Question - Help me out here. I need to know if I have to start wearing my flame-proof sweater next time I fill up at the neighborhood gas station. The last two times that I filled up the tank at the local gas station, there were Richard Petty wannabes filling up their cars with the engines still running.

Now, I know illiteracy is bad in this country, but do people really not understand the words "turn off your engine while refueling"? I was going to ask this soon-to-be-Roman candle whether he thought it was OK to ignore the signs, but I decided to ask you guys instead. Should we pay attention to these signs, or should we all just ignore them? - JamesRAY: Of course we should pay attention to these signs. After all, someone spent all that money to print them up, didn't they? It's the least we can do.

TOM: Here's why we should obey the signs. When you're refueling a car, gasoline vapors are generated. And there's always a possibility that gasoline will spill and vaporize.

RAY: And when gas vapors meet a spark, the result is . . . kaboom! So it makes sense to do everything possible to reduce the chances of blowing yourself and other innocent people into that big filling station with clean restrooms in the sky, right?

TOM: And while random sparks are not normally created by most cars, it can happen. If you had a bad spark-plug wire, for instance, and the spark was jumping, under just the right (actually wrong) circumstances, it could ignite the vapors and take you and all those S&H green stamps with it.

RAY: On the other hand, when the engine is off, there's almost no chance that a spark will ignite the gasoline fumes. So why not cut the risk to zero? Are we that lazy that we can't shut off the engine for five minutes while we refill the gas tank?

TOM: And by the way, James, for the same reason, you should also insist that your mother-in-law snub out her El Producto before you send her out to fill the tank, too.

Question - I'm an old Yale Divinity School graduate with a question for you. Why don't any auto makers make an oil dipstick of any color except steel? That's the exact color of clean motor oil! A different-colored dipstick would make it a lot easier to read the oil level, wouldn't it? - Garrett

RAY: I'm not so sure, Garrett. While a white dipstick might make it a little easier to read, I think the bigger problem is that the oil has no color when it's new. Although it looks amber in the can, when you have only three molecules of it on the dipstick, it's practically transparent.

TOM: Right. Once it gets good and black and gooey, you have no problem distinguishing the oil from the dipstick. That's why I haven't changed my oil since 1976.

RAY: My brother has all the solutions, doesn't he? We need to hear from some divinity/mechanical engineering double majors in our audience. Has anybody addressed this problem? Let us know.

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The Magliozzi brothers' radio show "Car Talk" can be heard Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at noon on KUER FM 90.1, and on KCPW 88.3/105.1 FM Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sunday at 10 a.m.. If you have a question about cars, write to Click and Clack Talk Cars c/o King Features Syndicate, 235 E. 45th St., New York, NY 10017. You can e-mail them by visiting their Web site at (http://cartalk.msn.com).