Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband just cannot break himself of old habits, and I'm wondering it if is doing any damage to the car. After years of driving a manual shift, we bought a completely automatic small, foreign-made car. Instead of letting the motor and its automatic functions just take over as he approaches a stop, he changes to a lower gear, stating something about "that's what compression is for." After stopping, he puts it back in Drive and we continue on. I know it's unnecessary, but is he hurting something on the car by doing this? - AliceRAY: Your husband is shiftless, Alice. He obviously misses the thrill of changing his own gears, and his frustrated play-shifting is driving you nuts. You wrote to us in hopes that we would give you the mechanical ammunition you need to tell him to cut it out.

TOM: But the truth is, he's not really hurting anything by downshifting as he comes to a stop. Unless he's shifting into second gear at 50 or 60 miles an hour, he's just doing something that the transmission would have done by itself anyway. The only thing he might wear out over time is the shift linkage, but that's not a big deal.

RAY: There is one manual transmission habit that IS bad for automatics, however. If he shifts into Neutral when he comes to a stop, you should tell him to cut that out immediately. Moving the shifter back and forth between Neutral and Drive loads and unloads the drive train unnecessarily, and that does wear things out - big things.

TOM: I think you should take a different approach, Alice. Remember, you can catch more flies with honey than with those light zappers. If you want him to stop fiddling with the transmission, give him something better to fiddle with. I don't know . . . get him one of those radios with an incomprehensible 45-band equalizer.

Dear Tom and Ray:

Is there a paper published for advertising classic and antique cars? I have a 1968 Pontiac Tempest in excellent condition that I would like to sell. - Dorothy

RAY: Well, Dorothy, the trick to selling a "classic" car is finding some screwball who, for some inexplicable emotional reason - probably based on some steamy teenage experience - absolutely cannot live without your car. I should warn you that it's not easy to tap into this network of screwballs.

TOM: How much you want for it, Dorothy?

RAY: I stand corrected, Dorothy. I guess it's easier than I thought. Anyway, there are a couple of good publications to try. One is a newspaper out of Iola, Wis., called Old Cars Weakly.

TOM: That's Old Cars WEEKLY, you knucklehead, which I happen to subscribe to.

RAY: Oh yeah, I almost forgot. He was their 1971 poster boy. The other publication, which my brother also reads himself into dreamland with, is Hemmings Motor News, which comes out of Bennington, Vt. Placing ads in Hemmings or Old Cars Weekly ought to give you a sense of how much interest there is in your Pontiac. And if you're really lucky, you might attract the interest of a bonafide collector (a screwball with money). Good luck, Dorothy.

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