Man’s driving habits grind wife’s gears

Dear Car Talk:

Lately, when my husband is behind the wheel, a couple of his habits have been driving me nuts (as a retiree, I have nothing else to think about when we're on the road). My husband puts the car in park, turns off the engine and then removes his foot from the brake. Then the car will roll slightly until the transmission is locked into place. Whereas I put the car in park, take my foot off the brake to engage the transmission and then turn off the engine. I think his way needlessly crunches the gears. He says either way is the same. Is there a correct way to turn off a car? Also, he will – albeit gently – bump into the concrete barrier at the end of a parking space before stopping. I stop before running into the barrier. Again, he says it doesn't matter. Is there a right or wrong call on this issue? According to my husband's opinion of my car knowledge, it is beyond reason that I am doing things correctly and he is not. However, I promise to let him read your response, even if it proves that he's been right all along. – Sandy

RAY: Oh, Sandy, you must be Fred's wife. I got a letter from him last week complaining about your driving.

The truth is, neither one of you is doing anything terribly wrong.

When turning off the car, I actually recommend that you put the car in park, then apply the parking brake. And then take your foot off the brake pedal and turn off the ignition. That keeps the car from rolling those few inches while the transmission engages the parking pawl. Letting it roll until the parking pawl engages really isn’t harmful, but if you park on a steep enough hill, it sometimes can be hard to get the car out of park when you want to drive away. If you start the car, put it in gear and then release the parking brake, you’ll never have that problem. So let’s call that one even, and maybe you both can adopt this new habit.

I can see how banging into the concrete curbstone can be annoying, but at very low speed, it also isn’t doing any real damage – no more than going over a small bump, which the car can easily handle.

But because you have better spatial awareness than Fred does, you’re able to stop the car short of the curbstone and spare him from bouncing forward in his seat. We prefer your way, but your husband is not harming the car by touching the curbstone.

I think the real solution, Sandy, is for you to tune out more while Fred is driving. I’m going to suggest that you look into meditation. And podcasts.

Differential whine not typical in brand-new trucks

Dear Car Talk:

I have a 2017 RAM 2500 four-wheel-drive truck that started emitting a whining sound. I took it in to the dealer, and after two weeks they called and said that several techs drove my truck all over town and did in fact hear the whining, but in their opinion it is normal for "those heavy-duty differentials." I bought the vehicle new, and it has just 11,800 miles on it. It started making the noise only about 3,000 miles ago. Should I accept their opinion, or take it for a second opinion? Have you ever heard of such a thing? – Joaquin

RAY: Oh, I've heard of such a thing. And I know exactly what it is: It's worn or mismatched ring-and-pinion gears in the differential.

It’s a common problem in older vehicles. The differential will make a whining or howling noise either on acceleration or on deceleration. Rarely on both. But we usually don’t see it until the car gets to 90,000 or 100,000 miles.

And once the noise starts, it tends to drive the owners of those vehicles cuckoo. Since you’re writing to me, I’m going to assume you have now met that definition.

Assuming that all of your differential fluid didn’t leak out, it shouldn’t happen on a brand-new truck, Joaquin. And while it’s possible that all 2017 RAM 2500s have whining differentials (and if they do, I think the public would like to know about it), it’s more likely that yours is faulty.

Here’s what you should do: Go back to the dealer and ask him if it’s his opinion that “they all do this.” If he says “yes,” ask him to take a ride with you in another RAM 2500 that he has on the lot.

I’m guessing that the other new RAM 2500 you drive won’t have a differential whine. In which case, they don’t all do that. And RAM owes you a differential.

If the other RAMs you drive do make a whining sound, then next time you should test drive a Ford, Chevy and Toyota to see if they also all do that (hint: they don’t), and buy one of those instead.

Be polite but firm. I think they’re trying to get rid of you, when the right thing to do would be to fix your brand-new truck, which has a warranty for exactly this reason. Good luck, Joaquin.

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