Who Drove My Cheese?

Tom Flyer
by Tom Flyer

Wiki.answers.com challenges visitors to ask a question, any question; from “What is the meaning of life?” to “Dude, where’s my car?” Realizing that the site’s Google-style entry bar may prove a tad daunting, the webmasters also provide a list of 20 categories for intellectual exploration. Enquiring minds can click on a relevant area and then drill down to see if someone’s been there, asked that (via unfortunately worded questions like “What’s the best food to eat with diarrhea?”). As you’d expect from a wiki site, you can also switch to “Answers” and put questioners out of their intellectual misery. I decided to apply my expertise to the automotive arena. And down the rabbit hole we go.

After signing-up as an expert, I received my first shock: volume. My inbox received 100 automotive questions per day. And then the aftershock: the questions.

“Why won’t my (insert a car name here) start?”

Dozen of surfers sent me this question. Daily. I could have written a long list of possible explanations, starting with the blindingly obvious (a dead battery), working my way to the completely implausible (alien energy abduction). But I was dumbstruck by the idea that hundreds of thousands of people somehow never “got” the basic methodology underpinning “20 questions,” yet still managed to learn how to type.

“Where do I put the oil in a [insert car name here]?”

Again, a popular question. I’ve got one: when did American consumers decide that car owner’s manuals are coated in powdered anthrax? Imagine hundreds of pages of questions with the word “RTFM” next to them. I did.

“Can you drive with a broken radiator?”

Yes but not very far. Back in the day, a TTAC editorialist lamented the precipitous decline of domestic garage skills. He pointed out that the trend had a catastrophic effect on the average motorist’s knowledge of simple mechanical repairs and upgrades. Well no shit.

Hundreds of questioners wanted to know how to change head, tail, stop, turn and dash bulbs. I reckoned it was only a matter of time before “How do I change a tire?” appeared. Equally sadly, there were hardly ANY questions about maintenance issues (changing oil, rotating tires, etc.) or relatively simple repairs (replacing shocks, etc).

How do I put double deuces on 16” wheels?

I want to see THAT buggy rolling down Woodward Avenue. Anyway, don't laugh. Think of all the people who didn't think to check their bling strategy. And of course, LOADS of people wanted to know how to remove/install a sound system. I reckon most of these questions come from midnight auto parts & accessories stores.

And then there were the off-the-wall, left field, where-the-Hell-do-these-people- come-from questions. Questions so bizarre I was constantly tempted to write equally fantastic replies.

“What’s your rpm at zero?”

Somehow I knew that “Your rpm is zero at zero” wasn’t going to cut it. But I didn’t want to launch into a long discussion of engine function, and I couldn’t write “The same as yours” or “Idle tachometers are the Devil’s plaything.” So I simply ignored the question, and many more like it. But how can you ignore a question like…

“How can cheese get on the car engine?”

What’s that you say? You've got goat cheese on your GTO? The question raised an infinite number of possible flippant replies, slapstick routines and jackass misadventures. On the other hand, perhaps he meant the heroin-based drug that that killed a Texas teen last year. If so, a dealer may have hidden the cheese in the questioner’s engine bay to evade the Narcs. Yes, the mind boggles.

“Can right hand drive cars be imported along with their regular left hand drive cars to US to meet needs of deaf person with little money?”

Why would a poor, deaf person want to import a right hand-drive car into the U.S.? You might suggest that they’re also dumb, but I would never make such an insensitive remark.

“How many payments can I miss before they take my car?”

Never mind the infinite spellings of the word "repossession." Again, why in the world would anyone think I could give them specific advice on their personal situation– such as "Who took my car?"– without any specific details? Maybe there's a widespread belief that "they" control the internet; "they" already know everyone's personal details. Which is as close to common sense as most of these wiki wanderers will ever get.

Speaking of "uninformed," I went into this gig expecting to tackle questions like “What’s the difference between all wheel-drive and four wheel-drive?” and “What are desmodromic valves?” and “Who imported the Borgward Isabella?” I now realize that I’m part of an elite group of well-educated pistonheads interested in stuff that most people don’t know exists– and couldn’t possibly understand it if they did. Call me a snob/rivet counter, but one way or another, the truth hurts.

Tom Flyer
Tom Flyer

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  • Liz Liz on Jan 06, 2008

    Haha... well done! I'm a Supervisor at WikiAnswers (for the Writing and Body Art categories)... We get hilarious questions all the time (but mostly serious ones). Some of us Supervisors started a blog about the craziness that can happen with online Q&A - no stupid answers. Thanks for your contributions! If you want any WikiAnswers tips or info, just get in touch (lizc @ answers.com) -Liz (WikiAnswers username: eliesheva)

  • Jonathon Jonathon on Jan 07, 2008
    Got to agree with whatdoiknow1 here. Why on earth should I know how to change oil for my car? How many NAND gates are needed to construct a single flip-flop? I suppose most people don’t know about that. Yet they use computers everyday. That's not a very good analogy. I don't need to know anything about NAND gates to use or even maintain and troubleshoot a computer. You do need to know something about changing your oil---like the fact that it needs to be done every few months---in order to keep your car running.
  • Aja8888 Folks, this car is big enough to live in. Dual deal: house and car for $7 large.
  • Astigmatism I don't think tax credits will put me in this league, but if I could swing it, I would 1000% go for a restomod EV Grand Wagoneer: https://www.thedrive.com/news/you-can-buy-an-electric-80s-jeep-grand-wagoneer-for-295000
  • FreedMike I like the looks of the Z, but I'd take the Mustang. V8s are a disappearing breed.
  • Picard234 I can just smell the clove cigarettes and the "oregano" from the interior. Absolutely no dice at any price.
  • Dartdude The Europeans don't understand the American market. That is why they are small players here. Chrysler Group is going to die pretty soon under their control. Europeans have a sense of superiority over Americans that is why the Mercedes merger didn't work out and almost killed Chrysler. Bringing European managers aren't going to help. Just like F1 they want our money. We need Elon Musk to buy out Chrysler, Dodge and Ram from Stellantis.
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