Savings pennies isn’t worth risking the safety of you and others

Dear Car Talk:

My wife thinks I should use the turn signals on my 2018 Ford Explorer Platinum every time I come to an intersection, even if there is no one else at the intersection. I say that if there’s no one else there, I shouldn’t use them, because there are only so many blinks in any turn signal bulb, so why waste them if you don’t have to? What do you think? Dinner is on the line here based on your expert advice. —Michael

RAY: Start chopping onions, Michael.

We had a former customer who had the same theory about brakes. He thought he should use them only when absolutely necessary, because there are only so many “stops” in each brake pad. His wife disagreed with him, bought a big life insurance policy on him and stopped riding with him. Now she’s living in Boca with her new boyfriend.

I’ll give you four reasons why it makes sense to use your directional signals all the time, Michael.

First, you want to make a habit of it. If you use your turn signals sometimes and not other times, it’s easy to forget and cause an accident that way.

Second, you may think there’s no one else at the intersection when you first pull up, but that changes. It takes very little time for someone else to arrive at an intersection — from any direction — while you’re waiting for a light. And if you’re busy arguing with your wife about another one of your crackpot theories, you might not notice, and, again, cause an accident.

Third, it’s very easy to not notice pedestrians or bicyclists, who also need to know when you intend to turn in order to navigate through the intersection or just cross the street safely.

Finally, I would guess the majority of incandescent directional bulb failures are due to vibrations from bumps and potholes over time, rather than from use. So you’re probably not even lengthening their lives with your behavior.

And, if one does fail, the bulb itself costs $5 or $10 each, if you replace it yourself. So whatever pennies per year you might be saving don’t outweigh the risk of being in a collision, which could cost you a fortune, or worse.

And if you need a fifth reason, go back and read the preamble to the U.S. Constitution, Michael, and ponder the phrase “insure domestic tranquility.”

RAV4 owner needs a break from annoying squeaking

Dear Car Talk:

My 2013 Toyota RAV4 has a very loud and annoying rotational squeak coming from the front passenger wheel. The noise stops when I apply the brakes. In the last three years, I have taken it to three different garages. I have been told it’s not safety related, but no explanation is given as to what it is. The noise is fixed when I get it back, but within a week, it’s back to squeaking. Any suggestions other than running it into a brick wall? Thanks! — Mary

RAY: Lucky you, Mary. We happen to have a special at the garage this week. We’ll drive it into a brick wall for you for only $159.95.

I agree that it’s probably not safety-related. I think it’s just your brake pads vibrating in their housing. Or, as we professionals call it, brake noise. It’s very common, which doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Here’s what’s happening. The brake pads sit in the caliper bracket. And the pads are held in place by spring-loaded clips, so they can move a little bit, but not too much. If they are allowed to move around too much, they oscillate very quickly, and produce a high-pitched squeal. If you have a disc rotor that’s slightly warped, that can contribute to the noise, too. But the primary cause is pads that are vibrating against the metal bracket. When you step on the brakes, you push that pad against the brake disc, which temporarily stops the vibrating.

So how do you address it? Usually, the first thing shops will try is to add some special grease to the backs and ends of the pads. That helps, but it can wear off. Like after a week.

So the more complete solution involves replacing the “brake hardware.” Don’t worry, it’s not as expensive as it sounds. When brake pads are installed, they’re supposed to come with a brake hardware “kit.” It includes a shim that goes between the back of the pad and the caliper bracket. It’s usually coated in Teflon or something that will not squeak. The kit also comes with spring-loaded clips that hold the pads in place.

If your brake hardware is old and never got changed, that could explain why your pads are vibrating too much. For instance, if you went to a shop that was lazy or if they used aftermarket pads that didn’t come with the Toyota hardware, they may have left your old hardware in there.

So my suggestion would be to visit the dealer. They’ll have Toyota factory pads and all of the original and correct brake hardware. Tell them what the problem is and ask for their recommendation. If they shrug, ask them if they’ll replace all the brake hardware for you and use all the pieces in the kit.

I feel certain that’ll get rid of the noise for at least a week, Mary.

Got a question about cars? Write to Car Talk write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at

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