Dear Tom and Ray:
I met my fiance in a car accident three years ago. I bumped into his car, and the rest is history. However, as luck would have it, the only time we argue is when it comes to driving and car care. He drives a stick-shift Mazda Miata, and I drive an automatic 2010 Nissan Altima. So there are a lot of features in my car that he had to get used to (such as keyless ignition). The one thing that always gets me is that he often turns off the engine without shifting back into park. I tell him that it damages the car, and he says no it doesn't. I find that hard to believe, because the car won't start if the gear lever is not in park. Can you knock some sense into my man? I love him to death, but not his car/driving philosophy. Thank you. — Michelle
Ray: Well, the act of turning off the engine while the car is still in drive doesn't hurt anything, other than the chances that you're going to go with him to the altar. Neither the transmission nor the engine care.
Tom: But the reason he should break himself of this habit is because it's easy to then forget to actually put it in park.
Ray: Maybe you've done this yourself at some point? You pull up somewhere, you're a little distracted, so you turn off the ignition and take your foot off the brake. Then in your peripheral vision you notice that the car next to you is moving. And suddenly it occurs to you: It's not the other car, it's me!
Tom: Of course, it would be worse if you had gotten out of the car before it started to roll away. Luckily, the keys won't come out of the ignition unless the car is in park. So that gives you one more signal that something's wrong (why won't my key come out? Oh, right. Because I didn't put the car in park, and my car is rolling into a UPS truck!).
Ray: But in a car like yours, Michelle, with keyless ignition (where you just need to have the key in your pocket, and the car recognizes it electronically when you get in the car), it's one step easier to leave the car in drive, open the door, get out and walk away.
Tom: Now, that presupposes that you'd somehow miss the warning chime that would sound when you opened the door with the car in gear. But remember, you've already tried to turn off the car without putting it in park, so we know you're distracted.
Ray: So, while it's not mechanically harmful, Michelle, it could lead to a stupid mistake. So remind him that you're getting married soon. And tell him that means that if he does ever leave the car in drive and lets your car roll into a fetid, alligator-infested swamp, there are a lot of years ahead for him to never live it down. Good luck.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)