What the "Experts" May Not Tell You About ... Car Repair, by Mitchell Zelman. Warner Books. 139 pages. $12.95.
If Fred Flintstone's car -- famously powered by the driver's own two feet -- is the only vehicle you truly understand, you would do well to pick up this book and stash it in the glove compartment. Mitchell Zelman, who owns and operates an auto repair shop in Brooklyn, N.Y., explains how major car systems function, how they should be cared for, and how to avoid tricks shady mechanics use when they try to fleece you. At the shop, ask to physically see the old tubes, hoses or broken shoes that are replaced. Be sure they appear worn rather than freshly mutilated by a disingenuous repairman trying to make work for himself. Place a dot of white paint on back tires before they are rotated so it will be clear if the mechanic has actually done his job.
The final pages of the book include a glossary of terms that could be helpful in interpreting scary- (and expensive-) sounding sentences like this: "The ignition timing piston is cracked and the valvetrain needs new camshaft timing parts." Better know what this means, then to just blindly fork over the $800 a mechanic asks for.