Tom and Ray get a letter from John, from the department of armchair economics. While driving around, he started wondering whether the brake in his Toyota Sienna was the same part as the brake in the Toyota Corolla ahead of him at the light. Tom and Ray explain why it makes sense for auto manufacturers to use lots of shared parts.
Dear Car Talk
Tom and Ray counsel a nervous Honda Fit owner who's been advised not to park his car in the garage until a fire-causing defect is repaired. How worried should he be? Tom and Ray say it's possible he can ignore the warnin. For example, if he's been wanting an excuse to remodel his garage...
Tony bought new spark plugs for his 2002 Dodge truck from an online store. Now he's worried he chose the wrong kind. Tom and Ray could set his mind at ease, but first they decide to chronicle the entire history of spark plug design. Read all about it.
Nick's newish Camry is great except for one problem--he can't remove the wheels when he needs to swap in his snow tires. The dealership was able to help him out (with sledgehammers). The service manager says Nick can loosen the lug nuts just a bit and then drive a short distance, and the wheels will come loose on their own. Can this possibly be good advice? Tom and Ray offer some clarification, right here.
Bob writes in with an auto-philosophical question: Why are some gear shifters floor-mounted in the center while others are on the steering column? Tom and Ray explain why designers can pretty much put the shifter anywhere they want. But Tom claims there's one good reason to keep it on the steering column...snuggling.
Terry's boyfriend turns off the car at every single red light. He claims this saves fuel (and money). Terry worries that all this does is annoy other drivers and will wear out her starter in the long run. Who's right? Find out what Tom and Ray say, right here.
Anne's Prius needs a new battery and she's tempted to replace it with a much-cheaper, aftermarket version. Tom and Ray aren't quite ready to endorse this move yet because they don't know enough about these batteries. Want to help Tom and Ray? If you've replaced your hybrid battery with an aftermarket part, write in and tell us what happened.
Stephanie lost the tip of a sparkplug and she's worried it fell into her engine. She's wondering how much damage this will do. Tom and Ray say she should find a mechanic with a boroscope. Find out what the heck that is, and why it will help Stephanie, right here.
Robert's mechanic thinks his engine mounts are showing some wear and due for a replacement. But Robert wonders how this can be true for a gently driven truck with less than 100,000 miles on it. Tom and Ray say there's a considerable distance between "showing wear" and "need to be replaced". Robert should get a second opinion. Find out why, right here.
Anne's ready to trade in her Subaru Outback for something a little more fun. She wants a convertible. But she's also looking for something safe with good gas mileage; a 93-year-old lady has to be a little bit practical. What do Tom and Ray suggest? Something in red, obviously.
Sandrine wants to get snow tires for her recently purchased Hyundai Elantra, but she's getting conflicting advice about how many tires she needs, and whether she should get them at all. Tom and Ray explain that while two used to be the norm, getting snow tires for all four wheels is now a better bet. More about how snow tires have improved and what it means for Sandrine, right here.
Michelle's fiancé is a perfect guy except for one annoying habit. He doesn't remember to put the car in park before turning off the engine. Michelle worries this damages the car and she wants Tom and Ray to talk some sense into her man. Will Tom and Ray side with Michelle on this? Find out what they say, right here.
Dennis's turn signals have gone haywire. They blink and flash like shorted-out Christmas lights. Tom and Ray say that's good news--all those pretty, twinkly lights flashing should distract Dennis from the bad news they have to give him. How bad is the news? For most cars, this would be a $25 fix, but unfortunately for Dennis, his particular model uses a $700 part. Find out if he has any cheaper options, right here.
Katie just finished driver's ed and was taught that driving through puddles can impact a car's braking capability. The instructor said they could solve this by braking lightly a few times after hitting a puddle. But her dad says all this does is wear out the brakes. Find out why Tom and Ray award this round to Katie's dear old dad, right here.