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Dear Tom and Ray: A friend of mine has a boyfriend who is very knowledgeable about cars (apparently, he was an auto mechanic at one time). He told her that, as much as possible, she should avoid using Reverse. According to my friend, her boyfriend says that using Reverse is very hard on the transmission. So whenever I ride in my friend's car, she always searches for a "pull through" parking space, or she will back into a space to avoid having to use Reverse when the transmission is "cold." I was visiting my own family recently, and I told them about my newfound knowledge. Of course, they pooh-poohed this notion and suggested I write to you guys. So can I use Reverse, safe in the knowledge that I'm not harming my car?

-- Ann

Ray: Power to the people, sister! Use R!

Tom: I guess the key word in your letter is "apparently." As in "apparently, he was an auto mechanic at one time." And if he was, wacko theories like this are probably what got him drummed out of the business.

Ray: He's nuts, Ann. The transmission couldn't care less whether it's in Drive or Reverse. And your poor friend is wasting precious hours of her time on Earth searching for unnecessarily divine parking spaces. And I don't even want to know how much she spent on her circular driveway.

Tom: Of course, what CAN hurt the transmission is shifting directions while the car is still moving. So if you're still rolling forward when you shift into Reverse (or vice versa), then you can do damage. But other than that one situation, Reverse is a perfectly useful and productive gear. So tell your friend to stop this wanton discrimination. It's blatant "gearism," plain and simple. And we won't stand for it in this day and age.

Ray: We're here! Drive Rear! Get used to it!

Sarcasm on overdrive

Dear Tom and Ray: I recently bought a new 2001 Jetta GLX and drove it at 80 mph for the first 700 miles. I was told that this was not good for my new engine. Is this true? And if so, what damage have I done to my new car's engine?

-- Oliver
Tom: I wouldn't give it a second thought, Oliver. Just forget all about it. It's not even worth worrying about.

Ray: I mean, if you're really interested, you can read the owner's manual, where it specifically warns you not to do this because it prevents the piston rings from seating correctly and leads to oil consumption.

Tom: In case you haven't run across it yet, the owner's manual is a little book about half an inch thick -- with large print -- and it's probably sitting at the bottom of your glove compartment. Lots of new cars come with them.

Ray: But don't go through any trouble to read it, Oliver. It's not really important. When your Jetta is burning a quart of oil every 400 miles and your dealer says he doesn't know why, you will.

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