My short bio: I am Ray Magliozzi, from Car Talk— the single biggest mistake NPR has made in the past three decades.

I just got back from Cuba, investigating mojitos, Cohibas and DeSotos:

Ask me anything. Except the answer to this week's puzzler. We'll start at 7.

My Proof:

Update: I'm out of time - this is more work than I've done in weeks! Thanks very much for all your questions - it's been a lot of fun!

Comments: 294 • Responses: 49  • Date: 

MrX1659 karma

You and your brother were both in Cars, what was it like recording your voice for a kids movie and then seeing your characters on the big screen?

car_talk_lackey75 karma

It was fun - we did the recording well in advance of the movie, so by the time it came out, I forgot what it was about! They didn't use all of the lines. It was exciting to go to movies with all our friends and family members.

palal1248 karma

Do you think that more electric cars will lead to a reduction in the number of boats owned by auto mechanics?

car_talk_lackey63 karma

sadly yes, although I think it will be a boon to the electricians of the world

jgan9647 karma

Hey, I just wanted to say that it's happened again and I'm wasting another perfectly good night on your AMA :) Car Talk was a staple of my childhood and I have been listening to the show and podcast now for almost 20 years. I even watched As the Wrench Turns when it came out (although it never got picked up unfortunately).

Question, did you ever receive a $26 bill or some other object with a puzzler answer on it at any point?

car_talk_lackey67 karma

We have a wall of counterfeit money at the office:

followerofprez42 karma

Ray, we now live in an era where people only trust you if you admit that you don't know what you're talking about. From Jon Stewart to Donald Trump, the only way to be taken seriously is to try not to be serious. I blame you and your brother. Is this your fault or NPR's for giving you a show?

car_talk_lackey51 karma

Guilty as charged - it's our fault and we take full responsibility!

wexfun39 karma

Is it true that you guys only made a dollar per episode?

On a separate note, you and your bro were two of the only radio hosts I know of who actually look the way you speak.

car_talk_lackey83 karma

Untrue! We made zero for many years! Until an exponential increase, and we started getting $10 or $15 a show!

lessdothisshit29 karma

On a separate note, you and your bro were two of the only radio hosts I know of who actually look the way you speak.

What a horrible thing to say to the man!

car_talk_lackey90 karma

I think the expression you're looking for is "faces for radio"!

berkardo35 karma

What is your favorite memory of doing Car Talk? Do you miss doing Car Talk at all?

P.S. I still listen to the reruns of Car Talk and have been listening for over 10 years now.

car_talk_lackey65 karma

It's hard to say! It was all pretty great. Never any stress, except for a few times when I got the puzzler wrong! Answering the question and talking to the listeners was to us like sitting across the kitchen table and talking about their car (or whatever issue they had).

FannyBrownRiced32 karma

Ray! I need to come to Boston the weekend of the marathon but all the airbnb's and hotels are booked/insanely expensive, can you recommend a good park bench in Cambridge?

car_talk_lackey55 karma

We've done extensive testing on all of them, and there's really not one that I'd single out as being ideal, except maybe one of the ones at the corner of JFK and Mt. Auburn. Close to coffee!

patman2131 karma

Who's your favorite employee? Mines your airline seat tester.

car_talk_lackey89 karma

The head of our Working Mother's Support Group, Erasmus B. Dragon, of course!

The first few weeks I recorded that one, my brother laughed every single time, like he had never heard it before.

MindFreeZone30 karma

Ray, can you settle once and for all: I keep hearing contradictory advice from various columnists. Turn steering wheel the way the car is skidding, or back onto the road?

car_talk_lackey88 karma

You're supposed to steer in the direction of the skid... so if you can see the ass-end of your car coming over your left shoulder, you'd want to steer your wheel to the left. But the mistake everybody makes is to over-correct. So of course then it skids in the other direction...

The best way to learn how your car acts in a skid is to actually put it into a skid, in some icy parking lot sometime, and just practice.

Of course once every car has stability control though, you can just sit there, send a text, "I'm skidding!" and let the car sort it out for itself.

gizzelbertus1028 karma

What is the craziest thing someone has mailed the answer to a puzzler on?

car_talk_lackey54 karma

The Thomas Moser solid cherry sleigh bed . .. for those of you who don't know, this is an exquisitely crafted sled, with fine veneers and worth thousands. We asked for it on air and sure enough the thing shows up, with the answer written on it.
We donated it to WBUR, much to my brother's dismay.

DaBarenJuden28 karma

Thinking about buying a cheap van/small RV and doing an around the country road trip with the dog and boss lady. What would be your top pick?

(Note: willing to fixup)

car_talk_lackey84 karma

A marriage counselor.

And there's always a plane ticket home.

ceeellh28 karma

Ray! Thank you for so many years of entertainment! My dad was a caller once in the 90's, Kevin in Stilwell, Kansas, who wanted to use his car as a tornado shelter. In case you were ever worried, we moved to Virginia shortly after.

Relatedly, Have you ever had someone you wanted to follow up on, but couldn't really do a "Stump the Chumps!" for?

car_talk_lackey33 karma

I remember that call. We told him it was a stupid idea! Glad you moved!

juicyfizz24 karma

Hi Ray! My husband and I are big fans of Car Talk. Thanks for doing the AMA!

I was pleasantly surprised to hear your interview on NPR from a few weeks ago in Cuba. How was your trip and what was the most surprising car-related thing you saw over there?

car_talk_lackey32 karma

I saw a car with the original engine! It was a '58 Impala. All the other taxis had had their original engines and transmissions ripped out.

wildly_curious_122 karma

Ray, my boyfriend doesn't know how to drive a stick shift. What's the best way for me to teach him without him destroying the clutch on my car?

car_talk_lackey56 karma

Look for another boyfriend.

If that doesn't work, and you've got high miles on the clutch, you might as well let him do it and get him to agree to pay for half of the repair.

VstarWalt19 karma

What happened to Tommy's cars? Is your Dodge Colt Vista still going?

car_talk_lackey38 karma

Tommy's MG is in John "Bugsy" Lawlor's garage, and so is my Dodge Colt Vista. the MG is in the process of getting an engine rebuild. It was leaking oil on the Colt Vista for years.

AbsoluteTruthiness19 karma

Tom's wife once called because he said that she looked like a truck. That was funny as hell! Did you guys plan that in advance or was it a spur of the moment thing?

car_talk_lackey42 karma


It was absolutely spur of the moment.

We were reading letters from kids and one little boy wrote "You should be nice to your girlfriend, even if she looks like a truck."

Tommy said "That's what I do with my wife." We were in the midst of the next call and Joanne called and screamed "I look like a truck?!"

It was hilarious.

Here's the letter:

spongebue17 karma

I got rid of my 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera (165,000 miles) and bought a 2012 Ford Escape (35K on the odometer). Was this a good idea?

car_talk_lackey21 karma


RevDrStrangelove17 karma

Did you guys have assistants researching the symptoms online? How did you troubleshoot?

car_talk_lackey68 karma

Are you kidding me?! Do you think we would have given as many wrong answers as we did if we had had assistants?

We use our vast -- or is that half-vast -- automotive knowledge... acquired at the expense of our customers, over many, many years...

MasonMessenger16 karma

Hey Ray,

Thank you so much for coming on and doing this AMA! I've been a fan since childhood (when you were about 60 or so), I love everything about your show, and I still listen to the weekly podcasts. To what do you attribute the overpowering sense of love and connection I feel between all the members of your family on the air? It is unmatched in anything else I listen to, and I just wanted to let you know how appreciated it is.

car_talk_lackey19 karma

Thank you!

OXD15 karma

Oh man, I have spent my whole life listening to you and your brother, originally in the back seat of my dad's Saab 900. I never had a chance to call the show once I had a car of my own, but I do still have a question for you. Between an Alfa, a Fiat or an MG what would you say would be the best option to dive headfirst into the pain JOY of classic car ownership? I'd love to have something to wrench on as a project. Thanks man!

car_talk_lackey33 karma

If you really want something to wrench on, you can't do better than an MG, because you'll be wrenching on that thing all the time. The older the better. Something from the 50s, if you've got the stomach for it! The car was very simple, it only had like 9 moving parts, but it managed to break every week. You can't rely on it though if you need it for transportation.

Manzanitarot15 karma

I have a 99 ford Taurus. I've heard that the waterpump is the first to go on those cars. It has been a fairly good car with moderate to minor repairs over the last few years. What can I do to prolong the life of this car? Or what can I expect to go wrong with this make and model?

car_talk_lackey18 karma

When the water pump goes it's probably time to get rid of it. (kidding)

My brother in law has an '89 Taurus. He lives in France most of the year and comes and drives it a few months of the year.

Fix the water pump when it goes, but if you want it to last, park it like he does.

travelinghobbit15 karma

Hi Ray! I just wanted to say I grew up listening to you and your brother (poor me, I know). I wrote in to you when I was about 15 and you sent back an autographed photo. One of my prized possessions. :D I think one of my favourite shows was when you had Martha Stewart on and she told you how to cook a chicken/turkey on your engine while on a long trip.

My question: What could I cook on a hybrid's engine?

car_talk_lackey36 karma


car_talk_lackey42 karma

I did introduce Martha as "our good friend Margaret Stewart."

She gave us a set of a dozen beautiful Wedgewood dinner plates which had different depictions of landmarks at MIT in Our Fair City. Someone on her staff took great pains to find those.

We gave her a Car Talk T-Shirt.

car_talk_lackey46 karma

I ended up giving one of those plates to the then MIT president. I told him "This is one less thing you'll need to steal when you retire."

latitudesixtysix13 karma

Hi Ray, huge fan. I've wasted many an hour listening to your show. What percentage of calls to your show do you think were fabricated to try to stump the chumps? What did you think of the car culture in Cuba? How do you think it will change with new opportunities for trade with the US?

car_talk_lackey20 karma

The car culture in Cuba is alive and well - the Cubans love their cars, and there was plenty of evidence of that.

It's hard to know how it will change. A lot of those cars will probably stay right there, as cabs, and curiosities. But as the restrictions lift, we'll see more new cars coming in.

It'd be nice to ride around in a taxi in Cuba that had airbags and seat belts. It's a little scary!

Edit: You can see some of our Cuba pictures here -

GimmeADopeSlap13 karma

The best I can say in short, is the world is blessed by having CarTalk. My 2013 Subaru Crosstrek eats oil. Dealer says one quart per 1200 miles is normal. Is that possible? 0w20 gets used up quicker because it helps fuel economy? Seems excessive No?

car_talk_lackey16 karma

That's probably within acceptable limits, but that stinks. I'd be ticked off if I bought a new car that burned oil like that.

Tommy's cars all burned oil at that rate, but those were all 20 years old and he paid $50 for them.

gizzelbertus1011 karma

What was the most ridiculous car you ever worked on in your shop?

car_talk_lackey20 karma

It was a Simca! I don't even think you could buy that car here. She needed a CV joint. It was long before we even knew what they were. When we figured out what the part was, they said "Are you kidding me?" We ended up getting the part from France. The left and right axles were different. We didn't know our a droit from gauche. We ended up having that car in the shop for about a year.

chemistrysquirrel10 karma

What other subject do you think would make a good radio show based on Car Talk format?

(Sorry for poor wording, I get stupid and excited and shy around people I admire.)

car_talk_lackey23 karma

I think Marriage Talk would be a good one. Who would host that?

compuzr10 karma

What was the best car your brother, Tommy, ever owned? What was the best car you ever owned?

Love the show, still listen to it regularly! Thanks for all the good times.

car_talk_lackey21 karma

I'd say his '65 AMC Ambassador. I think ti was his favorite because he paid full price for it. He actually bought that one new.

He always drove his car into the ground, but considering how little he drove, that was quite a feat.

It was a convertible, kinda classy looking. I think there was some element of regret, because he basically abandoned the car at the shop - it was parked outside, animals were living in it, the top was torn, all kinds of strange things were growing.

Anyway, I decided one day it looked bad to have this junkbox sitting outside for all the customers to see . . . . so I sent it to the crusher!

alanblah10 karma

What was the strangest question you were ever asked on the air?

car_talk_lackey39 karma

The question about electric brakes on a cattle trailer - I don't even remember precisely what the question was. Neither one of us had ever seen a cattle carrier, or knew a thing about electric brakes. And it led to the best letter we ever received which postulated, that it's possible for two people together to know less than one person.

car_talk_lackey23 karma

Car Talk Lackey Update:

Here's the letter from Andy.

StarfishHelmet8 karma

I think one of my favorite shows was one I heard when you had your Mom on for Mother's Day. She was wonderful.

What kind of car did she drive, and did you and Tom argue over getting her set up in proper transportation? I could imagine him putting her in a classic Coup deVille, while you argued for a Rav4.

car_talk_lackey10 karma

We did a public service to the driving public and we kept Mom off the road for many years.

She didn't own her own car. Dad's preferred means of transportation was an oil delivery truck. He generally hid the keys to the car when he wasn't home.

Doctorpayne8 karma

hi ray! some of my fondest memories as a kid are of driving with my dad around wellesley looking for the sunday globe listening to you morons. anyways, my car buff cousin just quit his mining engineer job in Chile and set up his own garage. what advice can you give him as he manages his 15-odd mechanics and staff?

car_talk_lackey20 karma

I'd say most of the mechanics we had were pretty odd, so he's off to a good start.

Mechanics are an artist in a way. Everyone has their own style. Some zip right through a job and are efficient. (Those guys end up quitting and running their own shops.)

Some people are slow, but incredibly thorough, and they'd only do the job once.

Sometimes the fastest aren't the best.

One of the keys is to keep the three or four guys who hate you away from the ones who are undecided.

adlittle7 karma

Hi Ray, I've long loved the show! Wondering what you think of self-driving cars: Will they become the predominant form of transportation and, if so, how far off will it happen?

car_talk_lackey15 karma

It's going to happen. You're not going to wake up tomorrow morning and be able to buy a self-driving car, but it'll be phased in. We're seeing that now, with lane departure/lane keeping, adaptive cruise control, and all those features.

CCL107 karma

I was driving during an ice storm here in NC and as I approached a bridge I downshifted to slow down instead of braking. My husband said that was not the right thing to do because I could lose traction and control. So which was the right thing to do? Downshift or brake?

car_talk_lackey16 karma

YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. Next time your husband is within striking distance, give him a dopeslap.

You can lose control either braking or downshifting, but engine braking can allow for gradual deceleration.

stuckinPA7 karma

Hi Ray! Thanks for doing this! How much did it cost you to retain Dewey, Cheatham and Howe?

car_talk_lackey10 karma

I am bound by Dewey, Cheetham and Howe's non-disclosure agreement

chayashida6 karma

Do you have any advice for teaching a 16-year-old how to drive? She's swearing that she's doing fine, because she hasn't hit anything yet. She's also telling us that we're teaching her wrong.

We have another 50 hours of this...

car_talk_lackey11 karma

I think the best advice I can give is for you not to be in the car.

Pick your least favorite relative and have them give the lessons.

Taking my own kids out for practice drives was difficult and fraught with outbursts...from me mostly, but my kids, too.

Keldog76 karma

Hi Ray, what is your best "worst" car?

car_talk_lackey18 karma

My best/worst was my Dodge Colt Vista that I rescued from the scrap heap. It became a family favorite, even though it was originally met with derision from my kids!

I managed to teach 8 to 10 people how to drive stick shift on that thing until they burned the clutch out

ischoll6 karma

What happens in the 4th half of the show?

car_talk_lackey15 karma


FeralAero5 karma

What is the most memorable kludge you have seen on an automobile? Bonus points if it was designed by the manufacturer.

car_talk_lackey15 karma

Not sure if this counts, but we used to have a DIY shop called Hacker's Haven. So we had this idea that we'd stand in the office giving instructions and raking in the cash. Of course that didn't pan out.

So once, these two guys came in to replace the calipers on their MG. They bought a quart of brake fluid, and then another, and then another.

And it turns out, I didn't even realize you could do this, but what they had done was installed the calipers on the wrong sides, so the bleeder was at the bottom and not the top.

And I'm pretty sure they even went so far as to put in a new master cylinder, because they were sure that had failed. But they just had a lake of brake fluid under the car.

leitz0105 karma

After the success of the Cuba trip, what places do you want to go next? Japanese k-cars would be fun!

car_talk_lackey9 karma

I'd like to go to sub-Saharan Africa. I'd like to see what their brand of ingenuity is.

Plane tickets, guides and two full sets of Abercrombie and Fitch Kepis, pith helmets and mosquito nets are more that appreciated.

capnpitz4 karma

Hey Ray! Do you have a favorite movie about cars? How about favorite movie about puzzlers?

car_talk_lackey10 karma

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

That Willys that Terry-Thomas drove was great. I always loved Dick Shawn's Polara. "I'm comin' to get you, mama!"

StatusTics4 karma

Can you imagine a time when we will no longer primarily use gas-powered engines? Or do you believe that the electric car will only ever be, at best, a niche market?

Big fan of Car Talk!

car_talk_lackey9 karma

Yes - when we run out of oil!

showstopping4 karma

Grew up listening to you while Dad and I worked on our cars. Ironically, moved from NJ to near News Cafe in Miami Beach where you guys drank cappuccinos. Listened to the episode after your amazing brother passed there and it broke my heart. You both, and your laughs, were our version of Saturday morning cartoons. Question how can I ship a piece of my dads's dashboard to you for a signature to surprise him? I'll say the dog scratched it and I'm repairing it. Haha

car_talk_lackey4 karma

Have a cappuccino at News for us!

showstopping2 karma

Sounds great.. Cracks me up my dad still listens to reruns like they are brand new. Thanks again for great show / attitude. Let me know if possible to ship something small (self addressed and stamped). Cheers

car_talk_lackey3 karma

Car Talk Lackey Here a day late: We are almost always able to handle small stuff especially if you're springing for postage! Drop us an e-mail at website [at] cartalk [dot] com and we'll see what we can do.

chemistrysquirrel2 karma

RAY! You're the best! If I send you something in the mail, would you autograph it and send it back to me?!

Also, what is your favorite fruit?

car_talk_lackey15 karma

As long as it's not a dead fish! And bear in mind, if we like it too much, we might keep it. Send at your own risk!

mistahkurtzhedead1 karma

Ray! What is your favorite italian food and why?

car_talk_lackey4 karma

Squid pizza pie - it's a family favorite.

car_talk_lackey4 karma

We actually have the recipe on our website: