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Archive for April, 2017

The Passengers That Drivers Hate Most

As we first discovered when we finally ditched the P-plates, one of the delights and duties of driving is taking passengers. Sometimes, your passengers are a joy and being their driver is a lot of fun. However, at other times, it’s more of a nightmare, especially with certain passengers.

Here is a rogue’s gallery of the passengers that you probably don’t want to provide driving services for unless you really can’t avoid it (e.g. if one’s your mother or if you’re a professional taxi driver).

#1: The Litterbug

According to a UK poll, messy passengers were among the worst type to cart about.  You know the ones – the passengers who think nothing about sprinkling the floor of your car with empty chip packets, fast food wrappers, fingernail clippings, empty drink bottles and all the rest. The litterbug seems to consider a vehicle a mobile rubbish bin and doesn’t care that you’re going to have to clean that mess out and bin it at the end of the trip. Having a rubbish bag or car tidy on hand sometimes helps curb the bad habits of the litterbug, but much of the time, you end up gritting your teeth and feeling grateful that the litterbug isn’t dropping rubbish out of the window (which is rotten for the environment and can also end up getting on your paintwork).

If, however, you are one of those drivers who also chucks wrappers and packets into the footwell, you are more likely to be annoyed by…

#2: Donkey

This clip from Shrek 2 says it all:

Yes, it’s a cliché, but asking “Are we there yet?” really does drive drivers around the bend, up the pole and stark raving bonkers.

#3: The Map Illiterate

All good rally drivers have good navigators. A good human navigator who knows his/her way around a map (paper or on-screen) beats some of the software that tells you directions (and won’t send you round the long way, as some software has been known to).

A bad navigator – well, that’s another story! You’ve got the people who can’t or won’t read maps, who are annoying but are merely useless. There are those who use every single meaning of “right” instead of keeping it for a turn to starboard and say things like “Go right through the roundabout”, leaving you uncertain about whether you’re supposed to head straight on or turn right, or answer your question of “So I turn left after the school sports grounds?” with “Right”. You’ve got those who tell you to turn at the intersection just as you’re going through it and it’s too late to brake or indicate to go around it safely, forcing you do a U-turn or go round the block (and possibly get lost). Then you’ve got those who think that they can read maps or think they know the way from A to B and give you totally mistaken directions, sending you into the middle of nowhere.

Some navigators are competent but have bad timing.  For example, they give you a screed of instructions (“Take the third intersection to the left, then second right, then go on for about a kilometre, then turn left at the roundabout, then the first driveway to the right.”) then expect you to remember it all.  Fortunately, these ones can be trained to do the job properly. With the others, there’s no hope and you’d do better to stick to the computerised navigation system.

#4 Backseat Drivers

The backseat driver know exactly what to do when.  He or she knows the right speed to go around every bend, the right time to indicate, the right speed to go at, the right lane to choose, etc. etc. ad nauseam.  You never get it right if you have a backseat driver on board. You’re either going too fast or too slow, you’re braking too hard or too late, you’re going the wrong way, you miss all the good parking spots, and you’re either far too cautious and missing perfectly good gaps or you’re reckless.

You wonder if they’ve got a secret wish to work as a driving instructor. That would certainly get the urge to tell others what to do out of their system. Or maybe it wouldn’t.

#5 The Slammer

Whether they’re happy or sad, mad or excited, the slammer only knows one way to close a car door: give it a hefty shove so it bangs closed, shaking the whole car and making you wonder if it’s possible to slam a door so hard that you’ll set off airbags (answer: no). They make you wince when you think about what this is going to do to your car.

#6 Bigfoot

Bigfoot doesn’t like having his or her feet down in the footwell. Instead, Bigfoot puts his/her feet all over the dashboard or the back of the front seats. This is bad enough if Bigfoot removes his/her footwear first, which means that your dashboard gets marked by sweat. It’s worse if Bigfoot keeps his/her shoes on, smearing mud and grit over the dash. It’s also annoying having those great big hoofs up there in the edge of your vision.

Female Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) also attempt to give themselves a pedicure or paint their toenails. Pray like anything that you don’t hit a bump at the wrong moment, because nail polish is a beast to get off your interior trim.

#7 The DJ

The DJ constantly changes the music, skipping songs and radio stations, tinkering with the graphic equaliser, changing the CD, changing the volume, plugging and unplugging things from the auxiliary input or the USB input… It’s an improvement on the backseat driver or the are-we-there-yet pest but very annoying if you’re listening to your favourite driving music but the DJ switches it in the middle.

However, on the other hand, having a DJ in the passenger seat is an improvement on a DJ in the driver’s seat, at least from a safety perspective. As long as they don’t drive you nuts by tinkering with the sound system without asking you first.

Are there any others that we’ve missed? Now’s your chance to have a bit of a gripe!

How To Get The Best Mileage Out Of A Hybrid


One of the main reasons that people purchase a hybrid car is because they want the great fuel economy of an electrical motor matched with the backup and power of a petrol engine.  More and more car manufacturers are embracing hybrid technology (including plug-in hybrids) and when they promote their vehicles, one of the features that they love to highlight is the great fuel economy figures.  Who doesn’t want to save a few bucks on fuel, after all?

Then comes driving in the real world.  We all know by now that the fuel economy figures that they wave around with any car, whether it’s a hybrid, a petrol or a diesel, are all derived from test lab conditions where they don’t even pop the car in question out on a real live test track – no, indeedy, folks, they do it all in the lab where annoying things like crosswinds, slopes and the weight of the driver won’t make those L/100 km figures creep up.  Nevertheless, you still want to get the most out of your new hybrid vehicle and keep those figures as frugal as possible.

The car will do its best to keep those economy figures at their best but the biggest factor influencing the fuel economy figures of a hybrid is the way that you drive.  Here’s how:

Tip #1: Gently does it

Accelerate gently rather than roaring off and brake gently.  This keeps your engine purring or ticking over in the green zone where you can use mostly the electric motor.  What’s more, gentle braking and slowing down means that you can make the most of the regenerated braking energy, keeping the battery nicely topped up.  So ease up on the feet and tread lightly if you want to reduce your footprint (doesn’t that clichéd metaphor work nicely here!).

Tip #2: Reduce drag

In their quest for great fuel economy, the design team of any hybrid vehicle have carefully considered drag and air resistance. As anyone who’s ever ridden a bike for a reasonable trip (i.e. over 1 km) will know, air really pushes hard on anything that moves and the more drag you’ve got, the harder the engine has to work and the more energy it consumes. This means that if you don’t need that roof rack or if you don’t need the windows down, don’t do it. Keep the outer skin of the car smooth so it slides through the air almost as efficiently as a fish through water or a falcon through the air…

Tip #3: Lose some weight

Get rid of the junk in the trunk.  Here, I’m not talking about trimming down your waistline or your buttocks (although any weight reduction will make your car more fuel efficient) but all the clobber that tends to get stuffed in the baggage compartments.  Drop off that bag of old clothes to the charity shop or whatever you need to do to ensure that you’ve only got the essentials in there (you are allowed to keep a raincoat in there just in case).

These first three tips may sound familiar, as these fuel economy tips (plus other basics like making sure the tyre pressure is right) apply to any vehicle, not just a hybrid.  However, there are some other techniques that are for hybrids only.

Tip #4: Stay in the zone

Most modern hybrids, especially the ones put out by Toyota, have a handy little dashboard display so you know when the electric motor is at work and when you’re using fuel.  Keep half an eye on this – as long as the traffic is light and you can do this safely – and ease off as needed.  You may need to spend a bit of time if you’re new to driving hybrid vehicles getting familiar with your display at first.

Tip #5: Neutrality is not an option

If you’re in that familiar situation of crawling through lots of stop-start traffic, don’t be tempted to put the gear into neutral while you’re at a standstill. Your battery will start discharging, which means it may not have the oomph when you need it.  You don’t need to put it into neutral anyway, so keep your hands off that gear lever!

Tip #6: Is it necessary?

It’s easy to just pop on all the conveniences like air-con, lights and wipers just in case.  However, if it’s only a little bit warm and you’re not going too fast, how about opening the window a little to let the breeze in?  (Yes, opening the window increases drag but it only does this noticeably when you’re at higher speeds; around town, it’s probably more fuel-efficient that the air-con). If there’s fog or dew on the outside of your windows, wipe it off with that junk mail in your letterbox or a tissue before you get in the car rather than popping the wipers on.  If it’s only spitting lightly and the moisture falling on your windscreen is running or evaporating off quickly enough for it not to affect your vision, don’t bother with the wipers.  If you can see 100 m ahead of you perfectly well and you’re not in a funeral procession, you don’t really need the lights.  All these little things drain electricity from the battery, so the less you use them, the more the battery will be able to do to get you around town.  Use these conveniences only when necessary.

Tip #7 Circulate

Having your climate control on recirculate is more energy efficient than having it on free-flow, because the system doesn’t have to work as hard to get it up or down to the right temperature, which reduces drain on the battery.

Tip #8 Love summer

Even hybrid engines hate getting started on cold winter mornings. Winter also increases the need for fog lights, headlights, heaters and windscreen wipers.  It’s a little known fact that winter driving is less efficient than summer driving.  There’s not much you can do about this one apart from being aware of it.  Maybe the crafty people in your life can whip up an afghan or car rug for you so you don’t have to crank up the heater?