Regular car servicing or family therapy? Maybe both.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Mar 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am 25 years old and a first-time car owner. Over a family dinner recently, I asked my family how often I should take my vehicle in for its tuneup. My father, exemplifying his need to control absolutely everything, said that I should follow his advice and strictly obey the owner's manual. He said he's taken his car in for regular tuneups and is still driving the car he bought new 12 years ago. His wife, with her constant need to simultaneously irk her husband and please everybody else, said that I didn't have to bother servicing the car until I detected some problems. I, ever the passive-aggressive, pretended that I was too busy to listen, while carving a model of an extraterrestrial landing site out of my mashed potatoes. My question is: Which one of us would most benefit the family by going into therapy?

-- Carol

TOM: Great question, Carol!

RAY: Well, before we answer the familial component of your question, let's address the automotive part. Your father, unfortunately, is right. If you follow the schedule in the owner's manual and do the regular maintenance as it comes due, it will cost you less over time than fixing things as they break. Plus, it'll make your car last longer -- and make it more reliable. Sorry, Carol, but he's absolutely right.

TOM: But since following his advice would only reinforce both of your unhealthy behaviors, you have no choice but to break the pattern and not let him control you. That would be what a therapist would tell you.

RAY: And now that we've already given you therapy, you can take the 80 bucks an hour that you would have spent on a shrink and put it toward a car-repair fund. If my calculations are correct, that adds up to more than $4,000 a year.

TOM: And that's enough money to allow you the freedom to completely ignore your father's advice and just fix things as they break.

RAY: Right. And when dad says at the family dinner, "I told you you'd ruin your transmission if you didn't follow my advice," you can say, "I wanted a new one anyway, Daddy-o. And by the way, what do you think of this alien landing site I'm building?"

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One