Did I cause my boss' transmission to start slipping and, more importantly, should I tell him about it?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Apr 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

Oh, boy! Here goes . . . My boss left to go to Japan on vacation. My boyfriend
and I moved into his luxurious home to housesit and feed his prized cats. He
also said I could drive his 1992 Mercury Sable station wagon to work -- an
immense step up from my dirty old VW camper van. I have been relishing the
grandeur of this new living environment, almost able to taste what it's like to
be wealthy.

All went well for us until one of the cats turned up missing. We still can't
find her. The blender's motor burned out last night in mid-fruit mix. A piece of
expensive artwork fell out of its frame and the corner of the painting was badly

NOW, this morning, I was driving the Sable to work and after stopping at a
stoplight, I press the accelerator and nothing happens. In fact, it starts
rolling backwards. After a few seconds, it jerks into gear and I'm off. This
happened all the way to work. I checked the transmission fluid and it was OK.

I called the Mercury dealers in town and was floored to find out that it's going
to cost me $2,400 to replace the transmission. My boss is back in a week, and I
have bitten my nails down to the bone. I fear my job is at stake, or at the
least he will never let me in his house again. Please let me know if I should go
ahead with the transmission replacement, or what to do. -- Jena

RAY: Jena, do you have an updated resume?

TOM: Actually, I'm not worried about the car. It's highly unlikely that you
could have done anything in a week to ruin the transmission. More likely, it's
been wearing out since 1992, and you were just unlucky enough to be driving it
the week it went from bad to worse.

RAY: I'd tell him that you noticed it was slipping, and, if you want to be a
real sweetheart, offer to contribute to the repair if he thinks that's
appropriate. If he's any kind of decent guy, he'll refuse your offer outright.
Transmissions don't just go out in one week, and he probably knows that. He may
even say "Oh! I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that before I left . . . it HAS
been slipping."

TOM: So forget about the car. It's the cat I'm worried about.

RAY: Right. You can put the blender away, and it may be months before he uses it
again, and he may not even attribute it to you.

TOM: The artwork is trickier. He'll probably notice if you put a cheap
reproduction of Whistler's mother-in-law up in its place.

RAY: I've got it! You could blame it on the cat. You could say that the cat
knocked the artwork off the wall, and when it fell, the cat was startled and ran
out of the house and you haven't seen her since.

TOM: But I'd update the resume just in case, Jena
* * *

TOM: Hey, do you think you're taking good care of your car? Are you sure?

RAY: If you're like many of our customers, you may be ruining your car without
even knowing it. Yes, even you! Find out how. Send for your copy of our
informative pamphlet "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing
TOM: Send $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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