Dear Dr. Gridlock:

On July 19, I took my 1991 Nissan 300ZX to the Passport Nissan dealership in Marlow Heights to find an oil leak.

I dropped the car off at 9:30 a.m.

At about 5 p.m., the service manager called to say my car was stolen from their garage.

Another service manager told me that someone posing as me sneaked into the garage and got a mechanic to take a test drive with the impostor to locate an alleged "squealing sound."

When there was no squealing sound, the impostor asked to drive the car. As he and the mechanic were changing places, the impostor drove off, leaving the mechanic behind.

I filed a report with the Prince George's County police department.

No one from Passport has ever contacted me to apologize or propose any restitution to rectify the problem that was their fault. Although my car was recovered, I'm out hundreds of dollars in repairs due to damage after it was stolen.

All I wanted was an oil leak fixed.

The public should be made aware of this new car-jacking scheme.

Nathanial Speaks


My condolences, Mr. Speaks. But I'm not sure there is a widespread scam out there. The Prince George's County police say they have never heard of another case like this (neither have I). It does seem bizarre: Why would a car thief take a 1991 vehicle, and why from a garage with so many witnesses?

The officer who took your report, Cpl. Styles Hodge, describes you as "a nice, squared-away guy who lives in Accokeek," and he wonders "if the bad guy knew him."

When your car was recovered, it was dusted for fingerprints, Hodge said. The case is now in the county police system, and we will keep you posted if there is an arrest.

Harvey Miles, general manager of Passport Nissan, told Dr. Gridlock: "We've been in touch with him. We've tried to help him." He declined to say more.

Meanwhile, if anyone out there has heard of a theft like this--or one equally bizarre--I'd like to hear from you.

Likes and Dislikes

Here are more of your favorite likes and dislikes about automobiles:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

LIKE: Built-in cup holders. Seems so insignificant unless you have kids.

DISLIKE: Why can't they build the bumper around the front license plates, like they do for the rear? On almost every car the front plate sits in an add-on frame, and the plate is quickly bent.

Ken Frank


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Things I love:

* Gas caps with a tether. I've lost several gas caps on cars without them.

* One-touch electric windows for tolls. Very nice to just tap the window and have it go down.

* Bidirectional keys. There's no up or down. No fumbling for the correct entry.

* Retracting radio antennas. I haven't had an antenna broken off on any car that has this feature.

* Integrated, non-skip CD players. Great for trips.

* Map pockets in the driver's-side door. No leaning over.

* Outside temperature displayed in the dash.

Ronald Kral


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here's my vote for the most annoying new car feature: the microchip keys for my new VW Golf. When I leased this car two months ago, I asked for an extra key, which the dealer was happy to provide.

When my husband used the key to start the car, it ran for 30 seconds and shut down, leaving him stranded and furious. This happened because the microchip embedded in the key (I need this?) had not been activated for my car. Two months later, my dealer is still waiting for word from VW on how to make these keys functional.

It's bad enough that you can't go to a key shop for a duplicate, but a microchip? Can we say over-engineering?

Barbara Brodsky


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

Here's a short e-mail from Bangladesh, where your column is read via

Plus: Lights that turn on automatically when you turn on your windshield wipers.

Plus: Heated outside mirrors. Helps in snow or ice. (Of course, our driving here isn't concerned with snow. More like driving in floods).

Jeff Kern

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Okay, Jeff, you get the award for correspondent who resides the farthest away from Washington. Stay dry. Your e-mail prompts me to ask all those who live abroad, or have returned from abroad, these questions:

* What does this particular foreign culture have (roads, signs, mass transit, driver habits) that we don't have, but should? Or should not?

* What construction signs or driving habits do they have that you have never seen before?

I'll provide one that I saw in Vietnam. In Saigon, when a train crossed a major road, cars would use the whole street to get close to the front of the line, filling the lanes in both directions. When the train passed, everyone was faced with oncoming traffic. Now that was gridlock.

Back to your letters above: I really like your recommendation of one feature in particular: an outside temperature/compass/distance-to-empty digital option that many dealers now offer--on vehicles over $25,000.

I can't find that feature when I shop the low end. It's really helpful in the Washington area when you can't see the road signs at night and get lost, when you wonder how far you can go before running out of gas, or when you're not sure the black surface below is road or ice.

Thanks to all who wrote.

Dr. Gridlock's assistant, Jessica Medinger, contributed to this column.

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and on Wednesday or Thursday in the Weekly and Extra sections. You can write to Dr. Gridlock, P.O. Box 3467, Fairfax, Va. 22038-3467, or e-mail him at The Doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.