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Kindness to our OPs

Not a question–a comment. I wish the people on this board would make the utmost effort to be polite. In particular, recognize that not everyone is a car person. Here’s what I mean, specifically

1) Criticizing OP for not changing the transmission fluid. You may have seen your dozenth transmission blown out today because of not changing the fluid, but OP hasn’t. He/she shouldn’t be faulted for following the maintenance listed in the owner’s manual–even if you think (and have good reason to think) that’s wrong.

2) Raking someone over the coals for not reading the owner’s manual. Yes, someone who spends 20K on something should read the manual, but

a) it’s not the easiest read in the world–critical advice is jumbled with nice to knows, there is no summary of important stuff, and (my pet peeve), one manual stands for all versions of a model, no matter how different those versions might be; and

b) Raking someone over the coals for anything is more likely to offend them than to change his or her behavior.

3) Criticizing a person’s spelling, punctuation, or grammar. Sorry, all the studies done over the years, and all the composition theory out there shows that correcting or criticizing someone’s grammar does absolutely no good.

4) Offering unsolicited parenting/relationship advice

5) Expressing skepticism as to OP’s version of the facts and continuing to do so after OP and others have explained what happened.

And then we expect OPs to follow up to say what happened in the end. . .

  1. True: Since the manufacturers for what-ever reason they have seem to have decided to keep the need for fluid changes a secret so the owner is not to blame, the manufacturer is.

  2. Sorry, but if you pay that much for a car, you are a fool for not taking the time to read the manual.

  3. Sorry, but if someone fails (no matter the reason) to communicate their problem we can’t really provide the help they need. They need to be prompted to take a few minutes to better communicate to their reader. They are asking for help, and I believe encouraging them to better communicate is helping them.

  4. Sometimes yes and some times no. If you have a friend and see them doing something dumb (maybe letting their child play in an area that might be dangerous) then as a friend you should help them out, if you care about them. Being a friend does not mean ignoring all their errors.

  5. I suspect there are situations that might call for it, but I have not noticed many if any such responses. I don’t know about you, but I have more than once remembered a situation one way, but when my friends reminded me that I was forgetting part of the event or remembering it a little different, I have to admit that there are times that has happened. In fact I have read threads where the OP has responded that they had not presented the facts correctly, even if they did not originally remembered them properly.

  1. True, except when the manual tells you to change it at 50k and the OP has a car with 130k on it and has never bothered to change it. I don’t expect people to know that it’s best to change the tranny fluid more often than the manufacturer claims. I do expect them to at least do it when the manufacturer tells them to.

  2. I agree with Mr. Meehan. Far too often we see people come on here with problems that would have been entirely avoided if they’d read the manual. You don’t even have to read the whole manual. Just flip to the maintenance part. I’ll also point out that despite the fact that some of us know a good deal about car repair, we do not and cannot know by heart the individual systems on every car ever made in the last 100+ years. If you come on here and ask us how to disable traction control, or how to set the clock, or what weight of oil to use, we’re probably not going to know unless we happen to own the same car. So we will tell you to read the manual.

As for manuals not being the easiest read, I have to disagree there, as well. They’re written in plain English, with large font, and they even have pictures. And a table of contents and an index to help you find what you’re looking for. Chaucer is a tough read. The Honda manual is not.

  1. I agree entirely. I don’t care if you have crappy spelling and/or grammar unless it’s so bad that it’s hard to know what you’re talking about, as with the occasional txt message addict we get: “Oh hai, wat up, mai ride wont run u no wats up w/it? thanx m8” If you type like that outside of the Dipwad forums, then you deserve whatever you get. :wink:

  2. I don’t recall ever seeing that. Generally the advice is solicited, and when it’s not, it’s necessary, as with the woman several months back who was either a troll or clearly being abused by her domineering husband.

  3. I know which thread sparked that one, and I agree with you.

I like everthing you say BUT if the OP feels compelled to add personal relationship data or lets say, information on how an accident happened (for what point I can only guess they seek some kind of better answer if they are not at fault) then they need to be prepared for this information to be scrutinized. I suggest leave out this kind of data (that is not needed anyway), but please include make,model,year,Post the codes, quit writing “brake” as “break”. Things will go better if the OP does not start out with “shop xyz screwed me” but only tells half the story. What are people seeking by posting their version of contact with a garage, simply a place to post the name of a place that they feel took advantage of them?

I thought this was supposed to be fun!

With respect to item (5), this has spawned a whole industry when it refers to accident investigation. I have acted as an expert witness several times, and I have several friends who are professional accident investigation and reconstruction specialists.

In a court of law, or talking to a police officer, both sides often distort the facts, willingly or unwillingly. Leaving out vital information often clouds the case situation and many thousands of dollars are wasted by this fact withholding or misrepresenting, even under oath.

Accident reconstruction engineers are professionals at examining the vehicles, skid marks, road conditions, asking drivers in their own way what happened. The resultant story is often entirely different from what the driver(s) told the police at the scene.

My wife has a number of friends whose cars “just died” and needed $2000+ worth of repairs. When they tell me as to what a crappy car they have, I have to tactfully query what maintenance and repairs they have done so far, when they last checked the fluids, etc.

As Sargeant Joe Friday used to say; “Just the facts ma’m”.

Yes, I know. I covered wrecks for years as a journalist and once even did a long feature story on a state patrol accident reconstruction team. So while I’ve not done the work, I have a pretty good idea of what goes on in it, and how witness accounts often differ widely from actual events.


This is Car Talk Forums. Not the accident reconstruction team, not the prosecutor’s office, and not the personal injury law offices (of Dewey Cheetham and Howe). The OP in that thread wanted to know if there could be other damage. She then showed us pictures. That’s all we needed to answer (yes, there could, have it looked at). It’s not our job to cross examine her. Even if she for some inexplicable reason felt the need to save (anonymous) face by lying to a bunch of people who have no idea who she is, it doesn’t matter.

This is an automotive Q and A site. We should take what people say at face value when they describe what happened to their car. If it turns out she was drunk and spun out and slammed into a guard rail, then the answer remains the same - - Yes, there could be more damage. Grilling her and trying to prove that she’s a liar is therefore beyond the scope of what we’re here to do.

Thanks for your post. Yes, I know this is a maintenance and repair forum, but the same forgetfulness about the actual facts and maintenance history prevails.

We on this forum have to tactfully “tease out” sufficient additional factual information to give a valid opinion as to what the problem might be and what to do about it.

Most of my own work is industrial and very technically oriented. But we still have situations where “operator error” ends up as the cause of an expensive piece of equipment failing.

Root Cause failure Analyis (RCFA) has evolved into a science that uses technical as well as human and external environment inputs to get at the root cause and contributing factors.

I agree, and when someone doesn’t include the information needed, or we can tell that they’re wrong about a critical detail, there’s nothing wrong with asking for clarification.

But the post that I’m sure sparked the OP’s comment was one in which a poster had gotten into a wreck. She told us a sequence of events that made the wreck not her fault. She was then jumped on by a number of people calling her a liar, when even if she was a liar, our answer to her question would not have changed. In short, they were attacking her for no better reason than to attack her. And I agree with the OP that such should not happen here.

The concept of “if you are going to post accident details make sure everthing adds up” is a good one to follow. The OP was never called a liar,she was never attacked, and she never said the car that hit her initally cleared her quarter panel but the accident happened becaused the other driver over corrected and came back over,which is the only way I see possible for the accident to have resulted in the displayed damage.

Hi all,

As you surmised, one trigger for this post was a recent thread that has been referred to by Shadowfax and others. Another, btw, was a person w/a RAV-4 with a bad transmission who received some comments (which she termed unhelpful) criticizing her for not changing the transmission fluid.

Adding to my previous comments:

  1. Telling someone politely that reading the manual is necessary to avoid expensive mistakes is useful. Suggesting or implying the person is an idiot for not doing so is not (even if you think the person IS an idiot). Something along the lines of what Shadowfax said below might be useful: “We’re good mechanics, but we can’t be expected to know every maintenance schedule for every car. Please at least read enough of the manual to know a) How often you need to take it to your mechanic; b) what you need to check between trips to the mechanic; and c) what the warning lights mean.” And I stand my earlier comments on the manual not being an easy read–and the fact that it is written in eighth grade language doesn’t make it so. A popular how to book wouldn’t be written like this–nor would a good college or high school textbook.

  2. Telling the person you need more information and what additional information you need is useful. Suggesting that the person’s schools did a substandard job of teaching grammar is not useful, even if you believe that to be the case.

  3. I’m not referring to times when OP wants to do something patently dangerous/illegal. But guaranteed if someone posts asking what car is most suitable for a teenage son/daughter, at least one of the responses will say it’s a bad idea to buy a car for a child. And yes, although memory eludes me as to which posts, I’ve seen unsolicited relationship advice–and not just the post to which Shadowfax refers.

  4. Again, if you think OP has left out or altered crucial information, then it might be useful to tactfully ask a few questions. But if it makes no difference to your answer, then, as others have pointed out, what purpose does your skepticism serve?

And Mcparadise–I hope I didn’t ruin any of your fun. :slight_smile:


I am except for 1 exception I recall courteous and kind while thinking If this was a horse forum and someone posted
"I have not cared for my horse, and now it limps and looks terrible"
Well some of us feel about cars like other people feel about horses,

re #4 was it my response to “I don’t need any more stress, my husband left me last month, my kid’s failing 3rd grade…please help.” that cheesed you off?

I reply with a question, what was the OP’s purpose of saying how the accident happened? If it was not stated how it happened I would not of thought to ask. But if you volenteer a story am I not allowed to say “that really does not make sense to me”? and then if you explain yourself and still it does not sound reasonable am I not allowed to say,“your explaination still does not make sense but I will help you anyway”? which is what happened.

It was the OP that “opened the door” so to speak for dialouge to start about how the accident happened. I say don’t open that door and I won’t ask, as it as not required for me to know.

The answers given are for everybody, not just the original poster. OP’s and all others can learn if it is their goal. There should be only one policy here; you’re asking, I’m answering. Insults are free, it’s the repair expense that hurts (costs money). I don’t care if people laugh at typos. If we had anything worthwhile to do, would we be here answering questions and saying “You should have changed the fluid”?

I have to say that I often find the preachy and bordering on preachy to get a little over the top - especially with regards to writing issues. (Although I’ll admit to sometimes taking the same tone myself.) I sometimes end up feeling bad for people.

On the other hand - holy cow. Anyone has got to admit that sometimes trying to help people is like banging your head against a wall, and you’re just wondering whether or not its really feasible to be that dense or whether someone is just pulling your chain. And I don’t mean about not knowing your way around under the hood.

another example of his complaint.
And then we expect OPs to follow up to say what happened in the end. . .

I think another pet peeve of the posters here is someone comes on and asks what’s wrong with their car, but neglect to tells what they even have.
Something like “My car is making some strange noise. What’s wrong with it?” will usually get a response of “What do you drive” and/or “where is the noise and what kinda noise?”

I don’t follow that at all. If you mean a general reference to people being dense I don’t see that as being an example of the complaint. All I was saying is that I get what the OP is saying…and I also get why people can get a little down on posters. Is it really an example of the complaint to say that I get it on both ends?

I was saying he complained about people should follow up on their post, so he is guilty of his own complaint, as I think he is toast.

BUT if the OP feels compelled to add personal relationship data or lets say, information on how an accident happened (for what point I can only guess they seek some kind of better answer if they are not at fault)…

Even though this is not spoken dialog but print it could be the same for people who simply talk to much. They feel they must give as much info as possible even if it detracts from the post.