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After I was involved in an accident a good friend...

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Dear Tom and Ray:



After I was involved in an accident, a good friend lent me his "stealth car," a
1979 Honda Accord hatchback with "50,000 miles on this engine." I drove it for a
week and may have killed it. He warned me that it had a rough idle, especially
in warm weather, and I found this to be true. Then the car started to ping under
load, as though it had a bad tank of gas. Then it stalled while idling.

When I finally did get it running, it produced lots of white smoke and ran
roughly, as though on three cylinders. I talked with a local mechanic, who
speculated that the head gasket is blown. "Many hundreds of dollars" if so --
about what the car is worth.
Here's the question. Since it's not my car, what do I do? Should I fix the car?
Did I somehow bring on its demise? How do I explain the situation to my friend?
Will he ever speak to me again? -- Glenn

RAY: Gee, Glenn. You're in a tough situation. The car was sort of a heap to
begin with, but the pinging makes it sound like you overheated it and put it
over the edge. On the other hand, if the "hot" light wasn't working, you
wouldn't even have known you were overheating the engine. So it's not easy to
assign blame here.

TOM: This is one of those cases where you just have to decide which is more
important, Glenn, friendship or money.

RAY: Go ahead; we'll wait.

TOM: You need a little more time? OK. We can wait a little longer.

RAY: All right, we can't wait anymore. We'll assume that, eventually, you're
going to decide that this friendship is important to you. In which case you
should just fess up, tell your friend exactly what happened and how it happened.
Then offer to pay for half of the head gasket repair. That's the honorable thing
to do, since there's no way you'll ever know for sure how much of it was your
responsibility.

TOM: And will he ever speak to you again? Of course he will! When he takes you
to small claims court to try to collect the other half of the repair bill,
Glenn.
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