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Dear Tom and Ray - Lately, TV, radio and newspaper dealer ads have been pushing something called "program cars." I assume that "program" is a euphemism for "used," but what exactly does it mean? Over the years, I've grown accustomed to "executive," "demo," "fleet," "previously owned" and even "pre-titled," but "program" defies deciphering. Can you define "program car"? - Walter

TOM: Sure. A "program car" is a car that has previously appeared on a television program. You know, like Jim Rockford's Firebird.

RAY: Actually, "program cars" are mostly former daily rental cars. The name comes from the term "repurchase program."

TOM: Manufacturers sell lots of cars - at substantial discounts - to companies like Hertz, Avis and National. In the past, the rental companies would use the cars for six months or so and then sell them on the used-car market.

RAY: But in the early 1990s, when the economy was slow, car dealers started protesting that the sales of these "practically new" cars were competing with their own used-car operations, and, in some cases, even their new-car sales.

TOM: So the rules were changed a few years ago. And now, the manufacturers buy back almost all of the cars from the rental-car companies. Then they auction the cars off to their own dealers, who make the profit selling them as "program" cars. They're also sometimes called "repurchased rental cars."

RAY: And they're a pretty good deal. They're usually about six months old, have 12,000-15,000 miles on them, and because they were serviced by the rental companies, they're often in pretty good shape.

Dear Tom and Ray - I am a teenager, and I love exercising my driving permit whenever and wherever I can. My question is, what harm is done, if any, when I accelerate rapidly from a stop? It's not the speed I enjoy, it's the sound of the engine. In fact, I never continue accelerating fast past 40 or 45 mph; I just like to get there quickly. Gas mileage is the only thing I know of that suffers. Am I harming anything else on the car? - Cory

TOM: The car is the least of your problems, Cory. When you accelerate full throttle like that, the car is basically out of control. At the very least, you're scaring the daylights out of pedestrians. And at worst, you could kill somebody, because you never know when a dog or a kid is going to run out of a driveway. And killing someone's child will change your life a lot more than a little decrease in gas mileage.

RAY: Having said that, we should add that you ARE also doing damage to the car. We wrote a pamphlet called "Ten Ways You

May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!" You can order a copy by sending $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No. 10 envelope to Ruin No. 1, P.O. Box 6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420, by the way. And guess what's No. 1 on our list? Jack-rabbit starts!

TOM: When you step on the gas, you start a chain reaction. The crankshaft turns, that turns the transmission, that turns the drive shaft and the differential gears - and on down the line until the wheels are turning. Each of these parts (which are collectively called the drive train) are connected mechanically. And when you slam your foot on the accelerator, each one of these pieces slams into the next one. And guess what all that slamming does? It wears out everything sooner!

RAY: So if the sound of the car is what turns you on, keep driving like this. Pretty soon, there will be even more sounds for you to enjoy.

TOM: There will be the rapping of your engine bearings, the clacking of your CV joints and the sound of a judge saying "license revoked."