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Highlight of Episode #2025: A Sympathetic Ear | Car Talk

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This week on The Best of Car Talk, Ryan took his car in for an oil change and got talked into an engine shampoo. Will Tom and Ray reassure him that he's not a complete idiot? At least he didn't get a cream rinse. Elsewhere, Bill parked his rental car on a beach, and discovered the next morning that the tide had rolled in—to the car. He's bailed the water, but hasn't told the rental company. Also, Ray channels Frank Costanza to try to diagnose Kevin's clicking noise; Jean is suffering a run of flat tires in her driveway; and, is a lucky doughnut enough to keep Tamatha's brakes from burning up for a third time? All this and more this week on The Best of Car Talk.
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last week's puzzler. What was the question? Here it is. You're gonna remember this. Maybe maybe I came into the shop with his Volvo on the back of a tow truck. He walks in and says, I'm in trouble. Guys, I need your help So we immediately do a Dun and Bradstreet on him and finally agreed to take his case. He says the clutch cable has broken five times in the last five months. I asked what happened, and he said, I don't know. I had a new clutch put in six months ago, and when they put the new clutch in, they advised me to put a new cable in and they said, Go ahead. Ah, Month later, they closed up shop and headed for some unknown Pacific Island clutch cable breaks. So the guy continues. The story says that he puts a new clutch cable in thinking the wonder Sharp put in was effective. Ah, month later, that cable breaks another month goes by and that cable breaks. By this time, he says, I was at my wits end, and I figured the clutch had to be defective, so I brought it to another shop and what they installed a brand new clutch. Oh, and of course, what? I just watched E still don't remember this puzzler. Well, I don't either, but I'm hoping that in reading it here, my memory will be jogged on. A month later, the cable breaks again, and he says, Sonja Henie Tuto and I asked him under what circumstances it breaks. And he said, I start the car. I go to drive it away. I stepped on the clutch or I go to shift into gear. I get to the corner, for example. I shift into neutral. I wait for the light to turn green. I stepped on the clutch in the cable breaks. Jeez, E said, Oh my God! And I asked him If the car starts now, he says, I don't bother The started since the cable was broken. What was the sense? And I say to him, I bet it won't start. He said, Why shouldn't it start? Started yesterday has nothing to do with the clutch. Anyway. We go out to the car and turn the key. Dead starts right up. No, it won't start. And he asks, What does that have to do with my clutch? cable breaking and I say everything. Everything Is this the same old chestnut that we've used about five times? You have to spoil everything on you. Wonder why I have no sympathy about your dark. You wonder Well, you understand how Why I remember the puzzle Because you've used it five times. I haven't used it five times. It just seems that way twice. This is the second time it's ever been used. The first time was 19 years ago when I first saw this happen. Excellent. What a memory I have. Yeah, you dio. Too bad you don't use it once. And it s so the question was, why was the clutch cable breaking? Well, what had happened when the original guys put the clutch in, they failed to put in a little tiny piece of wire that goes from the engine block to the body, the body of the car and is the conductive path for electricity that goes from the battery to the start of motor, through the block, through the body of the car and ultimately back to the battery. And in the absence of this cable, the electricity must find a new conductive path to get from the battery through this daughter and back to the battery because this cables missing and there's no other conductive path, it uses the clutch cable and it burns it up so it makes it brittle. You ain't got no path for me. I'm gonna find one, right? And what finally happens is it burns up the cable. You step in the cable that one last time in the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back, comes into play. The cable breaks, and then it won't start. And that's why I asked him if the engine would start when he said, I don't know. I said, I bet it won't because now he had no conductive path because the cable was broken and the car wouldn't start it all. And we put in a new clutch cable and a 25 cent piece of wire for which we charge him $80 and he was on his way. And who's our winner this week, though? With me? What? The winner is what? Tom took shavers from Lincoln, Rhode Island. Boy, that must be Dutch, huh? You figure could be from Lincoln, Rhode Island, and for having his correct answer chosen from among the thousands of correct answers that we got. This week, our pal Thomas will get a $25 gift certificate to the car talk shameless Commerce Division. With this $25 gift certificate, he could get a copy of our C D. Men are from GM. Women are from Ford, all calls about couples and cars. This the CD, by the way, is a big hit with marriage counselors. It has generated more business for them than anything else ever that ever came out along the pike. Anyway, we'll have a brand new puzzler coming up in the third half of today's show, so don't touch that dial. In the meantime, we'll take your calls. Of course. 1888 Car talk. That's eight. Double eight. Double to 7. 82 double five. Hello. You're on car talk. Hi, this is Ryan calling from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Ryan, Hello? Hi. We're here. We're here. We're here for you, Ryan. E Hope someone is Well, well, basically, I went to get annoyed. All change, and I got talked into something extra. And ever since then, people have just been making fun of me. Um, Ryan you have a sympathetic ear. So basically, I just I got talked into this, um, What they called an engine shampoo. What are you, some kind of a way promise? Well, it's a name. Just a name like that. You're gonna be a real sucking a Go ahead. Elaborate. Well, you get. Did you get the green rinse too? Oh, man, go ahead. Go way Treated it lightly. Let's give Ryan time to explain. Alright, Present my case. So basically, I go in there and I get the oil change. And I didn't go to a place that was recommended. I was just driving home and I needed Thio get it? So he shows me the oil stick and, you know, it's got very dark oil, and he says the soil is black S o I say to him. Okay, So what? He says, Well, I can give you an oil change, but what's gonna happen is that this is a bad color for oil, and it's going to turn this color again very, very shortly. And in order to prevent that from happening, you really should get the engine champ. Yeah. And then he said he did it with his own car and, you know, he's wearing, you know, the mechanic outfit. And he had stayed. It seemed like he knew what he's doing. Yeah, that the appropriate patches and all that. And then how much do you want for the ships and the scar tissue in the places it was exactly? It was more than the car was worth more than the car. It was more than the oil change. The oil change was 26 bucks, and this was, like 36 bucks so that they shampoo your wallet at everyone's everyone's reaction so far on how long ago did this happen? Uh, just not very long ago. No, 10 days ago. So have you looked at the oil to see if it's black? No, I haven't. Don't Don't. Look, I gotta tell you right now, don't look. What does your car does your car seem to have a son of your disposition going? They're going out on more dates. I mean, what? Lisa has an excuse. If it doesn't want to go out on a date, you can say it's, you know, washing its engine. But no, it it seems the same as it was before Yeah. And the truth is that when he showed you the dipstick with the black oil on it, that's the nature of oil. When it turns black, it means it's doing its job. It's holding dirt and carbon and other contaminants in suspension. And now all those things get removed when you take that drain plug out and you put fresh oil in there. So Well, he didn't do any harm, if that's what you're worried about. How he just took 30 bucks for me. 6. 36 36 bucks plus the tax. Yeah, yeah. And did you get taken? I guess I did. Yeah. And people are gonna laugh when you tell them and then laugh again, Don't you? Don't mention it to anybody. It's I guess it's the name. Yeah, it is. It's the name and benefit has been something else, but ah, shampoo engine. If they if they had called it a deep, deep engine carb carbon ization process. Yeah, I had a professor in college. You taught a mathematics course, and the fellows name was a very famous mathematician named John Carlo Rota. Hey was a visiting professor from Italy and because his command of the language wasn't what it ought to have been. Uh, even though he had tremendous mathematical mind, he chose for the name of the course, the world of mathematics. And halfway through the semester, he asked for volunteers to come up with a better name for the course. He says, because it sounded too much. Walter Disney and the engine shampoo sounds too much. Walt Disney E. But you didn't get the blow dry, and your ego will recover from this. Yeah, but next time the cream rinse, maybe in order. See? Right. Thank you so much. Bye, boy. Oh, boy. 1888 Car talk or 18882278255 Hello. You're on car talking. Hi, My name is Hamilton. I'm calling from North Hampton, Massachusetts. Whoa, whoa. Tama? Tha Yeah. T a m a T h a. No kidding. Isn't that cool? Thank you. What a cool. What's the origin of this name? I think my parents made it up, but I have run into other Tamika's. When I was eight, we were at Denny's and our waitress. His name was also Tamas. Now they paid her off. Didn't name tag and everything. Well, they probably had that made up. You got fooled by a Yeah, his 10 bucks. Put this on. Where'd you say you are from? I'm from North Hampton. In Massachusetts. Yeah. Alright. Tama tha What's up? Okay. Well, I have a 92 Subaru loyal. Uh, basically, this is a saga that starts with a curse and ends with a doughnut. And in between is a problem with seizing calipers. Really? Wow. We'll just take our shoes off and relax, and you start telling, Okay, So two summers ago, my friends and I were walking and we passed this woman who was having car trouble, and my friend Sarah said we should stop and help her and my other friend, and I just kind of located at each other like she was nuts, because there were already three people helping her, and I knew that I would be no help whatsoever. I probably get stuck under the car. S o. Sarah said to me Well, fine, but don't blame me if you have bad car karma. Uh, that's the curse. That's the curse. That's the curse. Okay, Okay. Okay. A week later, I was I had gone down Thio New Jersey and I was on my way back and about an hour into my trip, um, I noticed that there was a burning smell and I was like, I was hoping it wasn't my car. And I looked at the temperature gauge perfectly normal. And so I, you know, I was like, Well, I was concerned, but I didn't had no idea what was up until I had my first told Booth and the brakes were really soft. Eso then. So of course it was a Sunday, and I pulled off the first exit and I could, you know, I went to the first, you know, places I could find that was open, which is one of those chain store chain stores in, like, a week later, and not about $900 later. They had replaced both calipers from calipers and the master cylinder, and they told me that the problem has been that my calipers were seizing. Sounds good. Sounds good, right? So then, last June, I was on my way to New Jersey. I'm about an hour into my trip on lo and behold, there's that familiar burning smell, and you sure it wasn't just New Jersey Jersey that only in Connecticut at that point, eso so well, it's those winds, you know, revealing winds. El Nino. Exactly. But so I pull over in the course. You know the same thing. My brakes air soft. I'm stuck. I have to use, you know, whatever mechanic I even find which isn't yet another chain store. A different one. Yeah, yeah, yeah. They're like your caliber. You know, one of your caliber is seizing and the other one's just bed with these chain stores, like minus or one of those places, and I Well, I don't want liberty to say what I am at liberty to say. Well, one was the first one in New Jersey was a pep boys on then the second one and that it was last year with tears and the problem. You're gonna show you, by the way. But I'm glad you mentioned our listeners. Your name is Tama tha from North Hampton. Okay. And your last name and address? No, you can't have that phone number. Alright, They have caller I d. I'm sorry. Go ahead. Okay. So did Ceres do both calipers? Yes. They replaced both, but not the master cylinder. No, I fear that they have both missed. Really? I think so too. Okay, wait a minute. You didn't tell us yet about the donut. Okay, here's the deal about the doughnuts. So the second time that this happened, I had four friends in the car. And as we passed the site of where the college person sees the day before, we had gone to Dunkin Donuts before we left. And he said he took a French crueler out of the out of the box and said, This is an offering to the evil spirits to, you know, make sure we have a safe trip, but the French call of God, but it gets better. So I, being the superstitious person that I am, took that French color after are safe trip to and from New Jersey and the rental car and moved it to my car, where it sat until September, when my coworkers found an even better French color. This one frosted and got Sprinkles. So I, you know, gave the evil spirits and even better offering. So now, of course, when the most popular questions I get is is that really a doughnut in your car. Second question. How long has it been there? Well, it doesn't make for good conversation, doesn't it? Yes, it does like an ice breaker. You meet someone new and you could tell them the whole entire story. Like you spent the last 25 minutes telling us. Exactly. Yeah, well, here's the thing now. Yes, it's gonna happen again. Yeah. Why? What's wrong? I think both the Pep Boys and the Sears guys, and we can only say this because we have this information. I think that they both missed what was really going on. I think you have a bad vacuum booster E. And as you drive the car, vory. Gradually, the booster begins to apply pressure to the brakes, even though it should. Even though you're not stepping on the brakes until finally, it's tantamount to your stepping on the brake pedal while you're stepping on the gas. Now, I don't notice any problem when I'm driving like it doesn't feel like I have to put more gas on or anything in the car doesn't feel like it's slowing down or anything and only happens on the highway. Yes, that's right, because it takes a long enough trip. And why does it only happen in the summer? Oh, because you only travel in the summer. No. E knew you were gonna say that. Well, I think it's harder in the summer. Things expand faster. Okay, I don't like that's it. No, we're not making it up. I mean, it's either it's either the power booster or or it's the brake lines between the frame and the calipers, But I'm sticking with the booster Know when this has happened? I haven't had any problem actually, like, it's not like my wheel stop like I just drive straight to the because it's getting it's getting to that point. If you had kept going the car, you find yourself stepping on the pedal on the gas pedal mawr and more and more to keep going at 50 miles an hour because your brakes are seizing up and the smell you smelled is obviously the brake pads frying or New Jersey fried brake pads. Here's what you dio if you want your mechanic to work on it and and not a stranger, take the car out and drive it about 45 minutes away from his shop, during which time use the brakes as much as possible. Uh, and then make a u turn and come back. I'm willing to bet on a warm day you will duplicate the problem that you had in New Jersey. And then he can fix it once and for all. And you can throw that moldy donut away. You're gonna get a disease from it. See you, Tama thought Okay. Well, thanks so much for your help. Thank you. Thanks for calling. Bye. Hey, Tommy. According to our latest contract, it's time for us to take another little break. Hey, that's good. That's a nice little benefit.
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