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CAR TALK

by Ray Magliozzi | May 14, 2022 at 1:31 a.m.


DEAR CAR TALK: My 2013 Dodge Dart underbody cover had to be removed after it got caught on a concrete parking lot bumper. It was partially pulled off and was dragging on the ground.

Currently, I'm teleworking, so I am not driving much. How important is getting this replaced? — Julie

DEAR READER: I'd say it's a good idea to replace it, but it's not crucial.

The underbody cover is kind of like BVDs for your car. It's there so the wind and stones don't "chafe" the underside of the vehicle.

One function it serves is aerodynamic. It smooths out the underside of your car, so the wind passes underneath without creating a lot of turbulence. That improves your gas mileage a little bit.

Its other function is protective. It can stop some road debris from kicking up into the belts and pulleys of the engine compartment. In fact, some manufacturers call the part a stone guard.

Is it essential? Probably not. If you're not driving much, and money is tight, it's certainly something you can live without for now. And ask your family for one next Christmas.

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DEAR CAR TALK: Recently, a woman wrote to you about how she hated driving her husband's stick-shift car and asked you how she could learn to drive it well. I'm writing to encourage her to do it.

I wish I still had one to drive. My father made me learn to drive on his Plymouth stick shift, which I hated and feared. I called it "the blue tank."

He said, "Mar, once you learn to drive this, you can drive anything!" Well, he was right. I was able to drive his old Ford truck, our farm tractor and even my older brother's Mustang Mach 1 — what a thrill!

My husband briefly owned a Dodge Ram truck with a stick, and I loved getting behind the wheel. Our daughter always laughed and said I seemed like a different person whenever I drove it.

I thought you might get a kick out of my little story. I really enjoy reading your column, even though I know almost nothing about cars. I pass your advice on to my husband. — Marion

DEAR READER: It is fun to drive a stick shift, Marion. It also offers many underappreciated benefits these days. It prevents you from texting while driving, unless you have three hands. And it gives you a built-in anti-theft device, since most car thieves have no idea how to drive them either.

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DEAR CAR TALK: At random times, my 2016 Nissan Murano attempts to crush my knees. In normal operation, the driver's seat slides backward when I turn the engine off, and I open the driver's door. This makes it easier for me to get out, which is very helpful as I am mobility-challenged.

But at random times, the driver's seat moves forward at a crisp velocity and pins my knees against the dash in an attempt to make me the same height as the French artist who loved the Moulin Rouge.

I do not understand my Murano's vendetta since I have taken good care of it, and I have not lusted for a new car. Any thoughts? — Arnie

DEAR READER: I'd invest in some NFL-regulation kneepads, Arnie. I've honestly never heard of that happening.

From my understanding of the system, you program your preferred driving position into the seat's memory setting. Then when you get in the car and start the engine, the car's body control module (a computer) moves the seat to your stored setting.

When you exit the car, it's supposed to move the seat to its maximum rearward position to give you more room to get out. But in your case, at random times, it pushes the seat in the opposite direction, closest to the steering wheel.

If it's your body-control module going haywire and thinking backward is forward, you'll need help from your dealer. But here are a few things you might try first.

On the chance that there's a bug in your seat's memory settings, rather than the body-control module, it's worth trying to reset them.

You can start by simply overriding your current settings with new ones. But ideally, you'd like to clear the seat memory entirely. Check your owner's manual to see if there's a way to reset all the seat memory.

If not, you can clear it by disconnecting your battery for a few minutes. You'll also lose other saved settings, like your clock and radio presets, but that's not a huge deal. If your at-home resets don't solve the problem, then I'd ask your dealer if he can reset the body-control module — essentially reprogram it. There may even be a software upgrade that's available.

I'm guessing there's a software glitch that's causing this, and reprogramming the module might ultimately be what's needed to fix it. Hopefully, you won't have to replace the body-control module, because that'll run you $1,200-$1,500, which is a lot of kneepads.

In the meantime, you can always turn off the automatic seat positioning feature (instructions are in your manual). I know you find it helpful, but if the alternative is joining the knee replacement of the month club, you might be better off living without it until the problem is solved.

Ray Magliozzi dispenses advice about cars in Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting cartalk.com


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