QDear Tom and Ray:
Of these types of tow trucks, flatbed vs. the traditional "hook" model, which one is worse for a car? A while back, my starter failed, and my car was towed on a flatbed truck. After the starter replacement, I noticed that the rear wheels angled inward at the bottom, and those tires had begun to wear unevenly. The mechanic replaced the rear tires and said the rear struts also needed replacing. Since neither of these issues was apparent prior to the towing, I'm curious whether the manner in which the car was strapped or removed from the truck could result in damage? Next time I need a tow truck, should I request one type or the other? -- Gail
ARAY: Well, a flatbed is best, Gail -- provided the tow-truck driver actually remembers to chain your car to the bed. Did you hear a loud bang just after the tow truck went around the corner? Followed by a two-word phrase that starts with "Oh"?
TOM: Generally speaking, flatbed towing is by far the best option. In fact, for four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive vehicles, it's the only option. We always request flatbed trucks when we have cars towed to us. Have you ever noticed that luxury-car dealers use nothing but flatbeds? You never see a Mercedes bouncing around at the end of a hook.
RAY: So in terms of your car, Gail, it's possible that it was damaged when it came off the tow truck, but by no means is that the only possibility.
TOM: Right. You don't say what kind of car you have, but when you put a car with independent rear suspension up on a lift, the wheels do angle in as the car hangs there, suspended underneath by the frame.
RAY: And when you put the car back on the ground, the wheels still angle in at first, until the car is driven around and the suspension geometry has a chance to sort itself out. So if you saw the car just after it came down from the lift, you may have thought it was damaged.
TOM: And when you were busy inspecting your rear wheels and wondering what that knucklehead tow-truck driver did to your car, you may have then noticed the uneven tire wear.
RAY: The tire wear may have had absolutely nothing at all to do with the tow. Your mechanic has since told you that your rear shocks are worn out. And worn shocks can cause what? Uneven tire wear.
TOM: So, assuming the rear suspension geometry has since straightened itself out, and the wheels are no longer cambered in, I'd replace the rear shocks and see if the uneven wear continues after a few thousand miles. If not, then you just needed new shocks, and you owe the tow-truck driver an apology for thinking such evil thoughts about him.
Dear Tom and Ray:
My husband has a habit that drives me crazy. When we're stopped at a traffic light or a stop sign, he eases his foot off the brake just enough to make an annoying grinding noise (he doesn't let it off enough to enter the intersection or hit the car in front of him). The sound really gets on my nerves. I haven't been able to get him to stop doing this. Is he harming the brakes or the car? -- Lianne
RAY: Sadly, he's not harming anything except his marriage, Lianne.
TOM: One day when your husband was but a lad, he was taking a bath, and he discovered that if he held his right hand over his left armpit in just such a way, he could then flap his left arm and create a sound much like flatulence. He was deeply amused by this.
RAY: And now, many years later, he's amusing himself by making farting noises with the brakes.
TOM: He's not doing any harm. When you're stopped, each pair of brake pads is squeezing the disc rotor between them. If you release the pressure on the pads just a little bit, they'll make a little noise as they "jerk" or skip along the surface of the rotor. You can do the same kind of thing with your finger and the top of a Coke bottle.
RAY: So the "You're harming the brakes, moron" argument won't work here, Lianne. Skip right to the "You're ticking me off, moron" argument. And, if necessary, accompany that with an occasional dope slap. It may work over time, Lianne. Best of luck.
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(c)(c)2005 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi
and Doug Berman