Q. Dear Tom and Ray:
I have the great misfortune of having a know-it-all friend. I drive a 1995 Toyota Corolla, and he drives a Corvette. While visiting him, I found myself being chastised for downshifting. His argument was that "Click and Clack said not to downshift." A short time later, I heard you two guys advising a sweet young lady TO downshift. What's the story?
A. RAY: Well, John, as my mother used to say to me whenever I put a broken transmission on the kitchen table just before dinner, there's a time and a place for everything.
TOM: When we tell people not to downshift, we're talking about downshifting on normal roads during everyday driving. I'm sure your friend in the Corvette--before he heard our advice--used to downshift into second as he approached every red light. Why? Because he thought he was "saving the brakes." But more important, because it sounded cool and he was trying to get girls to turn their heads and notice him.
RAY: But at some point, he probably heard us explain that he was ruining his clutch by downshifting so often. And two or three clutches later, he started to believe us.
TOM: On the other hand, there is one situation in which you absolutely do want to downshift and save the brakes. And that's when you're going down a long, steep hill. If, for example, you're coming down a mountain road and you constantly use the brakes, you're liable to overheat them. And if they overheat, the brake fluid can boil. And if that happens, you'll find yourself at the bottom of the mountain much more quickly than you would have expected!
RAY: So on a long, steep hill, you should put your manual or automatic transmission in a gear low enough to keep you at a safe, comfortable speed. If the hill is so steep that you're still speeding up and having to ride the brakes, drop it a gear lower and try again.
TOM: And if you're really lucky, there will be some girls walking up the mountain who will turn their heads and notice you.
Dear Tom and Ray:
I read your article about the lady with car doors that were freezing shut. One answer I found was in my GM owner's manual under the maintenance schedule in the back. For weatherstrips, it says to use Dielectric Silicone Grease (GM Part Number 12345579 or equivalent), basically the same as the packet of grease you get with new spark-plug wires. I found that if you wash the weatherstrips and the inside metal of the door, let them dry and then apply a coat of silicone grease to the weatherstripping and car wax to the inside metal, it will stop the doors from freezing shut for two or three years.
TOM: Thanks, Arne. Waxing the inside metal is a good suggestion. In a previous article, we recommended using something like silicone spray or Armor All on the weatherstrip. Grease probably would do a better job, but there is one significant disadvantage to smearing grease on the inside of your doors.
RAY: The dry-cleaning bill.
TOM: Right. Every time you (or your passengers) brush up against the inside of your door and get a nice black smudge on your $1,500 Joseph Abboud suit, you're going to think back fondly to the days of having your doors freeze shut.
RAY: So for that reason, we'd only recommend the grease solution for farmers and mechanics, whose clothes are already dirty. And perhaps lawyers, whom we don't really care for anyway.
Got a question about cars? Write to Click and Clack in care of this newspaper.
(C) 1999 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman