Q. Dear Tom and Ray:
I took my car in for an oil change, and a couple of hours later the temperature gauge started to go up. I drove a short distance to a gas station as the temperature continued to climb toward "H." I popped the hood and saw a small amount of smoke. The mechanic came over and noticed that there was no radiator cap. Since I drove quite a distance before the car started to heat up, I suspect it just wasn't put on tightly enough and fell off somewhere along the road. I called the guy who did the oil change and he said to send him the bill for a new radiator cap. The car seems fine, but now my other concern is whether any other damage was likely done. What do you think?
A. TOM: I doubt any damage was done. Normally, we tell people to shut off the engine immediately if the car is overheating (unless, of course, you're someplace unsafe).
RAY: But since you got to the gas station and shut off the engine before the needle ever got to "H," I think you're going to be fine. So I'd just keep driving and forget it ever happened.
TOM: Easier said than done, I know.
RAY: To put your mind at ease, have a mechanic you trust do a "head gasket test." That's a simple test he can do that will tell you if there's any leakage between the cylinders and the water jacket. That's the problem most likely to occur on a car that's been severely overheated.
TOM: Now that you've seen every millennial list you can stand, here comes one more--Worst Cars of the Millennium. We're going to collect all of the nominations, then ask our readers and radio listeners to vote on the top 10. We'll get the ball rolling with a few nominations.
RAY: Let's start with the Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare. This was the successor to the venerable Dodge Dart. But it came along right about the time the federal government was insisting on cleaner air, and Chrysler was having a terrible time getting the emissions low enough.
TOM: So they tweaked the carburetor on these cars until the engine would run only when it was 74 degrees out and sunny.
RAY: Here's another one: the Chevy Corvair. The mid-engine design gave drivers the chance to smell leaking gasoline from the front and leaking oil from the back at the same time. And we haven't even gotten into Ralph Nader's safety complaints.
TOM: The Yugo. In a class by itself. It set modern-day benchmarks for lousy quality.
RAY: And we can't forget the Fiat 128: "The father of the Yugo."
TOM: Then there's the Ford Pinto, which blew up when you hit it from behind.
RAY: The old Volkswagen Bus (I know we're going to get hate mail about this one) handled terribly, got blown all over the road and didn't have any heat to speak of.
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(C) 2000 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi and Doug Berman