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Skinflint’s blinker fixation misplaced

DEAR TOM AND RAY: I don’t mind being called a sorry skinflint as long as I can justify my penny-pinching proclivities. I happen to believe that there are only so many “blinks” in a blinker. Therefore, I turn mine on only when absolutely necessary to signal another driver. For example, if I’m in a turn-only lane, I don’t waste any blinks. Nor do I sit at a light with my blinker clicking and clacking until the light turns green. Am I right in my hypothesis, or do I need professional help? – Randy

TOM: I would lean toward the latter, Randy.

RAY: I mean, of course you’re right that all mechanical parts eventually wear out. But you have to consider the risk/reward equation for what you’re doing.

TOM: On the reward side, you might save a few bucks on light bulbs over the life of the car. You might.

RAY: And while the flasher unit generally lasts the life of the vehicle, sometimes the directional switch on the steering-wheel stalk will fail before the car does. If your behavior makes it last the life of the car, then you can save a few bucks there, too.

TOM: But here’s something to keep in mind: Let’s say the typical directional bulb lasts 50,000 miles, and somehow you make yours last 60,000 miles, and the car lasts 150,000 miles. You may save 20 bucks because you only had to change the bulbs twice.

RAY: But if the car happens to last 190,000 miles, you’ll still replace the bulb three times in the life of the car. So you save nothing.

TOM: And if failing to signal a turn causes some distracted driver to rear-end you, or some oncoming driver to not realize you’re making a left turn, you could be out hundreds or thousands of dollars. Not to mention a couple of vertebrae.

RAY: Plus the alimony from having this be the last straw for your long-suffering spouse.

TOM: The lives of automotive light bulbs are shortened much more by going over bumps and rattling the filaments than they are by blinking.

RAY: So if you’re really concerned about minimizing costs, don’t drive, Randy. We know you’ll save money if your car spends its life sitting in your driveway.

Got a question about cars? Email Click and Clack by visiting the Car Talk website at


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