QDear Tom and Ray:

I had a serious accident on the freeway this morning when I had a blown tire, lost control of my car ('94 Camry four-door sedan), hit the concrete divider, spun out of control and finally came to a rest without hitting another car! Our body shop told my husband that in addition to the body damage on my car, I have a broken strut. Is it possible that contributed to blowing out my tire? -- Fran

A RAY: Tires can blow out for a number of reasons. A tire can simply be old and worn out. It can have a bubble in the sidewall, or some other previous damage that finally gives out. It could have been under-inflated, which can cause it to heat up and explode. Or a tire could blow out because you ran over a road hazard, like a discarded 12-speed blender.

TOM: If the blowout came first, then hitting the concrete barrier could have broken the strut. A strut is a three-foot-long shock absorber and spring assembly. There's one at each wheel. And often, we see struts get bent in accidents.

RAY: The other scenario is that you were on your cell phone or were spreading cream cheese on your bagel, and you hit the concrete barrier first, which then caused the blowout and the broken strut. That happens more often than you think these days.

TOM: But don't worry, Fran. Only 11 million people read this column, and it's unlikely that your insurance adjuster is one of them.

RAY: In all seriousness, Fran, it's unlikely that the strut broke first and caused the blowout. The strut almost certainly broke when you hit the barrier.

Dear Tom and Ray:

In the 1940s and early '50s, we had a big old buffalo robe, and I remember my "old man" putting this blanket on the hood of the car or on the engine to keep it warm in the winter. I'm wondering now if this had any effect. -- Ken

RAY: Well, let's start by discussing blanket technology, Ken. A blanket works by slowing heat loss. So, if you wrap yourself in a blanket at dinnertime and then sit outside in zero-degree weather overnight, you'll lose less heat and be warmer the next morning than you would have been without the blanket.

TOM: But is the same true for a car? Well, the big difference between you and a car engine is that you keep generating heat all night. The engine just starts losing its heat as soon as you turn it off.

RAY: So the question is, does a blanket slow heat loss enough to keep some heat in the engine 12 hours later? The answer is, probably not.

TOM: In cold weather, an engine normally loses most of its heat in about three hours. The only exception -- but it's an important one -- is the oil, which can take as much as eight hours to reach complete equilibrium with the outside air.

RAY: Can a blanket extend the time it takes for oil to get stone cold by an additional four to six hours? I don't think it's likely, when the temperature is well below freezing. But if the car were driven at 11 p.m. and then started again at 6 a.m., the blanket might make a difference.

TOM: But there are better alternatives these days. There are block heaters that you can plug into an electrical outlet. And then, of course, there's the greatest advance ever in cold-weather car-starting: the heated garage.

RAY: And if you build one, Ken, put the horse in there, too. He'll appreciate that a lot more than a stinkin' blanket.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click & Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c)2005 by

Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman