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Click and Clack talk cars

Dear Tom and Ray: Does writing in the dirt/dust on a car scratch the paint? A teacher at my children's school today wrote "Clean Me'' as a joke in the dirt on my new Suburban as I was parked in the school pickup line. (It was dirty only because we've had bad weather lately!) I had left it unattended while I was visiting another mother ahead of me in line while waiting for the kids to come out of school. I'm a little surprised that an adult male would do this, and I don't quite know how to bring up the subject with him. I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I do want him to know that I didn't appreciate the fact that he could have scratched the paint. I haven't had a new vehicle since 1999, and it really hurt my feelings to have someone do this the second week I've owned the vehicle. How can I give this fella an education about not messing with other people's cars, without offending him?

Linda

RAY: Well, first of all, Linda, you should never be surprised at what an adult male will do. In the big scheme of adult-male misdeeds, however, this is not something for the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

TOM: I know what I'd do. I'd write "Clean Me'' on HIS car. With a nail!

RAY: You see what I mean about adult males, Linda? If there was nothing but dust or fine particles of dirt on the car, it's unlikely to have done any damage. However, if there was grit and sand on the car, it's possible that there are some slight scratches on your paint. In that case, rest assured that the scratches will easily come out with some polishing compound.

TOM: As you know, cars get scratches all the time. The back of someone's jacket rubs against your door in a parking lot ... someone puts a shopping bag on the hood ... your kid rubs her backpack against it while getting in ... you scrape up against a bush in a driveway. Scratches are inevitable, and there's no avoiding them over time. So don't lose sleep over it.

RAY: On the other hand, you can say to the fellow: "Listen, I know you were just joking around, but you probably didn't know that you can scratch the car that way. And since it's a brand-new car, I'm not emotionally ready to have it scratched up yet!''

TOM: "And, by the way, you owe me $5,000 for a paint job!''

RAY: See? Adult males. Be nice about it, Linda, because I'm sure the guy didn't think he was doing any harm. But letting him know will make you feel better and will force him to find alternative ways to be destructive in the future.

DON'T PUSH CAR DOORS PAST THEIR BREAKING POINT

Dear Tom and Ray: I bought a 2003 Chevy S-10 for my stepdaughter. Today the truck has only 36,500 miles on it. The driver's door fell off! It broke off at the welds and was hanging by electrical wires. The dealership refused to do warranty work. How can a girl who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet tear a door off a truck? Is it possible to shame Chevy into making this right?

Eric

RAY: We'll see, Eric!

TOM: Actually, I'm sure you'll be shocked to learn that a 100-pound girl CAN easily tear a door off an S-10 pickup. In fact, she can tear a door off of almost any car.

RAY: That's right. If you try to open a car door beyond the point that it's designed to open, you can easily break the hinges. And since the hinges are all that hold the door on, if they break, the door falls off. Try it on your car, Eric. Sit in the driver's seat, put your feet up against the door, and give it a shove!

TOM: But in this case, I think your daughter got a major assist from Chevrolet. These S-10 pickups are known for their door problems. There are pins that go through the hinges -- just like on the doors in your house. Those pins, and the bushings around them, wear out. Then the door starts to sag.

RAY: Now, if you catch the problem at that point, you can buy a replacement set of pins and bushings for 13 bucks and all will be right with the world. But if you ignore the problem, the pins will eventually fall out and the door will fall off.

TOM: She may have been operating on only one hinge for months before the door actually dropped off.

RAY: Or, she may have come out of a bar one night at 2 a.m., backed up with the door open and taken the door off with a parking meter. But I'm betting on the pins wearing out, Eric. If you (and we) can't shame Chevrolet into helping you, a body shop is your best bet to get it fixed. Good luck.

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It's NEVER cheaper in the long run to buy a new car. Want proof? Order Tom and Ray's pamphlet "How to Buy a Great Used Car: Secrets Only Your Mechanic Knows." Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Used Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

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Which is cheaper, buying or leasing? Should you keep a car forever or dump it after three years, before trouble starts? Find out in Tom and Ray's pamphlet "Should I Buy, Lease, or Steal My Next Car?" Send $4.75 (check or money order) to Next Car, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

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Got a question for Tom and Ray Magliozzi? Write to Click and Clack at: Car Talk Plaza, Box 3500 Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA 02238, or e-mail them through the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com. Their hourlong call-in show airs locally at 10 a.m. Saturdays on WLRN (91.3 FM).

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