CLICK & CLACK : Gauging a Deficiency

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dear Tom and Ray:

Why don't carmakers offer an oil gauge that works like a gas gauge, and tells you what your oil level is? -- Vickie

RAY: We do know of a number of cars that alert the driver when the engine's oil level is low. We've seen it on a lot of GM products over the years, and on a handful of Fords, as far back as the late '80s. All Volkswagens now have it, as do BMW and Mercedes vehicles. In fact, Mercedes has gone so far as to eliminate the dipstick.

TOM: I think they figure that if you own a Mercedes, it would be unseemly to have you standing out on your frozen driveway in the morning, in your pajama bottoms, pawing around for a greasy dipstick.

RAY: It's not a terribly difficult thing to do, technically. And this type of device almost certainly has saved some engines. So I suspect -- and hope -- that it will become a standard feature.

Dear Tom and Ray:

One recent autumn evening, someone entered our property via a private road and proceeded to pump 12 rounds of high-caliber ammo into the passenger side of my beloved 2000 Toyota Camry that someone (me) had left parked outside our house. The bullet distribution covered the front and back passenger doors, the rear window, and penetrated the interiors and made several nice holes in the leather upholstery, door speakers and center console. This vehicle has 220,000 miles and runs like a top. It has a few exterior bumps and scratches, as it now serves as the family "beater" for my two teenage drivers. I carry only liability coverage on this vehicle in light of the car's age, mileage and my two teen drivers, so there goes the insurance-fraud theory.

In case you wondered, the going rate to repair a bullet hole roughly the diameter of a dime in my undisclosed part of the country is $70 per bullet hole, and, no, there is no volume discount. Here's my question/dilemma: The car's exterior is white. I carefully applied 12 small strips of duct tape over each bullet hole, followed by 12 strips of white masking tape over each strip of duct tape. The end result was so impressive that I have convinced myself that the body work is unnecessary, saving myself $940. As you might expect, my wife and teenage drivers beg to differ, and have concocted the lame theory that the body work and paint job are necessary to maintain the structural integrity and safety of the vehicle, to which I reply, "BOGUS!" What do you think? -- John (not my real name)

TOM: I think you should be a lot more concerned about the fact that someone strafed your car with gunfire, John, than about how the masking tape looks.

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