Question: Today has been the best of days and today has been the worst of days. I got a call from my husband that announced we were new owners of a 1975 Mercedes 240d. I was elated, because I've always wanted a cool, old car.

Three hours later, he called again. He had taken our new baby to our local mechanics to have it inspected. It failed. My husband told me I was married to a total loser. He was so depressed. The car needs a new stabilizer bar, and our mechanic can't do it for us. He suggested that we go to the local Mercedes dealer. Now, this car only cost us $1,800. I don't want to go spending $1,800 on a stabilizer bar. Should we sell the car for parts, or should we fix it and keep it? - Kristen

TOM: Well, Kristen, this is the best of answers, and this is the worst of answers.

RAY: The good news is that the stabilizer bar won't cost you anywhere near $1,800. It's a couple of hundred bucks. Less if you can find a used one.

TOM: The bad news is that the stabilizer bar is just the tip of the iceberg. What makes these cars special is that they're very well engineered. They're designed to last a good, long time. And because their parts are engineered to last a good long time, they're also good and expensive!

RAY: I've had customers who thought they got the deal of a lifetime on a used Mercedes, only to be shocked when they found out they needed a $1,200 exhaust system, or a $950 brake job. Expensive cars are expensive to maintain, Kristen.

TOM: And the other thing to remember next time is that your husband did things in the wrong order. When buying a used car, you should go to your mechanic first, and have the car inspected before you buy it.

RAY: Then, if things don't go well, the car becomes the loser, not the husband.

Question: I have one of those "marital" strife-type questions for you. Both of our cars have standard transmissions, and I am new to the world of driving a stick shift car. Mind you, I'm much better now than I was a few months ago, but I'm not perfect. So, when I stall, I just start the car again, so as to avoid being hit by all of the cars behind me.

At this point, my significant other will start in on me for not turning off each and every accessory (radio, lights, etc.) before trying to restart the vehicle. The argument is that I am supposedly putting a huge strain on the battery, and will ruin the battery if I continue in this manner. I feel this is really insignificant, and he should just clam up about the whole thing. Does it really matter that much? Help! - Trish

RAY: Tell him to flake off, Trish. It doesn't matter at all.

TOM: The ignition system automatically cuts out any significant power draw when you turn the key to the crank position. You may have noticed this. If your lights are on when you try to restart the car, they'll dim or go off for a moment, and come back on when the car is started. Same with the radio, the windshield wipers and the Amana side-by-side-refrigerator/freezer you keep in the back seat.

RAY: So not only does it make no difference, but what he's telling you to do is dangerous. Not dangerous for the car, but for you! You're sitting in traffic. The safest thing to do is to get the car restarted and get out of there!

TOM: Here's how you cure him. You pull out into oncoming traffic so that cars are heading right for the passenger door. Then you intentionally stall the car. And when he starts getting concerned about the Ford Expedition that's bearing down on him, you say "Hmmm, I'm trying to remember if I turned any other accessories on today. Do you remember if I used the rear defroster this morning? I can't seem to recall. Let me think for a minute . . . ."