QDear Tom and Ray:

My wife thinks it's a good idea for you guys to do a "sanity check" on me. Here's my plan: I have a good 1995 Nissan Maxima that I've owned since new. Our daughter is leaving her car, a 2002 Toyota RAV4, at our house all winter, while she is away. Rather than just have her car sit outside (we only have a two-car garage, which houses the Maxima and my 1993 Mazda Miata), I thought I would sell my Maxima, drive my daughter's RAV4 for the winter, and when she returns, buy the car of my dreams, a Mini Cooper. My wife is concerned that the Chicago (where we live) winters will overwhelm the Mini. So, are you going to help me out here and proclaim my plan a winner? -- Don

ATOM: Don, it's a good thing you enclosed a $20 bill along with your letter. Otherwise we might have been tempted by your wife's $20, which arrived a week later.

RAY: I actually like the idea of you driving the RAV4 during the winter; it's better for your daughter's car than just sitting in the driveway for months on end. So that part of the plan makes good sense to me.

TOM: But in all honesty, I would have to say that the Mini is not a great car for the Chicago winter. It's got front-wheel drive, so it's not as bad in the snow as the Miata. But it's still small and light and low to the ground. Four snow tires would help, but it won't be nearly as good as your Maxima.

RAY: So I think you're going to need three cars, Don.

TOM: Three cars! That's going to go over great with your wife, huh, Don?

RAY: You need to keep the Maxima. It's a perfectly good car, and it will serve you well when the weather is lousy.

TOM: In the summer, when the weather is great, you'll put the top down and drive the Miata.

RAY: And in the spring and fall, when it's not convertible weather but there's no snow or ice on the roads, you'll drive your Mini. How's that sound?

TOM: Is that your wife we hear in the background? Was that the crack of a rolling pin hitting your head? And the crumpling up of our column?

Dear Tom and Ray:

My wife likes to keep her foot on the gas up to a stop sign, red light or stopped car in front of her, then apply the brakes at the last instant. I like to judge the distance to the stopping point and, knowing my speed, gradually coast up to that point. She claims that someone told her that coasting produces wear on the engine due to reduced lubrication. She says it's cheaper to replace brake pads than the engine. We have agreed to arbitration, and you guys are the judges. What do you say? -- Walt

TOM: Walt, we're going to try to break this to you as delicately and gently as possible. My brother is the more diplomatic between us, so I'll let him handle it.

RAY: Your wife is nuts, Walt.

TOM: Yup. The engine is designed to lubricate itself perfectly well at idle speed. So, absolutely no harm is done by coasting.

RAY: In fact, quite the opposite: Idling is easy on the car. Slamming on the brakes, which torques and twists every part of the suspension and wears out brake pads and the more expensive brake discs, is what's hard on the car. That's the "stop" part of "stop and go" driving that sends cars to an early date with the crusher. In general, the more gently you drive, the longer your car will last.

TOM: Not to mention the issue of passenger whiplash (how many neck braces do you own, Walt?), or what happens if she miscalculates by a few crucial feet.

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(c)2004 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman