QDear Tom and Ray:

I was trying to get into my dad's car, which was locked, and I didn't have the key. My younger brother told me to pick the lock. So I put a piece of wood in the lock, and it broke off. And now we can't use the key in the lock. My dad says I have to pay for someone to fix it unless I can figure out a way to get it out of there. Do you have any suggestions? I am 13 and don't have a job, so I really need your help. -- Spencer

ATOM: Oh, Spencer. I hope that at the very least, you've learned one of life's most important lessons: Never listen to your younger brother about anything! I assume you've tried to fit a pair of tweezers in there. But the key slot is really too small for you to be able to use them, even if they do go in.

RAY: Well, the solution is obvious to me: fire. Wood burns, right? You need to stick a lit match in the keyhole, and ignite the piece of wood. It'll burn up, turn to ash, and the problem will be solved.

TOM: Spencer, if you saw how mad your father was when he found out about the wood, just imagine how he's going to react when he finds his entire car burnt to a crisp. Don't listen to my brother, Spencer! He's a younger brother, remember?

RAY: All right, here's another idea. Get a long pin. Using needle-noise pliers, bend the tip of it 90 degrees. Then try to stick the end of the pin into the piece of wood, and fish it out that way. Or, you might try going to the drugstore and getting a dental tool that has a point on the end. If the shaft is thin enough, it'll be a stronger version of the pin-tool.

TOM: Well, you can try it, Spencer, but I suspect, in the end, you're going to have to call a locksmith. It'll cost you $50, which you'll have to work off by mowing lawns. Go out and earn the money and get the lock fixed. And consider it a small price to pay for an important lesson about brotherly advice.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I was in the mass exodus from Houston during Hurricane Rita when I got stuck in the slowest-moving traffic that I have ever been in. My car overheated, and the plastic side of the radiator exploded. One person told me not to get an original Volvo replacement (which will have the same plastic parts), but to get a brass radiator instead. Another friend said that the brass radiators are much more expensive. This is a '91 Volvo 240 in good condition. I am planning on keeping it another three to five years. Any advice would be appreciated. -- Jim

RAY: You'd be hard-pressed to find a brass radiator, Jim. I suspect that your friend meant to suggest a copper radiator.

TOM: The vast majority of radiators these days have plastic exterior tanks and aluminum cores. They work great and last a long time. In fact, the plastic completely resists corrosion and is also very lightweight. So Volvo and most other manufacturers use it.

RAY: You may be able to find a copper radiator for your car, but it will be a lot more expensive. And I suspect that under the circumstances you describe, a copper radiator would have exploded too.

TOM: Yeah. Something obviously went very wrong with your cooling system. The thermostat got stuck, you ran low on coolant, it was 100 degrees out, and you were in stop-and-go traffic for 26 hours. That's a recipe for serious overheating, if your cooling system is anything less than perfect.

RAY: So, the first thing you need to do is get your cooling system thoroughly checked out to see what's wrong with it -- in addition to the fact that you're now missing a radiator. When you figure it out, I'm sure a standard plastic radiator with an aluminum core will serve you very well for the next three to five years.

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