Dear Tom and Ray:

Here's a first-time car-owner's dilemma. Before reading the manual or learning about the concept of a "break-in period," I drove my new 1989 Toyota Tercel EZ at a steady 90 mph for nearly an hour before it had even 100 miles on the odometer. The car has over 10,000 miles on it now. On the few trips I've taken, I've been most comfortable driving at about 80 mph. Around town, I drive the car very hard - accelerating quickly, using the engine to slow down and making hundreds of very short trips for errands. The car has exceeded my expectations and is great fun to drive. But given the rough treatment this car has received, should I trade it right after the warranty runs out, or should I expect it to stand up to the abuse and continue to be a trouble-free car for a few more years? - JohnTOM: Well, John, you are doing everything you possibly can to destroy this car. From bad break-in to jack-rabbit starts to short trips, you are the classic motor-wrecker. We could give you advice on what do to next time you buy a car, but you're hopeless. You are going to make some mechanic (who yearns for a Hawaiian vacation) very happy someday.

RAY: And given the way you've treated this car, we think you deserve to keep it. If you would be so kind as to send us your vehicle identification number, we'll publish it in every newspaper in the free world so that nobody will ever make the mistake of buying this heap from you.

TOM: We'll also publish the information in Mechanic's Weekly, so that mechanics from coast to coast can go to bed at night with smiles on their faces . . . fantasizing that your little Tercel is going to pull into their garage someday.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 1965 Studebaker. It runs fine except that, once in a while, a strong smell of gas comes through the vents and into the cockpit. Because of these fumes, the last date I had relieved her stomach on an otherwise beautiful starlit evening. If I close the vents, the smell goes away. I've looked around, but I can't see any gas leaking. What can I do? - Kurtis

RAY: Just because you don't SEE any gas leaking doesn't mean there isn't a leak. Vapors or fumes alone can create a very strong gasoline odor inside your car. There's a gas leak somewhere, Kurtis, and there are two ways to find it.

TOM: The best way would be to have your mechanic use his emissions tester to search for the leak. Emissions testers are designed to detect unburned hydrocarbons in the exhaust. But they can also be used to detect unburned hydrocarbons elsewhere. (Raw gas is nothing but unburned hydrocarbons.)

RAY: If he can't find the leak with the emissions detector, you shouldn't even think about looking around under the hood with a lit match. That way, your leak would be located AND eliminated at the same moment. In fact, if you were to find a gas leak that way, you wouldn't have any more problems with this Studebaker. And you probably wouldn't even have to file a tax return next April!