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RIP Tom Magliozzi: My car and I will miss you, and here’s why

Known as Click and Clack on the NPR radio show Car Talk, Tom Magliozzi and his brother Ray used humor, fun banter and real-world mechanical expertise to entertain audiences for nearly three decades. We’re saddened to find out that Tom Magliozzi lost his battle with Alzheimer’s today. He was 77 years old.

Growing up in Los Angeles, I have never been without a car. At least from the time I was 16, I knew how to pump gas, pop a clutch and use jumper cables. These are essential survival skills for any Angelino.

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Currently, my Mazda RX-8 is my lifeline in a city that eschewed public transportation years ago in favor of smoggy air and horrible gridlock. Why interact with other human beings on a subway if you can have your own climate-controlled, private world? So what if it takes an hour to drive seven miles? My car has an awesome subwoofer.

Because I’m so car-dependent, I rely heavily on radio for news, entertainment and, well, as a friend in my lonely little car cockpit. NPR understands this and made a wise decision to take the show Car Talk national way back in 1987. If you’re familiar with the show, it featured Tom and Ray Magliozzi, known as Click and Clack, taking questions from callers about their car issues.

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While it sounds like a ridiculously simple premise, it was genius. If you’re like me, you don’t have an auto mechanic in the family and there’s always that little grinding sound, funny smell or overheating issue that doesn’t seem like a big problem — until it is. And then you’re screwed. Click and Clack provided an arena to deal with some of these issues and to help non-mechanically inclined gals like me understand what’s going on under the hood.

Tom Magliozzi was 12 years older than his brother Ray and had a big laugh, making me feel like talking about cars could be fun — exciting, even. Their show felt very accessible to me and helped me understand my Mazda in new ways. I am going to miss their fatherly advice.

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From an Italian family in East Cambridge, Massachusetts, Tom had a near-fatal accident with a tractor-trailer as he was on his way to his engineering job, years before he was a radio host. The accident inspired Tom to examine his life, quit his job and seek out a more authentic lifestyle.

Magliozzi invented a do-it-yourself car repair shop and eventually made his way to radio as a car repair expert. Though the show stopped production two years ago, NPR continues to air older shows.

As I get ready to hit the 405, I’ll be thinking of you, Tom Magliozzi.

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