Show Rundown

#1140: Latent Junkman Syndrome

Original Air Date: 10.01.2011
Show Open Topic

Could it be that the Supreme Court and Car Talk actually have something in common? Well...

Call 1

Rachel Smith (, Arizona)

An engine question. A spark-plug blew out of the engine, and threaded the hole. Now, Rachel thinks she has to pull the head and re-bore the hole--but she can't get the head off due to rust. Can she just get the plug welded in the hole? Tom and Ray think she can out in the heli-coil without removing the head, can also try insert with special tip that is already threaded. She can try it herself--if it fails, she can donate car to a dog shelter.

Call 2

Tom Pemberthy (Portland, Oregon)

An engine question. Tom just had the thermostat replaced because the temperature gauge wasn't working, and car was idling high. Now, he's noticed smoke belching from exhaust in the morning. Did mechanic screw something up? No, Tom and Ray think that when Tom was driving with broken thermostat, engine was running too rich, so there's a mix of gas and oil in the crankcase. Get an oil flush/change, and smoke should go away.

Call 3

Beau Stapleton (Nashville, Tennessee)

An engine and oil question. Beau's van is burning oil--about a quart for every tank of gas. Beau's band is about to go on a cross-country tour. What can they do to make sure the engine lasts? Tom and Ray suggest using thicker oil, 20W 50, an additive such as Lucas or STP, and driving slowly--55 mph will be much less hard on the engine than 80. Also, check oil every time they stop for gas,

Call 4

Kristy Hernberg (Rochester, New York)

A starting and mechanical question. Her car started losing power on a long drive, had trouble accelerating when you stepped on the gas. Took it to mechanic, he had it for 6 weeks, charged $600, now car won't start. Husband insists on sticking with mechanic, says they have a 'good relationship'. But, Kristy wants the car fixed. what's wrong? Tom and Ray think it's a plugged catalytic converter, suggest mechanic check that.

Call 5

Joe Lessina (Kingston, Pennsylvania)

A family question about dumping a car. Joe's brother-in-law collects junkers. This Civic is sitting in he backyard of the house Joe lives in, but brother in law owns. How can Joe get rid of it? Tom and Ray say brother in law has 'Latent Junkman Syndrome' (like Tom), suggest mailing the Civic to brother in law, piece by piece. Joe can try weaning brother in law off this, but do it carefully--maybe insists no more than three heaps at one time.

Call 6

Colleen Raye (, Wisconsin)

A transmission question. Colleen followed Tom and Ray's advice to another caller and got her transmission oil flushed. Now car won't shift into overdrive. Mechanic told her flush might have 'loosened a spring'. True? No, what's more likely is that mechanic put the wrong filter in, or crimped a wire. Take it to another mechanic, have them drop the pan, and they should see what's wrong.

Call 7

Matt Wyman (Los Angeles, California)

A frame question. Matt was in a freeway pile-up, had to get car towed. While being towed, the car fell off the truck--5 feet, did a belly-flop. Now, insurance refuses to total it, but Matt doesn't think it's safe. Tom and Ray tell him to get a Volvo body person to check for frame damage, which is likely. If/when he finds it, get a letter to show to innsurance company.