A man rushed from his house into the garage to return a videotape before the store closed so he wouldn't be hit with a late charge. He jumped into his car, threw it into reverse and plowed right through his garage door. Total damage, about $2,000. And he still got the late charge.

-- Tale from a Northern Virginia garage door repairman

Apparently, Dr. and Mrs. Gridlock aren't the only ones having trouble getting into and out of the garage without denting the door and car. Having learned the hard way, we suggested a three-step process: 1. Open door. 2. Back out. 3. Turn wheel. Reader Randy Boice of Manassas suggests a refinement to step 1: Open door completely. "The dent in the top of my minivan proves it." Here are some other responses:

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I can relate to your garage door dilemma. Why, oh why, don't they just make all garage doors nine feet wide, and do away with the eight-foot-wide doors altogether? You need the extra foot so you are fully cleared, side mirrors and all.

Of course, my husband says the problem is my driving. Thanks for your column. I know I'm not alone.

Linda Newman


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

In August, we moved into a new home we built in Loudoun County. When we drove our 1996 Taurus into the garage, guess what? It wouldn't fit! The railing for the stairs leading up to the house stuck out too far and prevented me from parking the car on that side of the garage. Fortunately I was able to park on the other side of the garage.

We are now in the market for a second car. Looks like it will have to be economy size.

Jennie M. MacGoy


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I bought a resale home and learned the hard way that not all garages are equal. When I took possession, I met some neighbors who wryly asked if my car would fit into my garage.

"Well," said I, "it certainly should, it's not a wide car." Oh no, they cautioned, it's length, not width.

Panic ensued as I opened the door and cautiously eased the auto into the garage. It barely made it. The front bumper had to touch the wall for the door to close. And I have an Altima, which is not a long car!

Lesson learned--check out the garage thoroughly before buying the house.

Sylvia S. Gordon


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

You advise getting a nine-foot-wide garage door. Not only that, if you are building a new home, get the biggest garage you can get.

In my neighborhood, most folks have their garages filled with wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, freezers and other items, and they have to park their cars in the street.

Your garage can never be big enough. It's not only for storing your cars but also for everything else that doesn't belong in the house.

Gary Curzi

Chesapeake Beach

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

If you're not quite sure how far to pull in so that the garage door can clear the rear of your car, or that your front end doesn't hit the back wall of the garage, hang a tennis ball on a string from the ceiling so that when your car is in the correct position, the tennis ball will just touch your windshield. Next time you pull, in you'll know exactly when to stop.

Deb Heck


Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I, too, have a new garage with an eight-foot door. Here's my technique for centering the automobile:

Approach the door with the headlights on. The door must be down. When the left and right lights appear equidistant from the edges of the door, open the door and enter without turning the steering wheel.

Frank Camp


Thanks for your experiences and suggestions. Now that you mention it, you may be getting a garage when you purchase a house, but who guarantees that your vehicle(s) will fit? Keep those garage stories coming.

Anacostia Problem Solved

Here's something good that the District of Columbia government has done--and directly as a result of your letters.

The people trying to exit the Anacostia Metro parking lot onto Howard Road had a very difficult time because traffic on the Howard Road off-ramp from Interstate 295 south kept flowing in front of them, without interruption. Even though there was a stoplight at the base of the Howard Road off-ramp, motorists regularly ignored it.

Several of you suggested in this column that the city install a "No Turn on Red" sign at the base of the off-ramp to ensure a break in traffic so the parking lot people could get out.

Well, the city has done that. I asked Bill McGuirk, traffic signals chief, if the new sign is working. "It must be," he said. "We're not getting any letters."

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

Dr. Gridlock appears Monday in the Metro section and Wednesday and 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 drgridlock@washpost.com. The doctor's fax number is 703-352-3908. Please include your full name, address and day and evening phone numbers.

CAPTION: After motorists complained, a "No Turn on Red" sign was added to the off-ramp from I-295 to Howard Road.