Dear Tom and Ray:

After reading your response to the recent letter about the downshifting debate, I was forced to concede defeat to my wife. She has always followed your advice not to downshift when coasting to a stop, despite my criticism and general ranting. We now need you to resolve another debate.When coming to a stop, I often downshift without the use of the clutch. Such downshifting can only be accomplished by an extremely skillful and experienced driver. After accomplishing such a heroic feat, I am faced with only one problem: my wife's hostility as she reiterates that I am damaging the automobile.

Who's right? We eagerly await your reply. We have both agreed to abide by your ruling, but only if it's unanimous. - Ronald

RAY: You should have quit while you were behind, Ronald. Now you're 0 and 2.

TOM: Shifting without the clutch is like catching a baseball in your teeth. If you get everything just right, the best you can hope for is to avoid doing serious damage. But if your timing is off just a little bit, well . . . hope you're fond of strained peas.

RAY: And that's exactly what can happen if you make a bad shift without the clutch. You can break teeth in your transmission. And transmissions run into money, Ron.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1983 Ford F-250 with the 5-liter engine. The filter inside the air cleaner becomes saturated with oil every two to three weeks. Why? What can I do about it? - Bob

RAY: Gee, Bob, that doesn't sound good. You have what we call excessive "blow by."

TOM: "Blow by" is the small amount of exhaust that normally gets past the rings and winds up down in the crankcase. When everything's working right, the "blow by" gets sucked out by the crankcase ventilation system. But if the ventilation system is plugged, or there's too much "blow by" for it to handle, then the excess gases escape the only other way they can - up into the air cleaner.

RAY: The first thing you should do is check the PCV (Positive Crankcase Ventilation) system and make sure you're getting suction. If the system is plugged and can't suck the gases out of the crankcase, unclogging it should solve your problem.

TOM: If you ARE getting suction from the PCV system, then the news is much worse. That means that the engine is producing too much "blow by" - that the pistons, rings or cylinder walls are all worn out and that too much exhaust is getting into the crankcase. That means it's time for an engine rebuild.

RAY: Our advice? Kneel down, face Dearborn, and pray hard for a plugged PCV - or a $1,500 bank error in your favor.

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