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July 23, 2010

Car Talk

Driving cars hard will wear them out, but let Dad have his outlet

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

Could you please settle an ongoing discussion that my family has had for years? On one side is my mother, my six sisters and me (that is not a typo; I really am one of seven girls. The baby is now 19, and we all are licensed drivers). On the other side is my father. You would think that after 40 years of being more and more severely outnumbered, he would've learned to just nod and go along with what we say like a good boy, but on this one point, he has proven himself to be ridiculously stubborn. There are very few things my mother, my sisters and I agree on, but one of them is this: None of us likes Dad to drive our car because, in our collective opinion, he is too rough on a car. He waits until the last possible nanosecond to stop at a red light, but pulls away from a green light like the devil himself is on his tail. He weaves in and out of traffic like he's forever in a hurry. Furthermore, he seems to never hear the little odd noises that any vehicle makes to tell you that something might be amiss, and then wonders why his vehicles are forever breaking down. In fact, he just lost the transmission in his F-150 and swears that it just "went." But I'd swear that it was making weird grinding noises weeks before he had to park it permanently in the driveway. Here's the kicker: My father SWEARS that the way one drives has no bearing whatsoever on how long a car lasts. We, the Female Collective of our family, not only think he's dead wrong, we think he's nuts. Could you please impress upon my dad that he kills cars with the way he drives and that we are justified in being reluctant to let him borrow ours when he, yet again, runs whatever he's driving into the ground? Thanks.
-- Rachel

Tom: Well, of course you and your mother and sisters are absolutely right, Rachel. You're right on all counts. And he's wrong on all counts. He's driving the cars hard, and they're breaking down because of it. But I would just forget about it and pretend you never wrote to us.

Ray: Me, too. What you're failing to see is that driving like a nut is your Dad's only outlet. And if you deny him that important escape valve, it might be HE who blows the next gasket rather than his Ford F-150.

Tom: This is his way of dealing with 40 years of having to wait hours for the bathroom, of coming home to a house that smells like the ladies' department at Macy's, of having to live among interior walls painted colors he's never even heard of, and of having to spend his evenings watching TiVo'd episodes of "The View." This guy has a stressful life, Rachel!

Ray: His car is the only place where the poor guy has any autonomy. And now you want to bully him out of that, too?

Tom: I wouldn't do it, Rachel. It's clear that you love your dad. We can tell from your letter. And it's clear that -- having given in to the sisterhood on everything else -- he loves you, too. So I say, let the poor guy run his cars into the ground in peace. And get to work making him some grandsons.

(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.)

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