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.
12 Dec 2017 at 12:00am
Think twice before purchasing rustproofing for your new-ish car.
7 Dec 2017 at 12:00am
Jesada's Jetta might look better but would she notice any other changes?
5 Dec 2017 at 12:00am
Newer cars with the right features might keep you on the road longer.
30 Nov 2017 at 12:00am
Capping the leak may require more than a new gas cap.
28 Nov 2017 at 12:00am
What's the best option for a loyal VW owner who wants to swap his diesel for a new model?
23 Nov 2017 at 12:00am
Don't ignore or tape over this one, even if you have a helmet handy.
12 Dec 2017 at 8:43am
Dear Car Talk:Dear Car Talk Author: Ray MagliozziTuesday, December 12, 2017rustbuyingCorolla2015
I recently purchased a certified used 2015 Toyota Corolla. The dealer recommended that I purchase rustproofing. He said extra rust protection is no longer done by manufacturers, since cars are sold in various climates.
I had rustproofing done on my previous 1999 Corolla when it was new, yet the sides still rusted in the past few years. I held off on the rustproofing, and am seeking more information about how these recent models are made and what difference this might make, especially since the car has already been driven for 15 months. Your thoughts? Thanks! -- Barb
Skip it. And they wonder why people still don't trust car salesmen. That stuff about different climates is complete claptrap, Barb.
The entire rustproofing industry has largely disappeared, because car buyers really have no need for it anymore. Nowadays, the aging rustproofers just get together once a year in Las Vegas and reminisce over pictures of old honeycombed Fiats and Datsuns.
In the past few decades, carmakers have gotten a lot better at slowing down the rusting process. Typically these days, during manufacturing, the metal car bodies are subject to a process known as "E.D." No, not that E.D. -- electro deconditioning.
During E.D., the steel car body is cleaned, coated, then dipped in a chemical bath while electrical voltage is applied, and then baked. All that happens before it gets paint and a clear coat. Manufacturers also do a better job of sealing up places between the parts where water can get in and start the corrosion process.
So all that effort has done a pretty good job of delaying the onset of rust. Of course, if you keep your car for two decades and live where the roads are salted, all bets are off. Nothing can prevent the chemical reaction that creates rust forever. But gone are the days when your Chevy Vega started to rust in the showroom.
Even before all this stuff was incorporated into the manufacturing process, aftermarket rustproofing was of questionable value, if only because it wasn't always done well.
Installers would make holes in the car and spray rustproofing into the insides of the doors, for example. But the holes themselves sometimes allowed water to get in and rust to form.
So, your new-ish Corolla is already rustproofed, Barb -- or at least rust-inhibited. And there's no reason, anymore, to pay extra for additional rustproofing. It's unlikely to help, and it could even hurt.
8 Dec 2017 at 5:41pm
Subtitle: Vinnie is setting up a arm wrestling tournament. If 247 people signed up, how many bouts will there have to be in order to determine one winner?Question:
RAY: This is stolen somewhat from an e-mail I got a long time ago. Here we go. Our erstwhile companion and chief mechanic, Vinnie Goombatz, being renowned for his prowess in arm wrestling, is asked to set up a tournament at the local watering hole where he goes and gets stewed every night. It's to be a single elimination tournament, i.e., once you lose, you're out. No ties allowed. This is arm wrestling; you can't have a tie in arm wrestling, right?
RAY: To his horror, 247 people have signed up for this tournament, and the barkeeper wants to know how many bouts have to be fought. Figuring a bout takes about five minutes, he wants to know at what time he should start the event so that it will conclude before closing time.
So Vinnie is in a tizzy now, because he's thinking about, Oh, I gotta set up a branching tree, count all the branches, and since he can't count much beyond 14, he's in a tizzy.
Fortunately, there's a little guy sitting next to Vinnie at the bar, and the guy says, "I know the answer." Vinnie says, "What are you, some kind of genius or sump'm?" The guy says, "No, but there is a simple reasoning process which will allow you to instantly know how many bouts have to be fought."
The question is: If there are 247 people that signed up, how many bouts will there have to be in order to determine one winner?
TOM: With a single-round elimination.
RAY: And show your work. And, by the way when the bout starts, both hands of the clock are 180 degrees apart.
RAY: The question is, how many bouts have to be fought in order to determine one winner? One winner. So, you start off with 247 people. Divide that group in half, right? Half of them are gonna wrestle the other half. Then you're gonna lose half of those people.
RAY: And that half is gonna wrestle, right? You could go and do all this, but there's a simpler way to figure it out.
TOM: There is?
RAY: According to John LaTorre, who sent this to us, he claims that Albert Einstein used this as an example of elegant reasoning. That is, reaching a conclusion in the fewest number of steps in his math lectures. And here's the answer. Since you can't have any ties, every bout must have a winner and a loser. And since the thing is a single-elimination, everyone will lose once, and only once, except for whom?
TOM: One guy! The winner.
RAY: Therefore, how many losers are we gonna have?
TOM: Two hundred and forty-six.
RAY: How many matches are we gonna have?
TOM: Two hundred and forty-six.
Show: #1749: An Honest Idiot or a Competent CrookAnswer Date: Saturday, December 16, 2017Saturday, December 9, 2017
8 Dec 2017 at 9:11am
Show: #1749: An Honest Idiot or a Competent CrookArtist: Danny InfantinoAlbum: Child of the TimesPublisher: Breezewood Music (BMI)Composer: Stephen E. Smith & Danny InfantinoLength: 00:33
8 Dec 2017 at 9:09am
Show: #1749: An Honest Idiot or a Competent CrookArtist: The Strange TonesAlbum: Crime-a-BillyPublisher: Tom Heinl (ASCAP)Composer: Tom HeinlLength: 00:25
7 Dec 2017 at 8:25am
Dear Car Talk:Dear Car Talk Author: Ray MagliozziThursday, December 7, 2017wheelsfuel economyJetta2013
I have a 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid, and I am considering getting lighter alloy wheels that are about 10 pounds lighter than the factory wheels. Would reducing 40 pounds of weight improve my mileage significantly, reduce my stopping distance and improve the handling enough to justify such an upgrade? -- Jesada
I don't know how much these new wheels would cost you, Jesada, but unless you're stealing them, I don't see you making back your money in improved gas mileage during your natural lifetime.
You'd be reducing the weight of the car by about 1 percent. And while the relationship between weight and mileage isn't direct, even if you got a 1 percent increase in mpg, you're talking about half a mile per gallon. According to my math, if you drive 15,000 miles a year with these new wheels, you'd save $11.
In theory, the answer to all of your questions is "yes": Reducing weight does improve fuel economy, reduce stopping distances and improve handling. But would it be enough for you to notice?
You might notice that the handling feels a little spryer. And if you really wanted to believe it, you probably could convince yourself that you were sensing the other benefits as well. But I think most people would not notice much, if any, difference off the racetrack.
If your primary interest is increasing your mileage -- and boosting your bragging rights on the Jetta Hybrid blogs, which I bet you frequent -- you'd be better off adding a few pounds of air to each of your tires. If, for instance, your tires call for 32 pounds of air per square inch (psi), fill them to 35 or 36.
In most cases, overfilling your tires by 10 percent over the car manufacturer's recommended inflation pressure is safe (whereas underinflating them is not safe). And overinflating your tires will reduce rolling friction and improve your mileage a bit. It also can improve steering response and cornering.
The downside is that it will make your ride stiffer, degrading your ride quality and comfort a bit. But you can make up for that by taking all that money you saved on those alloy wheels and buying yourself a padded bicycle helmet. That'll keep you from getting lumps on your head if you bounce up and hit the roof while driving around on your overinflated tires, Jesada. Good luck.
5 Dec 2017 at 8:54am
Dear Car Talk:Dear Car Talk Author: Ray MagliozziTuesday, December 5, 2017buyingsafety featuressafety
I own a 2013 Honda Civic EX with 16,000 miles, which I really like. But I'm wondering, since I turned 81 this year, if I should think about upgrading to the newer safety features, such as anti-collision, blind spot sensor, etc. Since I turned 81, I've been thinking that maybe I should have all the help I can get, but I know the Civic probably would be fine until I'm ready to hang up my keys (or the kids take them away).
I have been studying a lot of different rating sources and like the features of the Subaru Impreza hatchback, which is in my price range and would hold my waterskis and kayak. My two questions are: (1) Is it a good idea to make this change? and (2) Is there anything else I should consider? I really don't want an SUV. Thanks! -- Shirley
Anything else you should consider? How about a chauffeur?
You absolutely should make this change, Shirley. Let's face it: Our reflexes -- along with our eyesight, our hearing and our tolerance for certain relatives at Thanksgiving -- decline as we get older. What could be better than getting a car with some reflexes of its own to make up for our deficiencies?
That's exactly what's available to this current generation of senior drivers. We now have cars that notice if a pedestrian walks out in front of you and will hit the brakes for you if you don't react in time. We have cars that will notice if traffic in front of you slows down, even if you haven't noticed, and if you fail to react, they'll slow or stop themselves for you. We have cars that will tell you that you shouldn't change lanes right now because there's a car (or worse, an 18-wheeler) in your blind spot that you didn't notice.
Normally, what happens to older drivers is that they drive until there's "an incident." You don't notice something, someone cuts you off and you don't react quickly enough, you mistake a statue of the Hamburglar outside a McDonald's for your late husband and drive into some shrubbery. These things happen. Then the kids conclude (probably correctly) that it's time for you to give up the keys.
What these advanced safety features do is help you avoid those "incidents," and delay the time when you have to give up driving and lose a big piece of your independence. Isn't that fantastic? At some point, if you can't see or can't operate the pedals, you'll still have to give up the keys, Shirley. Although, within a decade or two, if you can hang on, technology may solve that, too, with totally self-driving cars. But for now, the crucial technology to have, in my opinion, is city- and highway-speed forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. And you can get all that stuff in a Subaru Impreza for less than $25 grand.
I recently drove the new Impreza, and it's probably the most comfortable small car I've driven. It's practical, affordable and, unlike a number of other affordable cars on the market, you can get it with all the good safety stuff.
I'd love to see a heads-up display in there, too (which projects key information, like your speed and navigation directions, out in front of the windshield, so you don't have to take your eyes off the road), but good heads-up displays are still slowly trickling down from higher-end cars.
But this is an excellent idea, Shirley. Either trade in the Civic, or bestow it on a ne'er-do-well grandchild, and buy yourself some more safe years behind the wheel. And tell all of your 81-year-old waterskiing and kayaking friends to do the same.