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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.

15 Mar 2018 at 12:00am

There are safer options than this old car for long ttrips.


13 Mar 2018 at 12:00am

'Whistling teapot' sounds could mean a steep mechanic bill.


8 Mar 2018 at 12:00am

Here's a last-ditch possible cheap fix for a leaking radiator.


6 Mar 2018 at 12:00am

Weighing the pros and cons of using the parking brake.
 


1 Mar 2018 at 12:00am

Car's odd behavior on left turn probably signals bad motor mount.



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Car Talk

by jrweblackey
17 Mar 2018 at 11:21am
Subtitle: Ralph is in the shop trying to fix 2 Camrys. What is he doing? Question: 

RAY: The other day in the shop I had two Toyota Camrys each side by side. One of them didn't run. It cranked and you turn the key and wa, wa, wa, but it wouldn't fire up. And the other one was in for an emissions test. So I tell Ralph to do these two cars. So he takes the emissions tester probe. He sticks it in the tailpipe of the car, which he is supposed to do the emissions test on. He opens the hood. The next thing I know he is cranking this car, wa, wa, wa.

TOM: It won't start.

RAY: He then takes the probe out of the tailpipe, sticks it in the other car. He gets into the car that wouldn't start. And he turns the key and of course, it doesn't start. It does the same thing that the first car did. Wa, wa, wa. I say to him, "What the hell are you doing?"

TOM: You must have assumed that he went to the wrong car.

RAY: That's what I assumed at first. I didn't know what he was doing. He then explains to me what he is doing. I say ah ha! What's he doing?

 

Answer: 

TOM: You must have assumed that he went to the wrong car.

RAY: That's what I assumed at first. I didn't know what he was doing. He then explains to me what he is doing. I say ah ha! What was he doing? Well, he knew that the first Camry, the one that came in for the emissions test, ran. He sticks the probe in the tailpipe, and opens the hood, and disables the ignition system so that the car will not start. So, now he basically has this car, number one, like car number two. He turns the key, and he reads the emissions on the machine. He reads it's got like 3,000 parts per million of unburned hydrocarbons. Obviously, because it won't start.

TOM: Stuff is going out the tailpipe!

RAY: The injectors are squirting fuel and it's not getting combusted. When he puts the probe in the other car's tailpipe, he's looking to see if it has the same kind of emissions. If it does, then he knows that the fuel system's working. The pump's working, the injectors are firing off. And if he sees that there are no emissions with the same cranking time, then he knows that it's a fuel system problem, and not an electrical system problem. Pretty cute, huh?

TOM: So, what did he find out?

RAY: I don't know, I fired him before he could say so.

TOM: Wow, he's a genius of a guy!

 

Show: #1811: The Fall's Gonna Kill YouAnswer Date: Saturday, March 24, 2018Saturday, March 17, 2018

by dgreene
15 Mar 2018 at 11:34am
2018-03-17This week on The Best of Car Talk, Tom and Ray turn to the wisdom of Butch Cassidy to help settle a dispute between Erin?s husband and friend over shifting. Then, the guys help James and his fiancee take on the Marital-Industrial Complex by registering for gifts at Louie?s Lexus rather than Chafing Dishes R Us. Also, Bob loves the former police car he just bought but may need to replace a part he doesn?t believe exists; Anita?s truck has developed a heavy breathing sound; and Eric is looking for the perfect vehicle for a family trip along the Al-Can Highway. Maybe he should be looking for four perfect vehicles? All this and more, this week on The Best of Car Talk.Show ID: 201 811This Week's Puzzler: The Emission Mission: Ralph is in the shop trying to fix 2 Camrys. What is he doing? Last Week's Puzzler: Buying a Motorcycle in Europe: What would have to be changed on the motorcycle before it would be legal to drive in the USA?Show Open Topic: Gender Numismatics: Men, Women, and ChangeAudible ID: B076JJ7SMCHomepage: This week on The Best of Car Talk, Tom and Ray turn to the wisdom of Butch Cassidy to help settle a dispute between Erin?s husband and friend over shifting. Then, the guys help James and his fiancee take on the Marital-Industrial Complex by registering for gifts at Louie?s Lexus rather than Chafing Dishes R Us.Best Moment Length: 01:30Best Moment Clip:  201811.mp3

by Spacebat
15 Mar 2018 at 10:11am

Dear Car Talk:

On my way to Florida from Rhode Island, my radiator overheated and I was towed to a garage in the Bronx. Two days and $2,700 later (see repair slip), I was on the road again. Needless to say, that was a shock. My car is a 1996 Cadillac Eldorado, and I am trying to keep this old car on the road, as my mechanics in both states tell me it's worth it. I would like your opinion, as I'm 83 years old and my husband died in January. Should I get rid of the Caddy and lease a cheaper car? Thanks. -- Ruth



I think when your mechanics told you it's worth keeping this old car on the road, they meant it's worth it for THEM.

First of all, I'm afraid these fine chaps in the Bronx took you for a ride. In my estimation, they charged you somewhere between $800 and $1,200 more than they should have for a radiator, water pump and coolant sensor -- assuming you even needed all that stuff. They saw you as an easy mark, Ruth. And shame on them.

But that's radiator fluid under the bridge now. The question is, What should you do going forward?

The problem with a 22-year-old car is that it can break down at any time. And if you're using it to travel between Rhode Island and Florida, it's very easy for you to end up in a similar situation: at the mercy of a mechanic you don't know, with no other recourse.

So I have a few ideas for you. One is your own idea, to lease or buy another car. A new car is statistically much less likely to fail on you. And even if it does, you'll be under warranty for the next few years. If you do opt for a new car, make sure you get all the latest safety features we've been recommending (automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, etc.).

Another option, if you really love this car, is to let someone else move it between Rhode Island and Florida for you. There are car transport services that will put your car on a carrier and deliver it to you in a matter of days. And while your car is being trucked down Interstate 95, you'll be eating free peanuts at 35,000 feet and making the trip in two and half hours instead of two and half days. And that way, the next time the Caddy breaks down, you'll be near one of your two homes, where presumably you have mechanics you trust.

A third option would be to keep the Caddy in Rhode Island, and buy a good used car and leave that one in Florida (or vice versa). If you leave the battery connected to a trickle charger (also called a battery tender), the car ought to fire right up for you when you arrive.

But I'd love to see you stop making that 1,500-mile drive in a 22-year-old car twice a year, Ruth. That's a long drive, even if you stock up on 8-track tapes. Good luck to you!

Dear Car Talk Author: Ray MagliozziThursday, March 15, 2018radiatorsrepairsEldorado1996

by Spacebat
14 Mar 2018 at 3:30am
Year: 2 018Images: <li>Styling. There was a time, not too long ago, when you could ask a third grader to ?draw a car.? And that three-box shape drawn with a crayon looked exactly like every Volvo on the road. Not any more. Volvos look more like Scandinavian furniture these days. Sleek, minimalist, and damn near futuristic.</li></br> <li>Safety. One thing that hasn?t changed is Volvo?s attention to safety. So you can count on your new Volvo to have the latest and greatest. In addition to an advanced structural safety, the XC60 has automatic emergency breaking with pedestrian, large animal, and bicycle detection. I guess that means if an alien lands in front of your car, Volvo is not sure the car will brake automatically. But it will for everything else if you?re not paying attention. It keeps you in your lane, stops, starts, and follows the car in front of you with the optional Pilot System, and actually steers the car out of the way if an oncoming UPS truck crosses into your lane and is about to hit you. Of course, Volvo probably put all this stuff in the XC60 after they realized how much time people were spending with their eyes on the XC60?s huge, center touch screen, instead of watching the road.</li></br> <li>Seats. Volvo?s still have among the best, if not the best seats in the industry, and the XC60?s 10-way power seats keep the streak going. After work, you may find yourself taking your cocktail out to the XC60 just to sit in your favorite easy chair and relax. Extra plus: It?ll probably be the best stereo system you own, too.</li></br> <li>Utility. The XC60 is a bit smaller and lower than the XC90 SUV, making it more of a pure crossover. It?s not a vehicle you have to climb up into or climb down out of. Yet, it provides a nice, raised view of the road, with notably thin A pillars and large windows. Four doors and a generous cargo area make it a useful, versatile vehicle for a family.</li></br> <li>Interior. Even more than the improvements Volvo made to its exteriors, the interiors are truly transformed. Here?s where the Scandinavian design really shows up. Everything is light, straight, clean, and airy. It feels sparsely luxurious, like a house that?s been well-staged for sale with the family?s junk sent to storage.</li></br> <li>Heads up. The XC60 comes with a very good, color heads up display that helps you keep your eyes on the road by projecting necessary information onto the windshield, so that it appears to be floating at the end of the hood. You can set it to show your speed, the speed limit (the XC60 reads road signs), and turn by turn directions.</li></br> <li>Mileage. With the plug-in hybrid version of the XC60 (it also comes as a T5 with a 250hp four-cylinder gasoline engine and a T6 with a 320hp version of the same engine) we got an very decent 27.5 mpg overall. That required plugging it in every night to get the 13 miles of all electric transport. With the plug in hybrid, you also get a total of 400 hp between the motor and the engine. But, I suspect, over time, 13 miles of all electric power is going to feel like a novelty. The Chevy Volt already gives you 53. And other plug-in hybrids are in the 20s. That said, if you generally stay close to home, you can do a lot of your driving with just electricity.</li></br><li>Price. Volvos are getting up there. Those who have stopped by the dealership to replace their aging (once $40,000) V70XCs have experienced sticker shock when looking at the $65,000 V90XCs (the V60XC is coming? hold on). And while the XC60 starts in the $40s, expect to pay high $40?s to mid $50s for the one you really want. And if you want the T8 plug in hybrid Inscription like the one we drove, write out a check for $71,590.</li></br> <li>Comfort. We suspect the other versions of the XC60 may be more comfortable than our T8 with its 20 inch wheels. While the Volvo was plenty comfortable on smooth roads, it felt stiff on bumps, even with the optional air suspension. The 20-inchers certainly made that worse. Opt for the 18 inch wheels if comfort is a priority.</li></br> <li>Complex screen. The center touch screen is like an iPad SuperMaxi. And you should expect to experience a learning curve. It?s complicated, compared to other car?s systems. We do wish for a few more hard buttons ? do we really need to go two steps into a screen to turn on the heated steering wheel (OK, now that we?ve written that sentence, it's clear this is a first world problem). The most commonly used selections are on the home screen, laid out in a vertical stack. Touch one of the choices (Navigation, Entertainment, Climate), and it opens to fill the whole screen with more detailed options. Swipe left for more specific audio and media controls, swipe right if you want to date the Mercedes in front of you. Actually, swipe right for vehicle settings. These things are best done at stop lights, since they require your eyes and your concentration. We found the voice control helped. While it wasn?t perfect, it beats the hell out of entering your navigation info manually, and can be used to adjust the temperature and other stuff that would otherwise send you a couple of menus deep on the touch screen. Try it. All told, the screen forces you to take your eyes off the road a lot more than we?d like? especially from a company that worships safety.</li></br> <li>Slow screen. For a brand new car with the latest and greatest electronics, we were a little disappointed by the speed at which the screen came to life when we started the car. It?s all relative, of course, Remember when you waited 90 seconds for AOL to load a page? Well, now waiting 5 or 8 seconds for your backup screen to appear, so you can leave your parking space, feels like an eternity.</li></br> <li>Persnickety shifter. The trend in luxury cars is to create (reinvent) your own automatic transmission control. Volvo?s is far from the worst, but it is kind of a single-plane joy stick that you pull backwards to put in Drive and push forwards to put in Reverse. There?s a button next to it for Park. It took us a day of revving the car in Neutral to figure out that Volvo wants you to select your direction twice before it will obey. Presumably that?s to prevent you from nudging the shifter by accident. Note to Volvo, that never happened with the old fashioned floor shifter.</li></br> <li>Touchy hybrid brakes. The regenerative brakes on the plug-in hybrid version of the XC60 were grabby. Almost certainly not an issue with the gasoline versions.</li></br> <li>Optional blind spot detection. This is a disappointment to us. As the leader in safety, we?d have thought Volvo would be among the first to make all the great modern safety features standard, especially on a premium priced vehicle. Yet to get Blind Spot Monitoring (which everyone should have now), you have to buy it with a bunch of other stuff in an $1,100 Vision Package.</li></br>Icon Img: Make and Model: XC60

by Spacebat
14 Mar 2018 at 2:41am
Year: 2 018Images: <li>Looks. This is a car for a 28 year old who?s having a mid-life crisis. Tired of the staid look of your Corolla, but don?t want to give up Toyota?s familiarity and reliability? Here?s a compact car with an exciting exterior design, but is otherwise a reliable, economical Toyota. The looks are definitely not boring. It?s got exaggerated, aggressive lines, weird rear door handles, and the largest C-Pillar in the history of western civilization (larger even than those on Caesar?s chariot). It looks like the kind of one-off, impractical concept cars that automakers bring to auto shows to get oohs and ahhs, but never actually produce. Toyota produced this one.</li></br> <li>Road manners. It drives like a very good compact car. The driving dynamics don?t quite live up to the futuristic sports car looks, but they do the job very well. The ride is firm but comfortable (for the car?s size), handling is totally adequate if not sporty, and cornering is pretty flat. And while you do get a bit of Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) drone when you stomp the pedal to enter a highway, and it takes some time to get to highway speed, day-to-day acceleration around town is perfectly acceptable. It?s got that easy-to-maneuver, easy-to-live-with feel that speaks to the Toyota underneath. </li></br> <li>(A little) more room than you think. It?s a small, four-door car, but it?s not tiny. It?s got a real backseat with room for a couple of adults. The downside is that, in the back, you sit very low. So it?s like being driven around in your bathtub. Front seat room is totally adequate, with good headroom. And there?s cargo room behind the rear seats, accessible by a large opening hatch. The impression you get is, hmm, it?s not as small as I thought it would be.</li></br> <li>Front visibility. Visibility out the front and to the front sides is actually pretty decent, thanks to a large windshield and thin A-pillars. Out the back? Fuggetaboudit. Luckily a rear view camera comes standard.</li></br> <li>Well loaded for $26,000. All C-HR?s now come with the Toyota?s Safety Sense - P package, which includes forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. That?s impressive. Please stop to applaud Toyota for this. And the XLE Premium package adds blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. Unfortunately, you can only get those by buying the XLE Premium trim. But still, for $26K, you?ve checked all the safety boxes. The XLE Premium version also came with dual zone climate control, seat heaters, adjustable lumbar control for the driver, a fooled-me stitched-looking dashboard, independent suspension, an automatic parking brake, brake hold for stoplights, automatic high-beams, and a modern touch screen system with the requisite connectivity. Not bad.</li></br> <li>Economy car mileage. EPA rates the C-HR at 29 mpg overall (27 city, 31 highway). We did more city than highway driving and got 27.5. </li></br> <li>Not as sporty as it looks. There?s more fun in the sheet metal than there is behind the wheel. That?s not a bad thing, as long as you know what you?re getting. You?re getting a very interesting looking car that drives like a sporty-ish economy car. </li></br> <li>No all wheel drive. It looks like a small crossover, which typically have all wheel drive. This is a front drive car only.</li></br> <li>Wind noise at highway speed. At 65 miles an hour, you do hear a fair amount of wind. Consider that if you do primarily highway driving.</li></br> <li>Small backup camera image. The image from the backup camera appears in your rear view mirror. It?s projected on the left one-fourth of the mirror. The advantage is that backing up doesn?t interrupt whatever you?re doing on the main touch screen. Unfortunately, that makes the image very small. We drove a Chevy Traverse that projected the rear view image across the entire rear view mirror, and that was great. But using only a quarter of the mirror made it hard to see details (was that my son?s toy fire truck I just ran over, or the neighbor?s ferret?). Think about it. Compared to the 7-inch diagonal touchscreen where the typical backup image appears, this is about 2.5 inches diagonally. It works, but it?s less than ideal.</li></br> <li>Rear door latches. Toyota built the rear door handles into the tops of the rear doors. It?s a cool styling trick and helps make the C-HR looks like a raised up two door coupe. And it?s fine for adults, once they stand there for a second and scratch their heads and then ask you ?OK, how do I open this thing?" But if you have little kids, they might have trouble reaching the rear door handles. That can be a plus or a minus depending on how you feel about having your kids in the car. </li></br>Icon Img: Make and Model: C-HR