Dear Tom and Ray:
Once again you are going to be asked to solve a marital dispute. Our problems arise when we park our respective stick-shift cars, and the object of the disagreement is the parking brake. I always engage the brake, while my husband believes this is optional. Difficulties begin when he gets into my car and forgets to release the brake, or I get into his car, put in the clutch and start rolling. While we both can take measures to avoid disasters, it remains a frustrating situation. Part of my husband's rationale is he believes it is possible for the brake to "freeze on" during a hard freeze. Funny . . . it has never happened to my car. Habits die hard, but maybe a discussion from you two will inspire compromise between us. Thanks. - CarolineTOM: Caroline, of course you're right. But since we know that men have such fragile egos, let's be careful about how we break the news to your husband.
RAY: If you're wondering why my brother is showing such sensitivity to your husband, Caroline, it's because he also has a very fragile ego and also happens to be wrong most of the time.
TOM: The answer is that you should use your parking brake every time you park the car. With a stick-shift car, the transmission and parking brake TOGETHER will keep your car from rolling. You can't trust either one of them alone.
RAY: Look at it this way. When you park your car in gear, the inertia of the engine - that is, the engine's tendency to stay still - is the only thing keeping the car from moving.
TOM: On level ground, the engine does OK. But park the car on a little hill, and suddenly it's not so hard for the weight of the car to push the engine and make it turn. In addition, if your clutch happens to be worn, it will slip, and again it's "goodbye, car."
RAY: But you really can't trust parking brakes either. They tend to be flimsy and unreliable. So to be safe, you really must use both. Here's our recommended procedure: When you get to your parking space, if you're on a hill, turn your wheels toward the curb. Before you take your foot off the brake, set the parking brake. Then put the car in Reverse (if it's a stick shift) or Park (if it's an automatic). Finally, turn off the engine, and open the door and smash it into the Camaro parked next to you.
TOM: Seriously, by putting on the parking brake first, you'll find that it's easier to get the car out of gear when you start it again - especially when you park on an incline. Just follow the exact opposite procedure when driving away: Start the car, take it out of parking gear, and then release the parking brake.
RAY: Now for the difficult part, Caroline - how to tell your husband he's dead wrong without turning him into a sniveling, pencil-neck geek.
Please see CARS on E2
TOM: The only way to do it is to tell him he's absolutely RIGHT . . . except for a few minor details. Then refer him to paragraphs two, three, four, five, six and seven for elaboration.
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