Q: I know this is a strange thing to bring up in the middle of winter, but my husband and I have been spending way too much time arguing about it. Our pride is on the line — literally, in my case, because I'm tired of being embarrassed in public.

The contentious issue is my husband's belief that driving our car during the hot summer months for more than 10 miles necessitates raising the hood after parking to "let the heat out." When we do this at a restaurant or the supermarket, inevitably a concerned stranger will approach us to see if we "need any help."

I would think that in this day and age, cars and trucks have fans or refrigerants that will automatically help cool the engine when a vehicle is stopped. But my husband is an electrical engineer, so I can't dismiss his opinion. If you say this practice is good for the car, I will swallow my pride and try to accept the fact that we are the only ones I have ever seen do this.

A: We feel your embarrassment from here. But you have answered your own question. The fact that nobody else on the planet does this (and no manufacturer recommends it) should make it clear to even the most stubborn husband that it's 100% unnecessary.

Unfortunately, you married an engineer, and engineers often overthink things. The engine itself — the pistons, crankshaft and valves — is unaffected by how long it takes the heat to dissipate. But there are rubber belts, seals and hoses whose lives could be extended by (according to our best guess) 11 minutes total over the life of the car if he dutifully raises the hood after each and every drive.

But wait: Your engineering husband needs to factor in the wear and tear on the springs, hinges and pistons that hold up the hood, the hood latch and the hood latch cable, not to mention the dry-cleaning bills from the grease he gets on his clothes. I'd say he'll never catch up, no matter how many minutes of life he adds to the belts and hoses.

Slow and steady

Q: It seems like that whenever there's a line of slow-moving vehicles, there's a Prius in the front. Is it because the car cannot accelerate, or is it because the owners of that particular car feel the need to control others?

A: It's neither. A Prius will accelerate like any other car if you put your foot down. And the drivers aren't trying to impose their will on the rest of us. They're just pursuing their personal goal of minimizing their consumption of fuel.

A famous researcher I worked with in public radio, David Giovannoni, said that we achieve what we measure. Meaning, if we're focused on losing weight, we count calories.

Who buys a Toyota Prius? Someone who is focused on their mileage. And guess what a big screen on the dashboard of the Prius does? It measures mileage. Constantly. By watching the numbers on that screen, Prius drivers learn that by accelerating very gently, they can coax up their mileage from 53.8 miles per gallon to 54.1. Try to accept that — or your blood pressure numbers will go up even more.

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