My friend Ralph not his real name he's a little...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

My friend, Ralph (not his real name; he's a little sensitive about this), had a problem with his '92 Chevy Cavalier RS the other day. When Ralph and his wife arrived at the parking garage -- their jobs are in nearby buildings -- she was in a bit of a hurry. This left Ralph scurrying to catch up. Anyway, Ralph didn't notice that he had locked his keys in the car (he carries a spare) and, because of the construction noise elsewhere in the building, he had left the motor running. Well, nine and a half hours and three quarters of a tank of gas later, Ralph returned to find the car still running and not overheated. Since then, Ralph's been kind of worried that the prolonged idling might have done some damage that's not immediately obvious. But he's a little embarrassed about sharing his story. Can you help?

RAY: You can drop the "Ralph" stuff, Dick, because we know it was you. You know how we can tell? Because you made all of those excuses for "Ralph:" "Scurrying" to catch up with his wife....all the "construction noise." You did it, Dick!

TOM: But don't worry, because you didn't do any damage to the car. Fuel injected cars (like your Cavalier) can run indefinitely at idle without hurting anything. If they couldn't, every police cruiser in the country would need constant repair from all that idling in front of donut shops.

RAY: Seriously, the cooling system, if working properly, should have no trouble keeping the car from overheating indefinitely at idle. The thermostat opens and closes... the cooling fan cycles on and's a piece of cake!

TOM: And more importantly, modern cars have sophisticated, computer controlled engine management systems which measure the fuel and air, and make sure the catalytic converter doesn't get ruined by an over-rich mixture.

RAY: So your car is fine, Dick. But c'mon. Be a man about it. Enough of this sissy behavior. Stand up and do what any real man would do in this situation. Admit that it's really your car!

TOM: Then blame the whole thing on your wife for making you "scurry." 2105

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