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What about Topher's daughter?

I think the guys were dancing around the daughter’s attitude while they were bashing poor Topher. She wants to move away, stop writing in The Book, yet have dad continue to pay for her insurance and do all the upkeep on the car. As long as he does all that, he has the right to set the rules. She needs to grow up.

When I got my driver’s license, my dad was very busy and put me in charge of keeping the family cars maintained. I learned the importance of keeping records. My dad had traded for years with a DeSoto-Plymouth agency. Sometimes when I woud bring the car in, the head mechanic who was also the service manager, would say, “Don’t waste your dad’s money and our time with this problem. You fix it”. He would then tell me what parts I needed and what to do. He would then say, “Boy, I’m going to make a mechanic out of you yet”. Other times he would tell me that the job required special tools and I needed to let them take care of the car.
All of this was very helpful when I was on my own and had to maintain my own cars.

this reminds me of an occurance on one of my early jobs back in the middle 70’s. I had a boss who purchased a VW bug and kept a book like this and he was always talking about what great mileage he got. So me and some of the others started puting gas in his tank and his chest was so stuck out with pride ,then the next week we started siphoning out a little every few days and he got all crestfallen and took it back to the dealer to find out what was wrong then we started putting in some every day for a while and he was all proud again, and we just kept alterating and watched his mood rise and fall.

Apparently that’s a very popular practical joke. A lot of people report having done it. Hmm.

I am confused. This is a “new” show, right? But this story of Topher Bill and his daughter is on one of the Car Talk CDs that I bought for my dad years ago. Do they mix in old calls sometimes?

Keeping track of gas purchases & odometer readings, oil change dates & odometer readings, and maintenance work in the on-board maintenance record book used to be necessary for vehicles of yesteryear (see below regarding 1978 Datsun). With many newer vehicles, the mileage never changes from great (that’s why I bought an Accord), the odometer/maintenance-minder keeps track of oil changes, and other than brakes, mufflers and batteries, the cars I buy don’t need any maintenance. I compromised with my family of drivers and gave up the MRBs. I keep track of odometer readings at oil changes (I record the odometer reading on the cash register receipt from the purchase of oil and filter, so my irrational need to record data is met), and spend my free time on other ways to attempt to control my world.

Regarding poor mileage on Datsun, I once owned a 1978 Datsun B210, and after a few years, replaced the factory-installed NGK gold palladium spark plugs with cheapies. The gas consumption went from 32 to 18 mpg. I discovered the poor mileage after one tank of gas and calculating gas mileage from my MRB. After replacing cheapies with NGKs, my mileage went back to 32 mpg.

JS_the_ME: I would disagree that cars don’t need maintenance (and I think many here would back me on that). I’ve been building a list for a guy I work with that knows nothing about cars, and it’s getting quite lengthy. You’ve got transmissions that need service (3yr/30K), not just brakes, but the entire brake system needs servicing (3yr/30K), differentials need servicing, fuel systems require periodic maintenance, not to mention throttle body, valve train, power steering system, timing belt, water pump, air filters and many more systems.

Yes, and the Accord needs all those things done, too.

I just yesterday performed the 130K service on my 4Runner. It was just me, and I wasn’t in a hurry, but I spent about 6 hours on it. It’s also my day to spend in the garage tinkering over my vehicle.


For those that feel keeping records are a waste of time I have a story for them. Some years ago I bought an extended warranty (before manufacturers had the 100K warranties). I had the fuel pump fail when the vehicle was parked at work. I called dealer up and was able to get it fixed quickly. I called the warranty company up and they told me that I should have gotten prior approval before I had the work done. It was not possible to do that but they said that I should send the copies of the bills etc… I did that and they replied “denial of claim” since I did not get prior approval. I replied by thanking them for the quick response and please cancell my policy and send me a prorated refund based on the time I had the policy. They replied that I would need to furnish them with the mileage on the vehicle. So I sent them 5 pages of data (3 years worth) containing dates and amount of fuel and mileage. And if they had needed that info they should have stated so in the first letter. Then after I sent them the data they sent me a 65% refund and said that “they did not want any ubhappy cutomers”. SO keeping records can be a handy thing to have. And if you get any “bad gas” you can have a record of where you probably got the gas. Critter

You all missed the point. The idea is that it is not her choice. It is not her choice because her father insists on it because he is buying the fuel. Tom and Ray told her to buy her own fuel and do what she wants with the book. That is called being a grown up. It’s not about car maintenance. It’s about standing on your own feet.

Apparently Tom an Ray for whatever reason are against keeping a log. I keep one on my vehicles and it works to remind me of regular maintenance and tracking historic fuel consumption just as my dad did when he owned this truck before me (bought 1993 new).

They were all in love with Rebecca and standing with her in the cause and did not seem inclined to provide the same support to Topher (please let me know if you think I misheard the conversation) My opinion, if Topher is paying for the insurance, registration, and/ or fuel (two of the three minimum) then Rebecca needs to keep the car as her dad insists. If she has a problem with it she can go buy a car herself.

“twenty-three” is correct; this show was a repeat from quite a few years ago. Topher Bill was a colleague of mine on the faculty at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia and I’m sorry to report that he passed away quite suddenly not very long after his Car Talk chat with Click and Clack. When I heard this segment on the radio this past weekend it was quite a shock. He is still missed at the University and the Psychology Department runs an annual fundraiser in his honor.

I’m not quite as anal as Topher, but I have been keeping track of mileage for quite a while. (I know better than to think that either of my kids would ever bother to do what I’ve been doing.) I like to track the mileage because it’s a good tip-off to how I have been driving…and whether I’ve got low tire pressure or possibly some other problem. Plus, this is about as close as I get to having a hobby. Unlike Topher, I don’t record the numbers in a book; I record on a spreadsheet, so I can see a running total of my mileage. (Attached).

Nice sheet, what kind of car are you running?

It is irrelevant whether or not keeping a detailed log is useful or useless.
It’s dad’s money, it’s dad’s rules.

This isn’t about the car. This is about the way the world works. Dad isn’t teaching her to post the log. Dad is teaching her that in order to have what she wanst she needs to understand and accept the associated rules.

When I was in high school I was sent home one day because I didn;t have the prescribed dress shirt on. They weren’t teaching me how to dress. They were teaching me that civilized society has rules, and if I wanted to be a part of it I needed to follow the rules.

Same deal here.

Irishtball, this is a great spreadsheet and trend analysis. It shows extremely clearly how mileage per fill varies but it all averages out to show a true indication of the car’s mileage. My guess is that if I were to create one for my car I’d see clear seasonal variations. I track mine and know it varies seasonally by about 3 to 4 mpg. depending on how bad the weather is. One just doesn;t get as good a mileage struggling through snowstorms as one does cruising down an open highway.

My father always kept logs much like others here. When I was young I asked why, but eventually he did explain a decent reason - monitor performance and also know which stations are shortchanging people… Sounded legitimate and thus I kept on doing it.

Now that everything is pretty much computer run, the variability is much lower from problems from the gas or the car, but they will show up in the logs if scrutinized. I could tell which stations end up always giving me worse MPG, whether the car needs maintenance, rough guesstimate of what type of driving I was doing (highway miles = higher MPG, which translates to: don’t need to change oil as often).

Not sure if the original reason for not wanting to log is either laziness or privacy (“I don’t want you know I drove the car to Vegas”) but personally I do find the log useful for my own cars. If I don’t maintain the car anymore then sure, do whatever…

Instead of catering to a female as usual (would their answer have been the same if a son had complained about his Dad?), a better answer would have been to counsel
Topher to be less authoritarian and, instead, explain to the daughter the advantages of keeping records. Many of these good reasons are stated above. AND, if
Topher was paying the bills on the car, he had the right to require–at a minimum–service mileage records. If I see my gas mileage go down, I know I need to check things out.
E.G., looking back, I saw that I got 3 years and one lousy week on a 3-year starter!
FWIW, I changed the oil/filter on my 1988 Ford Ranger tonight. It has 332K on it, I went 4812 miles between oil changes and used zero oil. How 'bout that!
I too recall a show 3+ years ago where the daughter had the same complaint about
the Dad, but I think the personnel were different?

I had a totally differnt take on the whole Topher and his daughter thing.

What I saw was a young person who was trying to become an adult and didn’t know how to do it. On the one side, she had graduated from college and was moving away to her first real job. On the other side was she was still dependent on her parent’s support.

Her mistake was picking a fight over the keeping of records on the car BEFORE she had severed the ties. It’s a difficult transition from being totally dependent to being totally independent and some do it better than others.

Dad’s “little book”

Dear Tom and Ray, I inherited my Dad’s little green 2000 Focus Hatchback, named “Oliva,” shortly before we lost him last September. In the door nestled her “little book,” just like all the ones he’d ever kept for all of his cars all of his life. I used to give him a hard time about his “little books,” and grouse about having to fill stuff out if when I drove them, but now I find myself recording my gas purchases and repairs in there in memory of Dad. It’s not such a huge thing to ask. It was hard at first to see his handwriting there and miss him so much. I just celebrated my first Father’s Day without him, and I wish Topher and Becca many happy years of laughter, about his and many other things. Heather Phillips from Ann Arbor Michigan

I wanted to open irishrball’s spread sheet but on my browser(IE) it seems to be just an icon with no links. Is there a special “open seseme” to see the spreadsheet?