On a recent trip to Las Vegas in our new...

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1994

Dear Tom and Ray:

On a recent trip to Las Vegas in our new (700 miles) 1994 Buick Century, my wife and I arrived at our destination in a very upset frame of mind. This feeling was brought on by the high speed generated in third and fourth gear going down hills. On the last grade before entering Nevada, there is a 6% grade 15 miles long. After going down for about 10 miles in third gear and continuously hitting the brakes, I decided to let the car go the rest of the way down without braking. In a very short time, the speed was up to 85 mph, the limit of my speedometer. With my wife screaming in my ear, I finally got the car slowed down to 65 mph. When we got home, I took the car to the Buick dealer. They said everything was normal, and took me for rides in two other Buicks that did the same thing. They suggested that I use second gear if third doesn't slow me down enough. What do you think?

RAY: I think your dealer is right, Rudy. You don't want to be riding the brakes on a long, steep hill. If you do, you run the risk of overheating them and boiling the brake fluid. And you know what that means? No brakes! And if your wife was screaming at 85 mph, wait until she experiences 85 mph OFF- road!

TOM: So if a hill is so steep that third gear won't slow you down enough, use second gear!

RAY: The engine may sound like it's screaming, but that's OK. The engine is not really straining as long as you're not exceeding the car's maximum speed in that gear (you can find this information in your owner's manual). It's probably 60 or 65 mph in second gear for this car.

TOM: Plus, there's an added benefit. If the engine is screaming, it should pretty well drown out your wife.

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