Dear Tom and Ray:

I drive on a dirt road approximately two miles daily. I have heard opposing suggestions about the best way to drive on dirt roads. One says to drive slowly, 5-15 mph, so the bumps will not cause so much damage to the car. The other says to drive faster, 35-40 mph, so the car jumps over some of the bumps. Which method would cause less wear and tear on a car? - DonTOM: Think about this, Don. If Mike Tyson's fist was about to collide with your face, would you rather it came at you real slow or real fast?

RAY: If the fist hits you while it's moving slowly, you probably wouldn't spit out all of your teeth. But if that fist connects with your jaw at full speed, you'd probably be on a milk-shake diet for years to come.

TOM: The same theory applies to driving over bumps. If you drive slowly, you put wear and tear on the components of the front end because you're making them bounce up and down. But by driving fast, you add a whole other force - the horizontal force of speed.

RAY: To put that in language that everyone can understand, that's sort of like having Mike Tyson punch you in the face while kicking you at the same time.

Dear Tom and Ray:

We recently bought an '85 Toyota Corolla diesel from my mother-in-law. The car runs great, but we're having a problem with the air conditioning. When you start the car, it works fine. But then the light on the A/C switch starts flashing, and the compressor goes on and off with it. If you shut the engine off and restart it, the air will work again for a while. Lately, my husband has been turning the engine off while we're moving to restart the A/C. This is making me very nervous. Please help before we die from the heat or worse. - Kimberly

RAY: Well, Kimberly, it sounds like your air-conditioner switch is on the fritz. The fact that the light on the switch is flashing on and off along with the compressor suggests that the switch itself may be faulty.

TOM: It could also be a bad air-conditioner relay, a loose connection somewhere or a bad ground. Whatever it is, it doesn't sound like a serious or expensive problem. Any mechanic who knows Toyotas ought to be able to figure it out in no time.

RAY: The problem is going to be getting your husband to take the car to a mechanic, Kimberly. He sounds like a real cheapskate to us.

TOM: Buying a diesel-powered car is one sure sign of acute and incurable cheapskatery. He wasn't content to buy a regular Corolla and get 40 miles to the gallon. He had to suffer with the noise, the smell and the added pollution of a diesel so he could get 42 miles tothe gallon. Not only that, he had to buy a USED Corolla diesel, and he had to shortchange his poor mother to get it!

RAY: So it's no surprise to us that your husband's inclination is to suffer in heat and risk his life (and yours) rather than take this car in to a mechanic. I pity you, Kimberly. Acute cheapskatery is not an easy thing to live with. If you don't believe me, ask any of my brother's wives.

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