Teaching your mother-in-law how to drive a stick will be harder on more than just your clutch.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a situation on my hands that I thought might tickle your funny bone. My
mother-in-law is coming to visit and stay with my husband and me for a long
weekend. During her visit, she wants me to teach her how to drive a manual-
transmission car (since I'm the only person she knows who drives such a beast --
a VW Jetta).

When I asked her why in the world she has decided to learn how to drive a stick
after over 25 years of driving, she tells me that her husband is buying a pickup
truck with a manual transmission and she wants to be able to "throw the thing
into four-wheel drive and go crazy." "Menopause?" I silently think. Anyway, will
teaching someone to drive a stick be really hard on my transmission? -- Kim

TOM: No, it won't bother your transmission one bit, Kim.

RAY: It's your clutch that's going to get toasted!

TOM: This is a very serious situation, Kim. On one hand you have interfamily
peace, and on the other hand, you have your sole means of transportation. Wow!
What ever are you going to do?

RAY: That's why she wrote to us, you moron. Kim, here are my thoughts on the
issue. Teaching someone to drive a stick shift is a potentially traumatic
experience: for the teacher, the student and the car. It should therefore only
be attempted under "potential date" situations.

TOM: That's when a guy has a wicked crush on a girl and is willing to do almost
anything to get her to spend time with him. And in that situation, it might be
worth it for him to teach her to drive a stick shift -- in his Porsche. This is
a case where he is willing to sacrifice both his car and his nerves for his
potential future happiness (hopefully, later that evening!).

RAY: But that's not your situation at all, Kim. So you've got to get out of
this. The question is how. Can your car just "happen to be in the shop" that
weekend? Can you tell your mother-in-law that "it's in for its annual engine
rebuild this weekend"?

TOM: If not, maybe you could accidentally crash it into a tree on the Thursday
before she arrives?

RAY: Actually, If it were me, I'd go for a compromise position that ultimately
puts the onus exactly where it belongs in this case. At the end of the weekend,
just before she's getting ready to leave, take her out to a big, empty parking
lot, and give her a half-hour lesson. Once she gets even the slightest inkling
of how to move the car without stalling it, you say, "That's great, Ma! Now go
right home and practice on your husband's truck every chance you get!"

* * *

If you want to ruin your car, we have 10 ways for you to do it. If you don't
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Even Knowing It!" You can order this booklet by sending $3 and a stamped (55
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