Ask Mr. Car Person

Is your car making a funny sound? Does it give off a bad smell? Ask Mr. Car Person for help, and as soon as he gets the grease off his hands, he’ll type out an answer to your question.


Dear Mr. Car Person–

My husband “Carl” is a certified public accountant, which as you probably know can be a very “stressful” job in the spring. During these periods I have to take care of “manly” things he is too busy for, although he always seems to find time for bowling. “Carl” was recently going over our bills from the gas station and saw that I paid for a tune-up for our 2019 Buick LeSabre last October and again in April. Why the hell did you do that? he asked, and not very nicely. I said to him, “You told me to get the car serviced, so I did.” He says a tune-up, which can cost over $100, isn’t the same as getting a car serviced, although he couldn’t explain how. Can you tell me what a “tune-up” is, and how I am supposed to know technical things like this?

Thank you in advance,

Mrs. Beverly Johnson, Ouachita, Oklahoma


Dear Mrs. Johnson:

“Regular” auto service usually means just an oil change, lube job, a check of fluid levels and belt wear. “Tune-up” is a technical term that refers to a specific automotive procedure in which a car’s engine timing is calibrated, spark-plugs, points, distributor cap and rotor replaced, and valves adjusted. Here’s a handy yardstick: regular service every 3,000 miles, tune-up every 30,000 miles. You have indeed paid for a tune-up when you didn’t need it, but I think the bigger problem is a simple lack of spousal communication.


Hey Car Person–

Long-time reader, first-time writer. I like to think I’m pretty knowledgeable about cars, but I took my 2012 Ford Explorer in for the Meineke $49.95 Lifetime Muffler Special recently and when I came back from getting a cup of coffee, which is how I pass the time when my car’s in the shop, I was in for a surprise. There was an add-on of $73.25 for something I couldn’t make out on the bill. I asked the guy there who didn’t look none too bright and I swear he says he had to put in a new “frammis gadget attachment,” my old one was worn out. Car Guy, when I got home I went straight to my Chilton’s Auto Repair Manual and I can’t find anything that even looks like “frammis gadget.” Help me out here.

Lloyd Putnam, Jr., Hibbing, Minnesota



My guess is that the serviceman was referring to the Explorer’s throttle body spacer or perhaps the knock sensor, two parts that have not proven to be durable for your model year. Without listening to the fellow talk I can’t be sure, however. Let this be a lesson to you-–drink the free coffee at the garage where your car is being serviced, no matter how bad it is.


Dear Mr. Car Person:

I am sure that our car makes noises, but my husband claims he doesn’t hear them. He says I am having auditory hallucinations, and should see a psychiatrist.

Ethel Robertson-Needermeyer, Rye, New Hampshire


Dear Mrs. Robertson-Needermeyer (that’s a mouthful!)-

What kind of noises?


Mr. Car Person–

I am a philosophy major at Central Illinois State University and must commute 18 miles to school each way. Yesterday a guy in a greasy “DeKalb Seed Corn” cap rolled down his window at a stoplight and said “You ought to get your tires rotated.” What does that mean? Don’t all tires “rotate”? If they didn’t rotate, how would the car move?

Leon Racunas, Kankakee, Illinois



Even though you are a philosophy major, the difference between “rotating” and “revolving” tires is one you should be able to grasp. Tires should be rotated from one wheel to another every 3 to 4 thousand miles in order to preserve balanced handling and even out tire wear. There are three basic patterns for tire rotation–the forward cross, the rearward cross, and the “X” exchange or “flea flicker.” These look very much like a “backfield in motion,” so you should perhaps have someone from the football team explain them to you.


Mr. Car Person–

The sound is like “ta-pocketa-pocketa,” and is heard whenever we parallel park.

Ethel Robertson-Needermeyer



If your car is an automatic, my guess is you are low on transmission fluid, unless your husband is a ventriloquist and is trying to drive you insane.

                Big Kitty


Mr. Car Person–

My wife and I have had a place at the Lake of the Ozarks for many years. When we first got it we were newlyweds, and she used to take her cat “Big Kitty” down for the weekend ’cause she didn’t want to leave it alone. Anything to keep her happy I said at the time, but after a while I put my foot down. Leave the damn cat at home, I said. That’s why you get a cat instead of a dog. Over the years she (my wife, not the cat) has developed a number of subterfuges for sneaking Big Kitty down to the cabin. She’ll hide it in a picnic basket, or her sewing bag, and as soon as we are too far from home to turn back, she springs it on me–surprise! This is what I have to put up with.

            Big Kitty, when little.


Anyway, last week we got about as far as Tipton when I stopped for gas. There was a guy there who offered me a Bass Pro rod and reel if I would take him down to the Bagnell Dam, where he said he was gonna meet some people. Sounded like a good deal to me, so my wife got in back and he rode shotgun. We no more than got out on the road again than he pulls out a fishing knife with a serrated edge and says “I’m the Beaman Strangler–don’t pull any funny business and you won’t get hurt.” Mr. Car Person–I have never been so scared in my life as the Beaman Strangler has terrorized Central Missouri for several years now.

          Dramatic re-enactment.

He had barely got the words out of his mouth when Big Kitty comes over the top of the seat and lands on the Strangler’s hands–I guess she smelled fish on the knife and just went crazy. It was enough of a distraction so that I could grab the knife away from him but we ran off the road in the struggle and crashed into a car that was parked at a memorial marker where Jesse James robbed a train or something.

My insurance company tells me that I am 100% at fault because the other guy was stopped for a legitimate purpose, and that I am liable for the deductible. In other words, I get the aggravation of being threatened with a knife and I’m out $500. Should I try and patch the radiator myself or take it to a professional?

Ray Lee Suggins, Smithton MO



Sorry to hear of your misfortune. A car radiator is a delicate thing, and any error you make in fixing it can lead to further damage to your engine block. As hard it may seem to you after such a traumatic incident, you should always seek the assistance of a trained automotive service professional for major repairs. And thank your lucky stars that your wife is a cat lover!

Available in Kindle format on as part of the collection “Take My Advice–I Wasn’t Using it Anyway.”

Share this Post: