Click & Clack : An Oil Burner

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1998 Ford Expedition with 150,000 miles. My wife takes the truck in every three months to get the oil changed. During the past two oil changes, she was told that there was no oil on the dipstick. They then removed what oil was remaining in the engine and replaced it with five new quarts. She had the oil changed about six weeks ago, and I just checked it myself before we went on a trip. The dipstick had no oil on it, and it took four quarts to get it full again. I have checked the ground where the truck is parked and there is no oil. Additionally, there is no oil, smell or smoke from the exhaust pipe. Where is the oil going, and what should I do? -- Sherd

RAY: Your engine's worn out, Sherd. If there's no oil under the truck, then you're burning it. If you stand near the tailpipe when your wife starts it up in the morning, you'll almost certainly see a puff of bluish smoke. It may be harder to see once you actually start driving, but it's there. Trust us.

TOM: So, you have a couple of choices. One is to install a rebuilt or used engine. If the truck otherwise is in extraordinarily good shape, and you want to keep it for another 50,000 miles, that may be a good option.

RAY: But before you do that, be sure to have your mechanic check it out from stem to stern, as if you were buying it as a used car today. You don't want to spend $3,000 on a rebuilt engine and then have the transmission fall out the next day. And with 150K on the odometer, that's a distinct possibility.

TOM: The other option is to just trade it in. With gas prices certain to trend upward as soon as the economy gets out of the pits, this may be a good time to reconsider whether your wife really needs a car as big as a cabin cruiser for her everyday needs.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I want to know how to get a job, a very specific job. It seems like every car commercial on the networks now shows the vehicle soaring through sand dunes or simply down a quiet road, yet they always show a disclaimer: "Professional Driver on Closed Course." Those guys and gals are never on camera, except for their helmets, but they get all the giggles of getting paid to have a LOT of fun driving! How do I find a job like that? -- Di

RAY: So you want to get paid to be a driver, Di? Have you considered Domino's Pizza?

TOM: Actually, those "professional drivers on closed courses" are all stunt performers, and members of the Screen Actors Guild, which is the actors' union. So, the first thing you have to do is join SAG. And even THAT'S not easy.

RAY: You have to have a certain number of film or commercial appearances before they'll even let you in.

TOM: Then you need to learn the art of stunt driving. The best known training ground is Bobby Ore's Motion Picture Stunt Driving School in Los Angeles and Florida. You can reach them at 818-880-5678, or on the Web at

RAY: But you're not going to take a two-day Bobby Ore course and come out of there ready to drive in commercials. You'll need a lot of practice to get good at it, and you generally have to pay to practice on courses. And that assumes you have some talent for stunt driving in the first place.

TOM: If you get that far, then you'll need to beg, cajole and harass commercial coordinators to hire you. This involves, among other things, hiding in people's bushes and jumping out with fresh cappuccino.

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Copyright 2007 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman

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