Dear Car Talk
Twice a week, Car Talk answers your questions in their nationally syndicated newspaper column. Carried by over 300 papers around the country, this award-winning column is available online only via the Car Talk web site.
20 Feb 2018 at 12:00am
As a car ages, it's good to give it a once-over.
15 Feb 2018 at 12:00am
It'll save some wear and tear on your bumper.
13 Feb 2018 at 12:00am
This friend who claims oil changes are unnecessary is flat-out wrong.
8 Feb 2018 at 12:00am
It's not junk; it's a treasure trove of elusive bits and pieces.
6 Feb 2018 at 12:00am
Thanks to innovations in car tech, it's a good time to be a senior driver
30 Jan 2018 at 12:00am
Steve wants to rein in his Explorer's appetite.
20 Feb 2018 at 8:35am
Dear Car Talk:
I have a 2005 Dodge Stratus with about 95,000 miles. As it gets close to 100,000 miles, I'm wondering what maintenance is recommended and about what it all will cost? (I don't think that there are any particular problems.) I had the oil changed yesterday and asked these questions at the dealership, but the answers were vague and didn't inspire my trust.
The man I spoke to listed a few things, including a transmission flush, and said I should expect to pay $600-$1,000 for routine maintenance at 100,000 miles. I want to do what needs to be done to keep the car running well for as long as possible, and I want to get ahead of any problems. But I am clueless. I don't want to do unnecessary things, and I don't want to overpay. Many thanks! -- Molly
Because this car is now of bar mitzvah age, I'd recommend that you do what we call the "Blue Plate Special." That's a service we provide for customers who are thinking about buying a used car. They bring the car to us, and we'll spend a couple of hours going over it from stem to stern. We'll test everything, from the headlights to the tailpipe. We'll check the engine compression, the emissions, the suspension, the brakes, the exhaust. We'll look for leaks, cracks, fungus, even ingrown toenails -- though we've yet to find one of those on a Dodge Stratus.
Then we'll give the customer a complete report on the car. We'll start out by reporting any "terminal conditions." If there's a serious engine problem, the transmission is slipping or there's coolant in the oil, that's often a sign to abandon the car and move on to something else.
But if the car is basically roadworthy, we'll tell the customer what needs to be fixed right now, what likely will need repair in the next six months or a year and what we can predict down the road.
So you should get yourself a Blue Plate Special. Find out if the car is basically sound enough to invest in, going forward.
If it is, find out if there are any safety issues, like bad ball joints or steering issues. There certainly could be safety-related repairs due at 100,000 miles, and those things would need to be addressed right away.
Then find out what needs to be done in addition to the recommended fluid and filter changes. For instance, if you haven't done it already, you're probably due for a timing belt and water pump for $500.
Once you have that information, you'll be able to make an informed decision as to how much money it's going to take to keep this car going, over what period of time, and whether you want to stay in this relationship or bail.
To find someone to do the Blue Plate Special, I'd suggest going to www.mechanicsfiles.com. That's a database of mechanics that our readers and listeners have personally recommended. Put in your ZIP code and see if there's a highly rated independent mechanic near you. That'll almost certainly save you some money, as opposed to the dealer.
And at 100,000 miles, don't be surprised if you have to put $1,000 into maintenance. So brace yourself, Molly. Hey, it's a small price to pay for the luxury of an '05 Dodge Stratus, right?Dear Car Talk Author: Ray MagliozziTuesday, February 20, 2018maintenancemechanicscost of ownershipStratus2005
17 Feb 2018 at 9:07am
Subtitle: Can you pick a bogus coin out of 50 coins in only four weighings? Question:
RAY: Imagine that you have in front of you fifty coins. They all look exactly alike except one of them is a fake. Because it's a fake, it weighs a couple of grams more than a real coin. So, if you had a balance scale, and you knew which was the bogus coin, you would put it on one side of the scale, a good coin on the other side...
TOM: ...and it would be immediately obvious from this imbalance which was the phony coin, because it's heavier than a real coin.
RAY: Right. Knowing that, you have in front of you fifty coins -- one of which is bogus. The question is, what is the fewest number of weighings on a balance scale that you need to perform to determine which coin is bogus?
TOM: And-- Part B of the puzzler: Tell us how you got that number.
RAY: The answer is 4 weighings. Now how did we get this number? At first blush, you would think, because of other puzzlers of this ilk, that you would divide the 50 coins in half and 50 is conveniently divided in half, right?
TOM: Yeah. So, you'd do 25 and 25. That's weighing number one.You find out that it's on the left side.
RAY: Then you do 12 and 12 with one leftover, and assume the worst case scenario, one of them's heavier.
TOM: Then six and six. That's three weighings. Three and three. That's four weighings. And you're done for. It takes five.
RAY: So, you had to come up with something a little more clever. And what you do is divide the coins into three piles. Two piles of 17 and one of 16.
And so, you take the two piles of 17 and you put those on the scale, and you keep the 16 pile aside, right?
Right away, you can see that you're going to eliminate not half the coins, but two thirds of the coins.So, let's assume that one of the 17 is the heavier one. You throw everything else away.
TOM: And you've only made one weighing. And you've narrowed it down to 17.
RAY: Now, you could divide the 17 in half, but better still, divide it thirds and you've got six and six and five. And that's the second weighing.
TOM: Then three and three. And one and one, and that's it.
RAY: And then, and bingo! And the key is, once you figure out the idea that you're going to divide it into three piles and not two, it jumps right out at you.Show: #1807: Scotch and DieselAnswer Date: Saturday, February 24, 2018Saturday, February 17, 2018
15 Feb 2018 at 3:17pm
Show: #1807: Scotch and DieselArtist: The MidwesternersAlbum: The MidwesternersComposer: Richard WiegelLength: 00:27
15 Feb 2018 at 3:14pm
Show: #1807: Scotch and DieselArtist: Django's CadillacAlbum: Django's CadillacComposer: Victor JohnsonLength: 00:34
15 Feb 2018 at 10:24am
Dear Car Talk:Dear Car Talk Author: Ray MagliozziThursday, February 15, 2018transmissionsdriving tipsOutback2005
I drive a 2005 Subaru Outback and live in a very lovely and hilly town. My Outback has an automatic transmission. When I'm stopped at a red light facing uphill, I sometimes hold the car by lightly touching the accelerator. Sometimes I use the brake pedal. When I do use the brake pedal, the car will roll back slightly before the transmission can grab on and move the car forward. Which method of holding the car on a hill is less detrimental to the transmission? To hold or brake ... that is the question. Thanks. -- Fritz
That's the question, Fritz. And the answer is: It hardly matters.
Automatic transmissions are designed to "slip" when you come to a stop. If they didn't slip, the engine would stall, just like it would if you were driving a car with a manual transmission and came to a stop while still in gear.
So, slippage -- with automatic transmission fluid absorbing the power of the engine and turning it into heat -- is just part of life when you're an automatic transmission. And from the transmission's point of view, there's not a great deal of difference between slipping a little bit while holding the car on a hill and slipping a little bit more, for a shorter time, when you roll backward and need to change direction.
If those were my only two choices, I'd probably choose to let it roll back. But fortunately, those are not your only choices, because they both have downsides. If you use the gas pedal to hold the car on a hill, you probably have to rev the engine up to 1,500 rpm or more to stay in place. If you do that frequently, you're wasting a lot of gas. And if you use the "roll back and then go forward" approach, if the hill is steep enough, you could roll back right into the grille of your local mob boss's brand-new Lincoln Continental.
So your best bet, since this is an everyday occurrence for you, is Option 3: Learn to use your handbrake while waiting for the light to change. When you arrive at a light, pull up the handbrake, and let the handbrake hold the car in place. If there's traffic behind you and you want to be "ready to go," you can even hang on to it, with the release button engaged while you wait. And when the light turns green, just release the handbrake as you step on the gas, and you won't roll backward.
For those who don't have a pull-up hand brake like Fritz's Outback does, you can accomplish the same thing by "two-footing it": Use your left foot to hold the brake pedal while you wait, and then ease off it as you step on the gas.
Problem solved! And now that we've eliminated this existential source of worry for you, Fritz, we hope you'll have more time to contemplate some truly important things -- like global warming, net neutrality and who Jon Snow's mother is on "Game of Thrones."
15 Feb 2018 at 2:43am
Year: 2 018Images: <li>Stylin'. The LC-500 is a striking looking car. It turns heads, in the same way a Corvette or a Ferrari turns heads. Of course, some heads will turn and think ?who?s the asshat driving that thing?? But if you want to command attention wherever you go, the LC-500 will serve as your arrival siren. It looks like a supercar. It?s rare, sleek, unusual, and ? while it looks from the side like the designer drew a car, folded up the piece of paper, stuck it in his pocket for a week, and then pulled it back out and built the car from it, including the creases in the paper ? it does look exotic, futuristic and original.
<li>Fast. The engine makes good on the car?s looks. It?s a V8 with 471 hp and a ten speed automatic transmission. Single or twin turbos are pretty common these days, but this engine has no turbo because it has no need for one. It?s way more than enough, and there?s no power lag, like some turbos create at low rpm.
<li>Handling. Again, the handling matches the looks. You?d expect it to stay flat in corners while going fast, and it does. It?s not a light car, so it doesn?t feel particularly agile. You?re not going to toss it through tight turns, but it is a sports car. It?s not faking.
<li>Hybrid option. We drove both the naturally aspirated 5-liter V8 and the 3.5 liter-plus-battery hybrid version of the LC-500. The hybrid has a couple of advantages. It?s considerably quieter, and it got nearly 25 mpg overall in our testing. EPA says 30. Your mileage will vary (it will always vary lower). The V8, by comparison, is supposed to get 19 overall (your mileage will vary). The hybrid also lowers the douche-canoe rating for the driver, because you may be a just-divorced orthodontist who left his wife for a 25-year-old dental technician, but you care about the environment!
<li>Luxury interior. As you?d expect, the interior is absolutely top end. Everything is suede and leather. Parents of young children might blanch at the baby-poo brown color of the leather in our test version (Lexus says it?s "toasted caramel,? presumably pre-digested), but there?s no question it's absolutely top quality, and put together very well. Everything feels solid and high quality. Plus, you get pretty much every luxury doo-dad you could want, from a large, bright touch screen to defogging side-view mirrors.
<li>Safety. Glad to see that the LC-500 is available with a full complement of modern safety gear. Why they make you pay an extra $1,000 for blind spot monitoring on a $100,000 car remains a mystery.
<li>Looks. Like we said, you have to want to be stared at. It?s possible to admire this car without wanting to own it. It?s like admiring a Jackson Pollack painting, yet not wanting to wear it to work.
<li>Sound. The V8 LC-500 is loud. Again, the whole idea of the LC-500 is get people to notice you. So when you start it up, it booms and roars. It sounds like a ?67 Trans Am. If you have nearby neighbors and leave for work at 6 a.m., and you think they hate you now, wait til you wake them up with this exhaust note. To be fair, a person who buys a car like this probably wants to hear the engine, as well as feel it, and Lexus has accommodated that wish by making the exhaust sound prominent. If that bugs you, get the hybrid.
<li>Ride. You?re not buying a soft, isolating Lexus. The ride is not punishing, but it is definitely firm. And you sit low to the ground. Know what you?re getting into.
<li>Door handles. They?re sleek. They lie flat against the door until you push on one side. Then the door handle pivots and the other side pops out, so you can open the door. The problem is that you?ve taken a one-step process (grab n? pull) and turned it into a two-step process (push, then grab n? pull). And since you get into the car many times a day, it quickly becomes a pain in the butt. Style over function.
<li>Controls. The LC-500 suffers from the same flaw as other modern Lexi, notably the one-finger-controlled touchpad that you use to move the cursor on the screen. It?s never anything but awkward and difficult. And to make matters worse, to turn on the seat heaters you have to go down two menus. There?s a large, easy to reach volume knob between the seats that we appreciated, but we wish Lexus would give up on the touchpad.
<li>No wireless charging. We wouldn?t ding a Nissan Sentra for the lack of wireless charging, but when you?re plunking down $100K, you probably have an iPhone X. Icon Img: Make and Model: LC 500