For the first column of the new year, let's shift gears and hear several of the better responses to the pressing question of whether an engine "killed" or "died."
From Patricia Kelly — I agree, engines don't kill, they die. A person, however, may kill the engine. So, if I don't properly engage/disengage the clutch, for example, I would kill the engine, and the engine would die. Because this was a driver error, however, I would simply say I had killed the engine. If the engine quits due to some mechanical or driveability problem, I would say it died; I certainly did not kill it, nor did the engine kill anybody or anything. I wish I knew the grammatical underpinnings of this distinction, but I don't. Suffice it to say that to kill is an action of one entity against another. To die is the action of an entity itself, and is the absence of life. It can be the result of having been killed (clutch example), which is the action of another. Or it can be internal to itself (driveability issue). Sort of like being shot vs. having a heart attack. Anyone who says the engine killed does not understand the English language. The other way killed is used in popular parlance right now is to say someone or something killed, when they did something fantastically wonderful. So unless the engine put out 500 horsepower, I doubt it killed!
From Art Abrahams — An engine doesn't "kill" on you, you kill it with a kill switch as in race cars, airplanes and industrial equipment with magnetos where you need to kill the ignition to stop the engine and in compression ignition (diesel) engines where you need to kill or de-energize the fuel solenoid to shut down. Engines "die" when they stop by themselves anytime and anywhere, from unknown and gentle causes to when they deposit part of a rod and piston on the track along with seven quarts of oil.
And my favorite. From Roy Finden — the engine killed is all right with me. Died works, too. I suppose it's a little like "Will you borrow me a dollar?" Or, "When will you de-thaw the turkey?" Whenever I hear these, it reminds me I'm home. In Minnesota. So I like them. We all know what they mean. By the way, earlier in today's column you suggest "removing the driveshaft for a test drive." I am pretty ignorant on things mechanical, but taking a test drive without a driveshaft just sounds wrong.
Motoring note — The vehicle in question was 4WD with two driveshafts, so it's all good. Wait a minute — WAS it 4WD or IS it 4WD? Here we go again.
And to my explanation that "the four brakes are far more powerful engines than the powerplant under the hood," this great story from Dave Sturgeon:
"Here's a quick story I think you'll get a kick out of to absolutely prove your statement. The local Maserati dealer sent me an invite to test drive one of their models. To my surprise, no salesperson went with me in this $120,000 brand new automobile. I started it up, drove down a row of cars and turned left to go downhill on their driveway. As I put the brakes on, the Maserati started to accelerate. Cars were whizzing by. Of course I put the brake on harder but the engine just accelerated more. The car came to a stop at the bottom of the driveway just before the street with the engine (400 HP?) racing. At that point I had no clue what was happening but at least I was stopped. Turns out, the side of my big foot had caught the gas pedal as I applied the brake, causing the acceleration. I am forever thankful that "the four brakes are far more powerful engines than the powerplant under the hood." Only damage — a laundry bill!"
Happy new year, drive safely and buckle up!