Dear Tom and Ray:
I have an issue. OK, not so much an issue — more of an argument between me and my fiancé. I just bought a 2008 Dodge Caliber. My new toy has everything I love, including cruise control. I do a lot of highway traveling, and I love my cruise control. My fiancé says it’s not good that I use cruise control all the time, and that it’s bad for the engine or transmission. Is he right? Is using my cruise control too often bad for my car — will I break my cruise control if I use it too much? If so, why, and when should one use cruise control? Love you guys! — Sara
If you think of the engagement period as a sort of test drive, Sara, your fiancé just backed into a tree.
Yeah. He doesn’t have half a leg to stand on here. Using the cruise control won’t wear anything out. In fact, because it helps you maintain a constant speed, it actually prevents a certain amount of wear and tear that comes from accelerating and decelerating more frequently.
The engine and transmission couldn’t care less whether the electronic inputs are coming from your right foot or the cruise control system. And neither should your fiancé. So tell him if he doesn’t offer more fact-based advice in the future, he’s going to lose his male automotive-pontificating privileges for the duration of the marriage.
Plus, highway driving is exactly the time you do want to use cruise control: when you’re maintaining a constant speed for a long period of time, when traffic is thin and moving predictably, and when there are few unexpected obstacles that get in your way, like pedestrians, bicyclists, crossing traffic or aggressive squeegee guys.
The time you don’t want to use cruise control is in dense traffic, or in stop-and-go traffic, where you could be expected to have to slow down or stop frequently or unexpectedly. But even that’s a safety issue, not a wear-and-tear issue.
Right. In the old days, the cruise control used a separate cable that physically moved the throttle. So there were a few small parts that could wear out over time back then. But cars don’t have throttle cables anymore. Everything’s done electronically, through the computer. So there’s nothing to wear out, Sara.
So suggest that the future hubby concede defeat on this one. And if he tries to argue that he’s still right because you’re going to use up your lifetime allotment of electrons, run.
You can listen to Tom and Ray Magliozzi’s “Car Talk” program at 10 a.m. Saturdays on National Public Radio station WUSF, 89.7 FM.
Got a question about cars? E-mail Click and Clack by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com. They can’t answer your letter personally but will run the best letters in the column.