Dear Car Talk: I recently purchased a Lincoln Corsair. The owner’s manual says to put the transmission in the Neutral Mode before entering a car wash. When I do this, the display screen message is, “30 Minute Neutral Mode Enabled. Not a Tow Mode.”
I’ve never seen this on any of my previous cars. What is the Neutral Mode, and what is its purpose? — William
Dear William: There’s a safety feature on your car that automatically puts the car in Park when you open the driver’s door, William. Why? So, you don’t accidentally run yourself over. Believe it or not, it happens. A little too frequently.
People are distracted, they stop the car to get out and open a garage door or get the mail, and they forget to put the car in Park. And as they’re getting out, the car rolls and ... bad things happen.
To prevent this type of accident, your car (along with some other new cars) is designed to automatically shift the transmission into Park when you open the driver’s door.
So, if you go to one of those car washes that requires you to get out of the car during the wash, you’d be in trouble, right? You’d put the car in Neutral, get out of the car, and your car wouldn’t move. And five people waiting in line behind you would be honking at you with malice aforethought.
So, Lincoln added a Neutral Mode just for this purpose. You press the Neutral button twice, and it engages “Neutral Mode” for up to 30 minutes, and allows you to exit the car while leaving the transmission in Neutral.
If you’re using a car wash in which you stay in the car, just putting the car in Neutral normally will work. And the reason a warning comes up to tell you that it’s not a tow mode is because ... it’s not a tow mode.
When you have an all-wheel-drive car towed, you want to disengage all four wheels, so your transmission doesn’t get damaged. And since this mode only lasts 30 minutes, and then reverts to Park, it would be a poor choice for towing. At the 30-minute mark, the tow truck driver would suddenly wonder why the Corsair he’s towing is skidding all over the road.
For towing, there’s a cable you pull behind a small cover on the lower dash. The instructions for that are in your owner’s manual, too, William. I’d tell you more about it, but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
Dear Car Talk: Can you explain how the thermometers in cars (the ones that show the outside ambient temperature) avoid being influenced by the heat coming off the engine? — Matthew
Dear Matthew: The sensors for ambient, outside temperature are all located in front of the radiator, Matthew.
And they mostly avoid being affected by engine heat because the sensors are directional. They’re pointed away from the engine and toward the air in front of the car.
The wind has no effect on measured temperature — your car has no skin, so it’s not subject to the wind chill factor. So, the sensor just picks up the temperature of the air in front of the car as you drive through it.
There are some circumstances under which the reading can be affected by a few degrees. If it’s a really hot day, and you’re running the air conditioner and sitting in stop-and-go traffic, the heat from your engine -- or even the engines of surrounding cars in city traffic — may nudge the reading up by a few degrees.
But generally, once you start moving, it becomes accurate again.
Dear Car Talk: I read your column about EV car batteries and their rare metals values. Are you from a planet or something? Your metal prices certainly are. If Ni goes for $22,000 an ounce, I’m going to sell our 5-gallon water jug full of nickels and retire! — Tony
Dear Tony: Correction time, everybody. I recently wrote about what would happen to electric vehicle batteries when those cars eventually go to the crusher. I said the batteries, even worn-out, old batteries, had significant value due to their rare metals.
I would have been fine if I left it there, but then I went on to move the decimal point several digits to the right. Fortunately, before Tony and his pals could run down to the recycling plant with their roll of Reynolds Wrap and buy a tropical villa, several alert readers reported the error.
I stand corrected on the metal prices. But the overall answer is still correct. EV batteries maintain a lot of value — there are companies being set up just to recycle old EV batteries — so they will definitely be removed for reuse before a car is crushed.
Thanks to everybody who wrote in to flog me. I appreciate it.
Got a question about cars? Write to Ray in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email by visiting the Car Talk website at www.cartalk.com.
About the Author