Dear Tom and Ray:
My husband actually said this: "If you ask Click and Clack, and they say I did something wrong, I'll stop doing it." So here we go:
When my husband backs my new Toyota minivan out of our driveway (he's backing it down a hill), he doesn't use the brakes. He just shifts it from reverse into drive as the minivan is still rolling backward, and then goes forward. I gasp when he does this, and he says, "What?" I tell him he's going to ruin my transmission. He gives me a list of excuses why I shouldn't worry about it. When he almost has me convinced, he says: "And by the way, I'm not even sure I did anything. But if I did, I'm sure it won't hurt the car." How's that for covering his bases? But I think he made a crucial mistake in agreeing to abide by your decision. Give me some hope, guys! I need to know the correct answer, because my newly driving teenagers are often in the car with us, and I want them to learn to drive correctly.
Tom: Well, I'm less worried about your teenagers picking up bad driving habits than I am about them picking up some awful debating skills.
Ray: Yeah. I think "I didn't do it, but if I did" tends to be a sure-fire loser in most marital disagreements, at least according to my brother's four ex-wives.
Tom: And four different judges!
Ray: What he's doing is bad for the car, Darlene. Cars can't say "ouch." But if they could, yours would be saying "ouch" and grabbing its transmission when your husband did that.
Tom: He's using the transmission in a way it was never designed to be used -- to stop the car. That's what the brakes are for. And they tend to be cheaper than transmissions to replace.
Ray: While reversing directions without stopping the car first may not do a tremendous amount of harm if you're going, say, half a mile an hour, if you're backing downhill at several miles per hour and then change directions, you're putting a serious load on the internal parts of the transmission.
Tom: And the damage isn't confined to the transmission itself. Other parts of the drive train and suspension get jolted, too. Instead of being allowed to stop and start moving the other way, each part is suddenly slammed against the next part down the line. This leads to premature wear, and large outlays of money.
Ray: Here's how you can demonstrate the concept to him. Next time you're in the supermarket, let him go ahead of you, and then have him walk backward, at normal speed, to where you're standing. Tell him that when you tap him on the shoulder, you want him to stop and then move forward.
Tom: Then, while he's still walking backward, slam him in the tuchis with the grocery cart, hard enough so that he starts moving forward.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)