Seeking your ideas: Tips for new posters

Hello everybody,

On the heels of another discussion, I wanted to throw this out for your input. We’d like to create a list of tips/recommended info for users to include in their questions to the community. (Some suggestions have been make, model, year, size of engine, etc.) What would be most helpful to you? Bear in mind that the final list will necessarily be simple, as we don’t want to discourage anyone inadvertently. I’ll leave the discussion up for a few days, and please let us know your thoughts.



I guess a majority of new posters have just signed up to ask about a problem they are currently having. It will be a one time thing for them.

So to activate a new account, if I remember correctly, you have to list an e-mail and until you respond to the e-mail, you cannot post. In that e-mail, you could put in the tips for getting a good response.

We want everything, but that could lead to identity issues for some. For example, the climatic conditions where they live could affect a certain problem, so we would like to know where they live, but they may not want to divulge that information. If they think that climate would be a factor, they could say something like “the northeast”.

Anything that pertains to the problem should be shared. Year, make and model for a car problem would be a minimum. Engine size if this is an engine problem. Manual or automatic if a transmission problem. Date of the show if they are responding to something they heard on the air.

In the e-mail, you could include a link that takes them straight to “Ask a Question” as a lot of people miss that box.

If we get too specific on what info we want, then I could see a post that goes something like this

“2000 Chevy Malibu, V6. Live in the south. I just want to say that the info you gave the caller on that show is bogus.”

Yes. There should be “BOGUS” button to click OFF only if Tom and Ray get something right.

Did this forum not previouly have a place for year, make, model?

Year, make, model, mileage, relevant maintenance history (we don’t need to know the date of every oil change, but if you’re having problems with shifting and you just had Iffy Lube flush the transmission, that’s probably important), stored computer codes if any (Autozone will read these for free), and every detail no matter how small you think it is about the problem that you’re having (to eliminate the “My car won’t start. What’s wrong with it?” questions).

Please, please, please include a statement like the following:

There are many questions that are asked here repeatedly even though they’ve been discussed and answered in great detail already. Please use the search function and read the existing discussions before asking a question about buying an extended warranty, using regular gas in place of premium, coasting in neutral in an attempt to save gas, inflating tires to the maximum pressure printed on the tires, or installing add-on gizmos that claim to save gas.

I’m sure the regulars can add a few more items to that list that I’m forgetting.

I am wondering if a list of previously hashed and re-hashed topics with links to those discussions as a page the noobie has to click through when he returns to finish the registration.

Something like:

"If you want to get your answer faster, you should look at the list below to see if this has already been discussed:

Tire Inflation pressure
Acetone in gasoline
Preminum fuel vs Regular


I’d say with the email for registration have it tell them to be as specific as possible.

Questions that go something like “I hear a funny noise, what could it be?” or “my CEL keeps flashing and hasn’t ran right since it started this 3 years ago. What’s wrong?” will make others ask you questions before they give you an answer.

Although, if we linked every FAQ we get on here, we’d pretty much be left with posts by me reposting autoblog articles. :stuck_out_tongue:

Also, this has been a VERY friendly forum for new people compared to most others I visit. If we were like those other places when we get those FAQ about octane, acetone, neutral coasting, etc., we’d tell the people to stuff it, search the forums.

If they’re asking “How hard is it to replace/fix/adjust…” it would be very helpful if they tell use what mechanical experience they have, and what kind of tools they have available.

I like Capri’s idea. Let’s make a CarTalk FAQ. I don’t think we’ll degenerate into levels of assholery with a FAQ. I for one never point people at the FAQ. If they didn’t bother to read it when the forum told them to, they’re not going to read it when I tell them to. I just answer them rather than telling them to search.

How do I post a new comment? I have a 2005 Passat 1.8T GLS. I am still paying on it but I am tired of the repairs. Currently, if I drive above 60mph, it will vibrate, oil enters the coils. I have had the valve cover and fuel line replaced. Can I donate it to CarTalk and continue to pay on it? I honestly want to be rid of this car, honestly.


Go to the top of the page. There is a red bar with the words “Ask a Question” to the right of the first post. Click on the red bar and it will take you to a screen where you can create your won post. You will get more responses than if you add your question to this thread.

Whatever it is, it has to be very short and sweet. 9/10 people aren’t going to bother to plow through loads of stuff just to post a question. The more complex it gets the less good it will do b/c people will ignore it.

I gave my suggestion in the original thread about this.

The notion of a FAQ has been coming up from time to time for a long time. Its a good idea, but will probably serve more as something people can post links to. It won’t keep a lot of people from asking questions over and over again, but regulars can just post links rather than having to type the same stuff over and over.

A wiki-type site might work as something of a FAQ since a) entries are easily collaborative; b) there are lots of free or nearly free Wiki hosting services; c) its easy to post the URL’s to specific entries.

Could posters choose their car’s make and model as part of their profile? Then have a button above their posting with the car’s Year and Name that links to a spec sheet on the car.

Then the poster can just say “my Outback” and if the specifics matter, others could just check the exact specs on the car.

I dunno… Maybe that would be a bit much.

Many, many people have several vehicles, and most questions are vehicle specific (I have a couple, plus a couple bikes, and friends who are embarrassed). A profile entry may be a bit much to request, since it’s like pulling teeth to get the info you may need, anyway.


It will take some coding, however, if you do something like Autozone has for their vehicle selector (Year, Make, Model, engine and transmission should be a decent start), and then at the bottom of the list, put a “Not here” entry for those vehicles that are really unusual (questions on those are rare, but they do exist). Most people will happily select a few drop-down entries or clicks on a sheet to get free answers to a question that’s really bothering them. You could also put a blank box requesting mileage, but not make it mandatory. That should be enough to get started on formulating a decent response.

Those answers could then be put as a linked list on the starting post on the page.
(ex: 2004 Toyota 4Runner, V6 Automatic)

Just some thoughts…

make sure if you do the dropdown idea, that the vehicle information is stored (preferably several vehicles per account). That way you don’t have to re-enter the data every time you post.

It would also have to be an optional thing, as sometimes people post general automotive questions or discussion.


I don’t think that you want to require people with questions to jump through hoops to post or as you said, you may discourage questions. Not all questions require specific vehicle information. If specific vehicle information is needed, then potential respondents can easily ask for that with a few kind words. Some get a little cranky about it but those that do may need to take a break away from the computer.

Posting with inadequate input for respondents is common with questions in any subject area.

It was hard to comment on the 95 running rough and the owner was thinking about an oil change or air filter. My thought, though it would be cumbersome for posters, would be a fill able form with things such as:
Miles since oil change, gas filter, plugs,wires, air filter,trans fluid, and an other work done. NA should be a choice for questions like my throttle stuck because of squirrels and black walnuts.

Lately I’ve noticed more than the usual number of triple posts from the same person - as if something changed recently (I know that some things did) that might be confusing people & getting them to resubmit a couple of times.

It could also just be a coincidence or just my own poor powers of perception.

Hmm. I haven’t noticed it myself, but please let me know if you continue to see it. Is it happening to you?

You’re right, cig, sometimes when I click ‘Post Comment’ I’ll get a screen refresh, but it’ll look like the post didn’t take, or the post will appear, but the entry window will still have the text in it, never to go away even if I clear it.