem is that I currently have just 10,840 miles on the car and don't see any big trips in the future. Is there such a thing as a rebate on unused mileage? What are my options?

A: How about a round-trip vacation this summer? Alaska to California to Florida to Maine and home. A nice long summer vacation drive would use up some of those miles, but you'd still have miles to spare on the lease.

I'm not aware of any mileage rebates on unused lease miles for passenger cars, but you do have several viable options. My son Ryan, who sells cars at a Chrysler dealership, suggests you call the leasing company to confirm the precise purchase option price. Then stop by a new-car dealership and ask them to appraise the vehicle to determine how much equity you have at this point. If you have positive equity in the vehicle — meaning it's worth more than the lease purchase price because of the low mileage — you could either sell or trade it to a new car dealer.

So, your options are to turn the vehicle in at the end of the lease, purchase the vehicle from the leasing company and keep it or sell it to a private party, or sell or trade the vehicle at a dealership. Compare your options and then make your decision. Buying and keeping the car would be the simplest answer, but the selling or trading at a dealership might make the most economic sense.

Q: I have a 1991 Pontiac Sunbird LE with a 3.1-liter V-6 engine and 62,000 miles in excellent condition. When I'm driving, however, the oil pressure gauge registers way above the high mark, which is shown as 80. When it's idling, it's about halfway back down. It uses no oil and appears to run well. Should I be concerned about the erroneous oil pressure reading? What's causing it?

A: Assuming you've driven the vehicle in this condition for a number of miles and nothing catastrophic has occurred, I suspect you're seeing an electrical issue with the oil pressure sending unit or possibly the oil pressure gauge itself. A quick test with the engine off is to find and disconnect the connector to the oil pressure sending unit on the front side of the engine. Turn the ignition switch on and watch the oil pressure gauge. It should move all the way in one direction.

Then ground the connection — the gauge should move all the way in the other direction. If the oil pressure gauge is the only instrument giving a false reading, chances are it's the sending unit.

The only mechanical issue that could generate extreme oil pressure would be a restriction on oil flow caused by plugged oil passages for the cam bearings or valve gear. If it were a mechanical issue, I'd think you'd know by now.

Paul Brand is an automotive troubleshooter, driving instructor and former race-car driver. Write to him at Star Tribune, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55488 or email

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