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Y2K won't impress your car

You might be in no condition to drive after an evening of celebrating, but your car should be fit as a fiddle and ready to run after midnight on Jan. 1. As fit as it was on Dec. 31, anyway.

The year 2000 might be a big deal for us, but most of your car's computers are not impressed; they just don't care what year it is.

Except for one -- which few cars have, anyway: the chip controlling a dashboard calendar. There's a chance it could become confused, think it's 1900 instead of 2000, and throw the date/day matching off.

The chips controlling your engine, exhaust emissions, transmission, steering, air bags and anti-lock brakes care only about things like the car's speed, the engine's speed, altitude above sea level and air temperature in order to regulate engine-idle speed, fuel mixture, spark timing, steering effort and when to upshift or downshift.

Some might care about the time elapsed since you've started the engine in order to know when to turn off the dashboard warning lights that come on briefly at engine start. Others record the mileage you've driven to tell you when it's time to change the oil.

The chips tend to be either engine cycle-related or elapsed time related, said Kathleen Volks, spokeswoman for Ford Motor Co. She says most cars have between 15 and 40 computer chips.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says there is no cause for concern about Y2K bugs in cars, domestic or imported. Car makers are, however, worried about other kinds of Y2K glitches: in power grids, banks or telephone networks or other systems in nations that have devoted insufficient resources to preparing for Y2K from which the car makers buy many automotive components.