I don’t want to take a Crown Vic to col­lege

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Puzzle - BY RAY MAGLIOZZI

Dear Car Talk: I’m just start­ing col­lege, and my par­ents have agreed to buy me a used car.

They were go­ing to give me their car, but I don’t want it. It’s a Crown Vic­to­ria. Get se­ri­ous.

I want some­thing big enough to carry four peo­ple, ca­pa­ble of haul­ing my moun­tain bike and fun to drive.

What do you rec­om­mend? — Alden

A Crown Vic, Alden. You’ve heard the ex­pres­sion “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”? Well, my ad­vice would be don’t look a gift Crown Vic in the en­gine com­part­ment.

You may not re­al­ize this, but the Crown Vic is so un­cool that it’s cool. I’ll lay out the ad­van­tages.

First of all, it’s go­ing to be reli­able. Your par­ents were the orig­i­nal own­ers and not only drove it gen­tly, but prob­a­bly took good care of it, too. That’s go­ing to save you a ton of money. Money that could be better spent on text­books and Don­key Kong.

Plus, there will prob­a­bly be a guilt fac­tor in­volved if any­thing does go wrong. If the en­gine com­pres­sion plum­mets — be­fore your GPA does — they may say, “Oh, gee, Alden, we gave you a car with bad com­pres­sion. We’ll take care of that for you, son.”

Sec­ond, a Crown Vic is large, and all things be­ing equal, larger is safer. Since you’re pre­sum­ably go­ing to be driv­ing long dis­tances to school and back, I’d cer­tainly rather see you in some­thing with some bulk around it than some­thing smaller and “fun.”

Third, it’s ver­sa­tile. I bet your moun­tain bike will slide right into the back seat. It’ll carry you and four class­mates to the li­brary on Satur­day night (right!), and the trunk will swal­low an en­tire dorm’s worth of empty kegs.

Finally, your friends are go­ing to ad­mire it. It’s not the av­er­age Corolla or Subaru that most stu­dents bring to col­lege. It’s a cruiser. It’s com­fort­able. Your friends are go­ing to want to go out in your Crown Vic in­stead of stuff­ing them­selves into their Honda Civic.

And if all that doesn’t make it cool, you can mount an aux­il­iary spot­light to the driver’s door and watch the traf­fic move out of the way for you when you cruise home ... if you don’t get ar­rested for im­per­son­at­ing an of­fi­cer. ***

Dear Car Talk: I re­cently learned that my me­chanic has been fill­ing my 2008 Chevy Im­pala with 5 quarts of oil, in­stead of the rec­om­mended 4.

I’ve also no­ticed an oil leak, which my me­chanic at­tributes to a bad man­i­fold gas­ket or head gas­ket.

Could over­fill­ing the oil have caused these gas­kets to leak? It’s a 3.9 liter six-cylin­der en­gine with 104,000 miles on it. — Michael

No. It sure would be nice to blame this guy, wouldn’t it, Michael? But over­fill­ing the crank­case by 1 quart is not likely to cause any prob­lem what­so­ever.

Not that we make a habit of it at the garage, but that hap­pens some­times. The me­chanic should have checked both the oil ca­pac­ity and the dip­stick. But he may have as­sumed that a large, six-cylin­der en­gine like yours would hold more than 4 quarts. Most of them do.

But your oil leak was caused by those 104,000 miles you put on the car. And it could be a big job to fix. If you need to do both cylin­der heads, you could be look­ing at well over $1,000. Even if it’s just the man­i­fold gas­ket, it could cost sev­eral hun­dred bucks, which is still not cheap.

So, un­less it’s leak­ing a lot of oil, you may want to ap­ply the tech­nique of “watch­ful wait­ing.” That’s the pro­gram my wife has me on.

It in­volves three steps: 1. Keep­ing a close eye on the oil level. 2. Top­ping it up when­ever it’s low, and 3. Putting a piece of card­board on your garage floor be­fore it looks like the Exxon Valdez has been dry-docked in there.

If you’re los­ing less than a quart ev­ery 800-1,000 miles, you can even by­pass the card­board box, be­cause you’ll be los­ing a drop ev­ery few miles on the in­ter­state. And if that’s the case, this leak is of lit­tle con­se­quence. It’s pos­si­ble that some­thing much worse will be­fall this car be­fore the leak ever has a chance to be­come a me­chan­i­cal threat. Got a ques­tion about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Fea­tures, 628 Vir­ginia Drive, Or­lando, FL 32803, or email by vis­it­ing the Car Talk web­site at www.cartalk.com.

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