Gothamist doesn't find much opportunity to listen to Car Talk as we don't have a car and the only kind of driving we do, much to our shame, is the backseat kind ("No, we're sure there's an exit to Murray Street past Chambers!"). But we found a recent discussion about car clutches interesting:

Question: I have a 1988 Honda Civic with a five-speed manual transmission. The mileage on the car is 75,000 -- all short trips in New York City. A mechanic told me that I need to replace the clutch. I have my doubts, so how can I tell if I do need a new clutch? - William

Answer: TOM: Clutch wear isn't based as much on miles as on how many times the clutch has been used. Specifically, how many times it's been used to start the car from a dead stop. That, more than anything else, is what wears out the clutch.

RAY: So when you drive in Manhattan, you could easily start from a dead stop 10 times over the course of a single mile. Or 100 times, if you're in crosstown traffic during rush hour. Whereas if you drive on a highway, you may shift up through the gears once and not shift again for 100 miles.

TOM: So even though you've got ``only'' 75,000 miles on the car, you're definitely a candidate for a clutch job, William.

RAY: But here's the test. Find something that absolutely won't move -- like, for instance, the Chrysler Building.

TOM: Pull your car right up to it, so its front bumper is touching it. Then put the car in fifth gear, give it lots of gas and slowly let out the clutch.

RAY: If the clutch is good, the engine will stall, no matter how much gas you're giving it. Since a working clutch connects the engine to the wheels, if the wheels can't turn, the engine will have to stop, too. And we know the wheels can't turn, because we know you can't push the Chrysler Building with an '88 Civic, right?

Amusing! At the end, Ray added, " By the way, just so you know, William, a clutch for this car in Manhattan is about $1,000. Plus another $200 for the ticket for parking on the sidewalk in front of the Chrysler Building," but we'd imagine the city would fine more for a car coming that close to the Chrysler Building - only Matthew Barney is allowed to do weird stuff with cars there.

How Stuff Works on clutches. And if you have a car, we think the AAA is probably useful to join (we have fond memories of TripTiks).