car conversation

Dear car conversation: My 2013 Dodge Dart lower cover had to be removed after it got stuck to a concrete parking bumper. It was partially pulled and ran to the ground.

Currently, I work remotely, so I don’t drive often. What is the significance of replacing this? – Julie

Dear Reader: I would say it’s a good idea to replace it, but it’s not that important.

The bottom cover is a bit like BVDs for your car. It is there so that wind and stones do not disturb the underside of the car.

One of the functions it serves is aerodynamics. It smooths the underside of your car, so the wind can pass under it without making too much turbulence. This improves the gas mileage a bit.

Its other function is protection. It can prevent some road debris from kicking into the engine compartment belts and pulleys. In fact, some manufacturers call this part a stone guard.

Is it necessary? Mostly not. If you don’t drive often, and money is scarce, it’s definitely something you can live without at the moment. And ask your family about the upcoming Christmas.

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Dear car conversation: Recently, a woman wrote to you about her dislike of driving her husband’s transmission-powered car, and asked you how she could learn to drive it well. I am writing to encourage her to do so.

I wish I still had one to drive. My father made me learn to drive a Plymouth wand shift shift, which I hated and dreaded. I called it “The Blue Tank”.

He said, “Mar, once you learn to drive, you can drive anything!” Well, he was right. I got to drive his old Ford truck, our farm tractor, and even my older brother’s Mustang Mach 1 – what a thrill!

My husband briefly owned a Dodge Ram truck with a stick, and I loved getting behind the wheel. Our daughter was always laughing and saying I look like a different person when I’m driving.

I thought you might steer clear of my little story. I really enjoy reading your column, even though I know almost nothing about cars. I pass on your advice to my husband. – Marion

Dear Reader: It’s fun to drive a stick move, Marion. It also offers many benefits that are underappreciated these days. It prevents you from texting while driving, unless you have three hands. And it gives you a built in anti-theft device, since most car thieves have no idea how to drive them either.

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Dear car conversation: At random times, the 2016 Nissan Murano has tried to crush my knees. In normal operation, the driver’s seat slides backwards when I turn the engine off, and open the driver’s door. This makes it easier for me to get out, which is very helpful because I have mobility challenges.

But at random times, the driver’s seat moves forward at shaky speed and clamps my knee to the dashboard in an effort to get me the same height as the French artist who loved the Moulin Rouge.

I don’t understand my Murano revenge because I took good care of him, and didn’t lust for a new car. Any thoughts? – show me

Dear Reader: I’m going to invest in some NFL knee protectors, show me. I honestly have never heard of that happening.

From my understanding of the system, you program your preferred driving mode into the seat memory setting. Then when you get in the car and start the engine, the car body control unit (computer) moves the seat to the stored setup.

When getting out of the car, you are supposed to move the seat to the farthest back position to give you more room to exit. But in your case, at random times, the seat pushes in the opposite direction, closest to the steering wheel.

If your body control unit is turning backwards and thinking backwards forward, you will need help from a dealer. But here are a few things you can try first.

In the event that there is something wrong with your seat memory settings, rather than the body control unit, it is worth trying to reset it.

You can start simply by overriding your current settings with new ones. But ideally, you would want to completely clear the seat memory. Check your owner’s manual to see if there is a way to completely reset the seat memory.

If not, you can wipe it off by disconnecting the battery for a few minutes. You’ll also lose other saved settings, like clock and radio presets, but that’s not a big deal. If home resets don’t fix the problem, I’ll ask your dealer if they can reset the body control module – basically reprogram it. There may also be a software upgrade available.

I suspect a software glitch is causing this, and eventually reprogramming the unit might be what’s needed to fix it. Hopefully you don’t have to replace the body control unit, because that will cost you $1200 – $1500, which is a lot of knee protectors.

In the meantime, you can always turn off the automatic seat positioning feature (instructions are in your manual). I know you find it useful, but if the alternative is to join the knee replacement club of the month, you may be better off living without it until the issue is resolved.

Ray Magliozzi distributes car tips at Car Talk every Saturday. Email him by visiting

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