Which is better for Greg's car: the shorter, frost-heave-filled way to work, or the longer, smoother, highway route?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jul 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

I live in Vermont, and I have two possible ways to go to work. The first way is what people who don't live in Vermont would call "quaint," but what I would call "lousy." The road winds through the hills and is dirt for part of the way. In mud season, it turns into a bog. It's rutted and has washboards in places. During winter, it's peppered with frost heaves. The other way is all highway driving. Seems like a no-brainer, right? The problem is that the "quaint" way is nine miles shorter each way. In the course of a year, that adds up to something close to 5,000 fewer miles. Which route should I choose: The dirt road that saves miles while beating up my car, or the highway that treats my car well but racks up thousands of extra miles a year? -- Greg

TOM: Take the advice of Bobby Troupe, Greg. He was the former piano player for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, who wrote about Route 66: "Travel my way, take the highway, that's the best."

RAY: I thought Nat King Cole did "Route 66."

TOM: He recorded it first. But Troupe wrote the lyrics.

RAY: Hey, how do you know all this stuff?

TOM: Well, you remember yesterday afternoon, when I was supposed to be putting a clutch in that Nissan? I was lying under the car reading a great music-trivia book. I'll lend it to you.

RAY: Thanks. Well, that's the right advice, Greg. Even though you'll put more miles on the car by taking the longer highway route, you'll spend less on maintenance and repairs over the car's life.

TOM: Smooth highway driving is easier on everything: tires, shocks, springs, brakes and the entire front end. Even the fuzzy dice knock around less and lose less of their fuzz in transit.

RAY: Washboards, rutted roads and potholes are among the worst things you can subject your car to. All that shaking and banging and bouncing loosens stuff up, and wears out your suspension system and steering components even faster than my brother can talk his way out of a clutch job.

TOM: And if the repairs aren't enough, after a couple of months on the "quaint" road, you'll need to pay for psychiatric help, because all of the rattles in your car will be driving you nuts.

RAY: So stick to the highway, Greg. Five thousand extra highway miles a year is far less damaging than bouncing over the back roads every day.

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