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If airbags are so safe, why do I have the option to turn mine off?

Ask The Expert: Oh boy. This is a topic that falls somewhere on the endless controversy spectrum between the safety of vaccinations and "9/11 Was An Inside Job". But The Expert has never been one to cower in the face of controversy, so here we go. There was a time when automobile safety meant that one would stop after two martinis before getting behind the wheel of a Studebaker. But thanks to a few decades of rabble-rousing activists, outraged moms and genuinely innovative engineering and research, modern passenger vehicles are about as safe as any machine ever built. And yet they remain incredibly deadly machines at the same time. We may no longer be impaled on steering wheel columns or lacerated by shattered windshield glass, but automobiles are still thousands of pounds of stee...

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Do I really need snow tires?

A: If we assume the questioner lives in, say, Hawai'i or Arizona, then the answer is no. But if you live in any of the Northern states then the answer becomes a hearty yes. Since contemporary autos are so much more reliable than their four-wheeled forebears, we've tended to develop a "set it and forget it" mentality. But cars are not crock pots, and even the pride of Nagoya or Wolfsburg still need regular scheduled maintenance to perform at their best. Okay, so where was I? Oh yeah, snow tires. So what are snow tires (aka winter tires), exactly? Take it away, Wikipedia: "Winter tires are generally tires with a different rubber composition from all-weather tires. The rubber in winter tires is softer, which means that it will provide better traction at lower temperatures. Winter ...

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I'm pretty handy, how hard is it to fix my own car?

This one is really all about tolerance. Your tolerance for risk and frustration foremost, as well as your spouse's/boyfriend's/girlfriend's/child's/boss's tolerance for you to be spending your spare time working on your car rather than cleaning the basement/making out on the couch/preparing a great Thai dinner/going to the zoo/filling out expense reports. You get the idea. There was a time -- a golden age really -- a few decades ago, when automobiles were designed by dashing characters with outsized personalities and engineered by serious men with crewcuts and slide rules. A time when a person with a sixth grade education and a basic grasp of mechanics could take apart and reassemble any of the fruits of Detroit over the course of a weekend, with only a small amount of pieces left o...

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