Show Rundown

#1349: Mechanics Standard Time

Original Air Date: 12.07.2013
Show Open Topic

Sentenced to Polka: It's not capital punishment, but is it far off?

Call 1

Rachel Jordan (Alameda, California) - Mazda B2200

Rachel got into a fender bender because she was distracted by laughing at Car Talk. Se wants to know if she can hold Tom and Ray liable. Their responses is, “Rave on, Rachel.” But they’re glad nobody got injured and the damage wasn’t severe.

Call 2

Abbie Walter (Cherlevoix, Michigan)

Abbie’s mechanic told her that her car needs an alignment. She’s a poor college student, so rather than pay for one, a friend said she could realign the car by finding an open space, driving really fast backwards, and slamming on the brakes. Will this work? No! Tom and Ray say her friend’s advice is totally bogus. Abbie needs to bite the bullet and get the car re-aligned.

Call 3

Jim Walters (Santa Fe, New Mexico) - Ford Explorer

Jim took his Explorer in for its 60,000-mile checkup. He looked at the bill, and it was “clocked out” for 4.5 hours, but he was billed for 8 hours labor. Is this legal? Tom and Ray say his mechanic was likely using the “flat rate book” which gives the times allowed for any job. Tom thinks it’s also possible that more than one mechanic worked on Jim’s car.

Call 4

Lewis Wright (Memphis, Tennessee) - Volkswagen Jetta

Lewis is an IRS agent. His car’s ABS light started blinking on and off intermittently. He took it to the dealer under warranty and they said they fixed the problem--but they didn’t. He took the car back and they said it was a bad control unit and would cost $1300. Lewis thinks it should still be covered under warranty as a pre-existing condition. Tom and Ray side with Lewis--the dealer should fix this for free. Lewis may need to call a lawyer or threaten an audit.

Call 5

Red Barker (, New Jersey)

Stump the Chumps. Red bought this convertible and the floor started to catch on fire the first time he drove it. His mechanic said the exhaust was bent too close and adjusted it, but Red thought the floor still felt too hot. Tom and Ray said the catalytic converter was likely plugged. Red took the car in, got the converter replaced, and the floor has cooled off. Right Answer!

Call 6

Heidi Weiskel (Washington, District Of Columbia) - 1987 Peugeot 505

Heidi’s car is making groaning noises when she turns, and is getting harder to steer. Her mechanic said her tie rod ends and ball joints are wearing out, but it’s impossible to find parts, so he suggested that Heidi just drive it until she can’t turn at all, then call the Salvation Army to come get it, but Heidi worries this isn't safe. Tom and Ray agree. She probably can find parts; her mechanic just doesn’t want to work on it. They suggest Heidi use the Car Talk Mechanics Files to find someone willing to work on a Peugeot.

Call 7

Jerelee Bassis (Montgomery, Maryland) - 2006 Toyota Matrix

When Jerelee parks in front of her house, the car sounds like it’s settling like an old woman--it heaves, groans and even shudders. It only does this when she parks in front of her house, which is on a slight decline. Tom and Ray think the problem is the parking brake not fully engaging, so car is trying to move. She could experiment with putting it in Park first so the parking pawl engages, and then putting on the parking brake to see if the noise goes away.