Help me convert my sweetheart from a two-footed driver to a "proper" driver.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am the "proud" owner of a 1990 Subaru Legacy Wagon, and have been the sole
driver of this car (until recently) for 99 percent of its 180,000 miles.
Obviously, the key words here are "until recently." For the past year and a
half, I've been sharing the car with my sweetheart, who is one of those
"two-footed drivers." He claims 1) "Of course I'm not putting any pressure on
the brake pedal; my foot is just resting there," and 2) "It's better that my
foot be there just in case." Please help me. My face is showing signs of damage
from the duct tape I'm required to wear over my mouth when riding with him.

Besides the possibility of causing an accident because of flickering brake
lights, could he be causing any damage to the brakes? I have noticed twice the
"brake" light was on after he drove, even though the hand brake was not on! --

TOM: Oh geez. This is a real can of worms, Martha. Any time we've taken a stand
on this issue, we've gotten tons of hate mail from one side or the other.

RAY: But we're used to it, so here's our position: It's OK to drive with two
feet (i.e. one foot for the gas and the other foot for the brake) provided that
the braking foot is completely off the brake pedal except when stopping the car.

TOM: Right. There is at least one advantage to two-footed driving. Some people
(mostly older folks -- and you don't tell us how old your boyfriend is) feel
that their reflexes aren't what they used to be. And they don't want to take the
time to move their foot from the gas pedal to the brake in an emergency. They
feel that having a foot ready to brake improves their response time. And they're

RAY: But there are several possible downsides. One is that you use the brake so
often (when most people would simply stop accelerating as a first step in a
situation) that you make the drivers behind you nuts -- and you tempt them to
stop their cars, and beat you over the head with a tire iron.

TOM: Even if they don't take punitive action, at the very least you confuse
other drivers. And you can cause an accident if a person behind you thinks
you're going to stop suddenly when you're really not. In fact, we should
probably require two-footed drivers to apply a bumper sticker that says "I'm not
stopping, I just thinking about stopping."

RAY: The other potential problem is also serious. If your foot IS actually
resting lightly on the brake pedal (and it's hard to drive this way without
resting your foot on the pedal), you can overheat the brakes and cause the brake
fluid to boil. And when your brake fluid boils, your brakes won't work at all _
no matter how many feet you use (unless they're dragging along the pavement).

TOM: And it's possible that the brake light was coming on in your Subaru because
your sweetheart had set the brake fluid boiling by resting his foot on the brake
pedal and unknowingly applying light pressure for miles and miles (in spite of
his denials and denials).

RAY: It's also possible that the light came on because you were low on brake
fluid due to a leak, or your pads are just worn out -- both of which are quite
possible with 180,000 miles on the car. So we can't jump to conclusions about
your sweetie, as much as you would like us to.

TOM: So here's the deal. If pookie is over 65 and wants to drive with two feet,
insist that he keep his left foot completely OFF the pedal when he's not
braking, and accept that you're not going to change him at this point.

RAY: But if he's under 65, you should immediately initiate some classical
conditioning. Get one of those miniature baseball bats that they give away on
"bat day" at the ballpark. And every time he brakes with his left foot, crack
him in the knee. He'll get the message eventually.

* * *
TOM: Well, you asked for it, and here it is. My brother and I sat down and wrote
down everything we know about how to make your car last forever.

RAY: Get your copy of "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing
It!" by sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed No.10 envelope to
Ruin No.1, PO Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

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