Today in Bogus: Randy's Blinker Theory

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Aug 27, 2013

Dear Tom and Ray:

I don't mind being called a sorry skinflint as long as I can justify my penny-pinching proclivities. I happen to believe that there are only so many "blinks" in a blinker. Therefore, I turn mine on only when absolutely necessary to signal another driver.

For example, if I'm in a turn-only lane, I don't waste any blinks. Nor do I sit at a light with my blinker clicking and clacking, driving me nuts with the thought of all that wasted energy and technology until the light turns green. Am I right in my hypothesis, or do I need professional help?

-- Randy

TOM: I would lean toward the latter, Randy.

RAY: I mean, of course you're right that all mechanical parts eventually wear out. But you have to consider the risk/reward equation for what you're doing.

TOM: On the reward side, you might save a few bucks on light bulbs over the life of the car. You might.

RAY: And while the flasher unit generally lasts the life of the vehicle, sometimes the directional switch on the steering-wheel stalk will fail before the car does. If your behavior makes it last the life of the car, then you can save a few bucks there, too.

TOM: But here's something to keep in mind: You might not save any money. Let's say the typical directional bulb lasts 50,000 miles (that's a guess), and somehow you make yours last 60,000 miles, and the car lasts 150,000 miles. You may save 20 bucks because you only had to change the bulbs twice.

RAY: But if the car happens to last 190,000 miles, you'll still replace the bulb three times in the life of the car. So you save nothing.

TOM: And the risk you're assuming is way out of proportion to the possible reward. If failing to signal a turn causes some distracted driver to rear-end you, or some oncoming driver to not realize you're making a left turn (left-turn-only lanes aren't marked for people coming from the opposite direction), you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars. Not to mention a couple of vertebrae.

RAY: Plus the alimony from having this be the last straw for your long-suffering spouse.

TOM: More importantly, the lives of automotive light bulbs are shortened much more by going over bumps and rattling the filaments than they are by blinking.

RAY: So if you're really concerned about minimizing costs, don't drive, Randy. We know for a fact that you'll save money if your car spends its life sitting in your driveway.

TOM: Or you can just relax a bit. That won't be easy, I'm sure, because you say that just thinking about wasting blinks makes you crazy. But try. We're all for being gentle and non-wasteful with mechanical objects, and we admire you for that instinct. But try to keep it just this side of the looney bin, Randy.

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