Sad news of the death of Tom Magliozzi

Tom Magliozzi, irrepressible co-host with his brother Ray of the highly entertaining call-in radio program Car Talk, has died at the age of 77 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

I was a big fan of the show because the two brothers were so funny in their spontaneity. The show was a live call-in show so there was little room for scripting except for a few segments but they were able to wring plenty of humor out of car repairs, not to mention also enjoying being relationship counselors. The show was often really silly but gentle in its humor and poked fun mostly at themselves. You had the sense that this was how they were in real life.

I actually learned some things about cars too that came in useful at times, such as what to do if the engine temperature indicator veers dangerously close to the red zone. If you turn up the heat to the maximum setting and turn on the blower full blast, you can temporarily lower the temperature until you can get the car to the repair shop. I would never have thought to do this on my own, though once you think about how the heating system works, it makes perfect sense. My wife called one day from the side of the road saying that the engine was overheating and wondering what to do. I gave her the advice and she was highly dubious (I don’t have the greatest reputation for knowing anything useful) but she tried it and it worked.

I first heard the two brothers when they had a short regular five-minute segment on Weekend Edition Sunday beginning in 1987 that preceded them being spun off to their own one-hour show. Susan Stamberg, who was the host of that show, has an appreciation of him.

NPR will be having a special show this week to reminisce about him. Given their history, it is unlikely to be a very sentimental affair and focus more on giving us a last hearing of his infectious laugh.


  1. bmiller says

    Sad news, indeed. One of my favorites on the weekend here in California, where KQED played it on Saturday and Sunday.,

  2. moarscienceplz says

    That is terrible news. I’d really like to give a dope-slap to Alzheimer’s!

    I got into Car Talk in the early ’90s when I was spying on a paint-your-own ceramics business by working as a kiln operator (I was trying to decide if I wanted to start a business like that). I would wear my cassette player/FM radio and either listen to audiobooks from the library or listen to my local NPR station as I loaded and unloaded the kiln. I had a lot of fun at that job, and I would still be working there if I could figure out how to pay my mortgage with a minimum wage paycheck.
    I remember how Tommy would tell the callers how they spelled their first names based on where they lived, and he was usually right. I also remember how he would usually describe Ray’s “puzzlers” as “Bo-o-o-gusss!”
    Thanks for the laughs, Tommy, wherever you are!

  3. Katydid says

    I was very sad at the news; I listen to Car Talk and have for years. I’ve also used the turn-up-the-heater trick when a crappy car I once owned used to try to overheat.

  4. lorn says

    That trick of turning on the heater full blast to help cool the engine comes in useful when towing a trailer up hill in hot weather. Turn on the heater in anticipation of overheating and turn off the air conditioning to get even better performance. Just be sure to roll down the windows because it is going to get hot inside.

    Another trick is to learn where your impact fuel pump disconnect switch is located. Typically it is under the dash on the firewall or on one of the kick plates. This switch is a safety device designed to shut down the fuel pump after a collision. A very good idea but one that can mean a tow when it really isn’t necessary. It can be triggered by even a minor fender bender, when it is still safe, and you really need to drive away resetting it can get your vehicle rolling again. Reset is usually just a matter of depressing a button.

    I’m going to miss Tom.

  5. Matt G says

    I grew up on Car Talk in the early 80s. What a great show. Who would ever have thought that a car repair call-in show could also be a comedy show! Thanks for all you gave us, Tommy.

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