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Click and Clack

By Tom and Ray Magliozzi
Saturday July 28, 2001

Dear Tom and Ray: 

Back in the 1980s, I drove a huge Chevy van. The steering wheel was so loose that I could turn corners using only a pinkie (of course, the steering wheel wobbled a little on straightaways, too). Now my wife has acute arm-muscle pain and needs a car with very easy steering. None of the new cars we’ve tested are easy to steer. If I want that same old-fashioned, easy steering, do I need to buy an old car? — David 

RAY: You might. You're referring to the old GM power steering of the ’70s and ’80s. The “slosh” that they worked decades to perfect. 

TOM: It’s hard to find that now. These days, customers prefer to have a better feel for the road. So manufacturers have reduced the amount of steering boost they put in their cars. And you’re right, almost all American cars now have more resistance in the steering wheel than they did 20 years ago. 

RAY: So what to do? Well, first of all, you should really ask yourself – and answer honestly – whether your wife SHOULD be driving anymore. If she’s got severe arm pain, will she be able to react and steer fast enough to get out of the way in an emergency? Will she put herself or other families in danger on the road because she can't swerve when necessary? If she has trouble steering an average, power-steering-equipped car, it might be time to give up the keys. 

TOM: If you decide that she is well enough to handle emergencies as well as normal driving, then I’d look at the most traditional American cars you can find – cars like the Mercury Grand Marquis, the Ford Crown Victoria, the Lincoln Town Car and the Buick LeSabre. T 

RAY: If none of those does the trick, you certainly can look for an older used car. Or you can consider handicap controls. We have an area of our Web site dedicated to drivers with special needs. It’s at the Car Talk section of Good luck, David.  

Dear Tom and Ray: 

Please help me settle an ongoing dispute I’m having with my four best friends. After discussing the new elephant arrival at our city zoo, we contemplated how much the elephant might weigh at birth. I stated that it would be somewhat like delivering a small car. Half of the group is certain that a car weighs more than a ton. Those of us who are more reasonable know that a car could not possibly weigh a ton. Please help us resolve this matter – it's driving us crazy. — Seattle Girls 

TOM: Well, you’ve come to the right place, girls. In addition to our extensive knowledge of cars, we also happen to be elephant experts. 

RAY: You might be surprised to learn that a newborn pachyderm only weighs between 200 and 300 pounds. About the same as a mother-in-law! 

TOM: Whereas the average car weighs about a ton and a half – or in the neighborhood of 3,000 pounds. These days, the lightest cars on the road weigh just a little bit less than a ton, and the heaviest passenger cars are in the 2-ton range. 

RAY: So, as you can see, birthing an elephant is nothing at all like birthing a car. It's more like, well, birthing a 250cc motorcycle. Which, when you think about it, is probably no walk in the park, either!  

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