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Automobile Servicing: Dealership V Mobile.

Very few would disagree that the days of hauling out the toolbox on a Sunday morning to tune the Kingswood are long gone. With the advent of Electronic Fuel Injection or EFI, longer lasting oils, engine covers that look too tricky to remove, plus more specific guidelines from car makers, servicing a car at home has become something of the past.

Or has it?

Mobile servicing has become a huge business over the last couple of decades or so and it has provided some genuine benefits. To find out more, we spoke to David Endres from APR Mobile Servicing. He has over twenty years of experience in the automotive servicing field including fifteen as a mobile servicer.We started with what appears to be an obvious benefit: that one on one contact. Straight away there is that personal service, that personal touch, by having your car serviced at home or at work, says David. You get to meet the person that will be performing the service, and feedback is virtually instant is something needs to be discussed. David says it’s an instantly more usable system as any issues or changes that may have arisen can be discussed face to face and clarifications are conveyed in a far more understandable sense, rather than by a phone call, or worse, by email or text. Also the client can see for themselves what might be the problem, right on the spot.

This brought us to the convenience factor. It’s a big one, says David. “We come to you at a time that suits you, and with more people working from home, your life continues whilst we look after your car.” If a service is done at an office workplace, there is less downtime, says David, and this is one way to keep the boss on your side. Plus, it means there is little to no extra travel time required, such as if a dealership is some distance away from home or work.One unexpected benefit of a mobile service, says David, is for the elderly and infirm benefit plus stay at home parents. This absolutely minimises intrusions into their lives, and as David pointed out, imagine having to wrangle small children back and forth on public transport on a hot summer’s day. Trade services such as sparkies or plumbers gain the benefit of a mobile service, as their own light commercial vehicle can be looked after whilst they themselves are on the job. This applies to company “reps”, who can meet David at a specified location and time, leave him to service their vehicle and they continue their representative role.

Given the question of timeframe, David says he aims to have around two hours from start to finish. What this means for the work from home Mum, or the look after the grandkids grandparents, is downtime is as short as possible, rather than the traditional method of a dealership’s “drop off in the morning, pickup in the afternoon”. However, there is a benefit in the dealership approach. Should a part be required and it’s not immediately in stock at that dealership, a turnaround time to have a courier bring the part from a warehouse or another dealership can virtually ensure it’s done during the day and ready for a client to pickup at day’s end.

This, says David, is where a mobile service callout will require a re-booking whilst an ordered part is on its way. He’s at pains to caution that if the work required has the vehicle in a condition that it shouldn’t be driven, that the client is immediately fully briefed. he also highlights that a second visit to fit the required part is at no extra cost to the client. This took us to the cost factor. David believes that mobile servicers are very cost effective, as their only overheads are the costs of running the service vehicles, rather than paying for a building’s electrical costs, management costs, and the like. And, as a rule, the actual hourly rates are competitive, saving a client money.

The experience factor was a key point here. Acknowledging that everyone starts somewhere, David opines that having the experience to provide a mobile service provides a true peace of mind for a client, with the ability to deal with questions and any potential issues on the spot because of it. In a dealership situation, that experience starts with an apprentice, a position where the basics of servicing a vehicle, especially in a first service, leads to the experience required in providing a mobile service.

Inclusive of this point is the process of assisting a client to diagnose a problem if the booking isn’t for a straight service. By working one on one with the owner, and asking open ended questions, it minimises the time needed to diagnose and identify the problem. This includes possibly driving the vehicle before commencing any work. At a dealership, a similar process can be undertaken, and the benefit comes back to the timeframe and possibly having a required part in stock.

Serviceman

Location wise, a mobile service can cover a lot of ground, and it’s here that the benefit of being largely city wide in coverage helps. APR’s homebase in in Parramatta, west of the Sydney CBD, however the coverage is across most of the majority of the Sydney basin. The timeframe to work with is critical here, says David. With an average lead-in time of a week, this allows APR Mobile Services to arrange a schedule that suits the client first and reduces drastically unnecessary travel from the business end.

It also allows David to ensure that, where possible, the right parts to start with are available, and it also provides him with the opportunity to fit parts that aim for a longevity situation. By that, David says it brings to a client, the right parts to ensure that downtime is minimised but also that the gaps between visits for unnecessary work is reduced as much as possible.

Another benefit, says David, is purely personal. By being hands-on with a client’s car, a relationship is built, and a number of clients like to reward the efforts provided. Although dealership staff can be on the receiving end of a gift from a grateful client, it’s not as personal as dealing with someone one-on-one. There’s a more rewarding situation for many clients, especially for those that may have been under stress or are not automobile savvy, and they like to express their gratitude with a small gift personally. What this does for a mobile servicer is up the level of satisfaction for a job well done, something David at APR Mobile Services takes a lot of quiet pride in knowing has been provided.

David and APR in Sydney can be reached at 0410 323 856. Check your search engine for local mobile servicers.

Is it Time to Replace my Tyres?

Although it might be easy to look past the role that your tyres play in the well functioning operation of your car, the reality is that you should never diminish just how important it is that your tyres are in good condition.

After all, tyres serve as the sole point of contact between your car and whatever surface lies beneath, so it’s vital that they’re up to the ever-changing task. Nonetheless, many of us fall into the habit of disregarding our tyres, at least until it’s too late.

Given the amount of tyre options on the market, there is also difficulty when it comes to finding the right replacement. Before then, however, what are the things that you should be aware of.

 

How do I know when my tyres need replacement?

The best way to stay on top of tyre maintenance is through preventative care. Every few weeks you should inspect your tyres visually, looking for general wear, assessing the tread and also gauging the pressure in the tyre.

By law, the minimum legal tread depth is 1.5mm in Australia. Of course, waiting until it gets to that point is a dangerous choice, because in many ways you are still potentially compromising on your safety the closer that point nears.

Ideally, once the tread on your tyre gets below 2.5 or 3mm, you will want to start eyeing up a replacement for your wearing tyres. Wait any longer and the grooves on your tyres will start to flatten out, which is when a tyre starts to go bald. The consequences of this are a loss of traction, meaning longer braking distances.

There are various ways you can measure the tread depth without needing a precise ruler. First, keep an eye out for the rubber ‘nibs’ located on the space between the tread grooves. These are indicators that once worn down, will let you know it is time to be replacing your tyre.

If you have a 20c coin at hand, you can also use this as an approximate yardstick. Insert the coin in the tyre groove and look for how far it sits in the space. One handy thing to keep an eye on is the picture of the platypus on the face of the coin. If its bill doesn’t touch the tyre tread, you have less than 3mm tread depth and are fast approaching a replacement. On the other hand, if the coin sits snugly inside the tread groove, you’re good to go.

Beyond tread, however, tyres also have a lifespan as far as material composition. Tyres should generally not be kept more than five years as the rubber starts to experience degradation as far as its flexibility. If you look close enough, you’ll spot a four digit code on the sidewall of the tyre. This code tells you the week and year when the tyre was made, so if that was more than five years ago, you’re well overdue!

An Automated Way of Life

Instead of a person performing tasks like accelerating, braking, turning or changing lanes, an autonomous vehicle uses its sophisticated vehicle computer system to calculate, monitor and perform these everyday driving tasks itself.  Australian governments are working together to make sure that automated/autonomous vehicles can be legally and safely used when they are available for purchase in Australia.  Already today, some new cars have automated features such as self-parking, active cruise control or lane-keep assist.  These features assist the driver with driving, but a licensed human driver is still in control of the car.  Over the next few decades vehicles will likely become increasingly automated, and eventually a human will not need to drive a car at all.  Think of the road network of the future being a giant computer programme that is performing the road transport requirements for the people.

Whether we like it or not, the onset of automated vehicles is upon us.  In fact, in America, automatic road trains/trucks to get goods from one depot to the next is already reality.  Several companies, including Aurora, Daimler, and Embark Trucks, are competing for a slice of the future of self-driving freight trucks.  Waymo is also expanding its own self-driving trucking routes throughout the American Southwest and Texas, following previous tests in Arizona, California, Michigan, and Georgia. This long-haul automated trucking works well in America, and it could be key for Australian trucking companies in the near future.  While most of the current use has been on iron ore and coal mines, the roll-out of autonomous fleets in Australia is spreading.  Newmont, Australia recently announced plans to make the Boddington mine the world’s first open-pit gold mine with an autonomous haul truck fleet.

So maybe the order of automation roll-out might be trucks first along with public transport, and then private vehicles to follow?  The implementation of autonomous vehicles isn’t a cheap dream.  Understandably, the level of research and development, as costly as it is, is so important to ensure all road users remain safe in-and around an autonomous vehicle.  The sort of research and development needed for safety reasons costs loads of money, and this (as always), along with the requirement of actually keeping people safe while implementing the use of autonomous vehicles, are the real brakes on the realization of the dream for complete global autonomous vehicles.  But is that just the tip of the iceberg?

Autonomous vehicles obtain emerging technologies that can potentially disrupt cities, economies, infrastructure and the way we do life together.  Add those truths into the mix and we can see what a phenomenally expensive, chaotic and disruptive new technology this is, but the actuality of total autonomous transport could be astounding!  Not something that’s everyone’s cup of tea but definitely worthy of at least partial implementation.  Maybe that’s the way it is going to be introduced, subtly and gradually over time so people can get used to paying for it as well as using it.

To Repair or Not to Repair, That is the Question

Sometimes it’s hard to let go and move onto a new vehicle. Whether it’s an emotional attachment to our pride and joy, or the belief that a new car is less attainable and will end up costing us more – we often like to give ourselves a reason to resist change. But while these may be factors we care to consider, the more pertinent questions we should be looking into are how the numbers stack up, and what our personal circumstances are.

The easiest way to consider this is to separately assess the here and now, from the future. When it comes to the here and now, you need to consider the up–front costs associated with purchasing a new vehicle. This obviously includes tangible elements, but also intangible factors too.

 

Weighing up a new car

Starting with the obvious, to fund your purchase it is likely you will either need to trade in your existing vehicle, supplement it with savings or finance, or take out a loan for the entirety of the car’s price.

This introduces potential cash flow strains, as to get the best possible financial outcome, it’s better to pay off as much of the initial purchase cost as possible. The downside means you will be left with less disposable expenditure if you make a larger up–front payment.

Looking at a lengthier timespan, you’re facing interest repayments, maintenance, repairs, registration and insurance costs. Besides that, there are operational costs concerning fuel efficiency. To help form a comparison, you’ll want to break these expenses into weekly, monthly and annual prices for the ownership of your vehicle.

 

Choosing to repair your current car

On the other side of the ledger, you’re operating a car that does not involve an initial cost. But while there may not be up–front costs involved, ongoing operational expenses are likely to cost significantly more than a new vehicle.

You have to keep in mind that an existing or used car, particularly an old one, is usually more prone to repairs or maintenance even if in good condition. And when such maintenance or repairs are undertaken, parts may be far dearer considering their scarcity, or you may need to replace more parts considering their life span could be surpassed.

An existing car is also more likely to be less fuel efficient than newer models. There is a greater chance you will pay more to fuel your current car. If you have repayments due, you should also assess these so that you’re including all relevant costs.

One thing that does generally work in favour of existing cars is that insurance is likely to be cheaper, although this is just a rule of thumb as opposed to a certainty. New cars are also stung by a huge depreciation expense which, depending on your circumstances, could be beneficial as a business owner using the car for taxable business purposes.

 

What else to consider?

Keep in mind a couple other things. With old vehicles more likely to break down, what impact will this have on other aspects of your life? How will you get around while you don’t have access to a vehicle? Could it impede family matters such as taking the kids to school, or dropping a spouse off at work? There may also be features that are less safe compared with today’s cars because of technological advancements.

In deciding, you may wish to adopt a particular line of thought – if the repairs or operating expenditure for an existing vehicle surpass the car’s market value, or the financing of a new vehicle, or even the repayments due on the current vehicle over the course of a year, move on and purchase a new car.

If on the other hand things are still running well, and relatively affordable, or you’re in a position where you can’t afford to outlay a large initial capital cost, keep on top of maintenance to defer the decision.

Are You Too Old To Drive?

I think it was Oscar Wilde who said that youth is wasted on the young.  It might not be quite so widely talked about, but there are some benefits to not being as young as you used to be. All the same, there’s no denying that even if you have truckloads of experience as a driver and can remember the days when it wasn’t compulsory for passengers to wear seatbelts and when having automatic windows was posh, the time may come when the old body lets you down and won’t react the way it used to do.  There is a reason why medical tests are compulsory for those over 75 every year and two-yearly practical driving tests are needed for those aged over 85 if you want to stay on a normal driver’s licence. It’s kind of like getting a roadie test but for the driver rather than a vehicle.

However, although I know plenty of people in the age bracket who don’t seem to show many signs of their age apart from a few wrinkles and grey hair, there are others who start showing a few signs of slowing down before they hit the 75-year mark.  My mum, for example, decided to pull back on the driving for safety reasons because she felt that her reactions were getting too slow to drive in the city, although this was “just a case of getting older and nothing to worry about” even though she was well short of 75 years old (it turned out to be early onset Parkinson’s but that’s another story and I’m glad to report she’s doing well on medication).

To be able to drive safely, what do you need to be able to do? What does it take to have what it takes? I came across a set of questions that older drivers can ask themselves to help assess how fit they are to drive.  Do any of these ten questions ring true for you? If you answer yes to a lot of them, then maybe it’s time you had a chat with your doctor about driving and medical tests. Sometimes, a few exercises and a new pair of glasses may help – although sometimes, it won’t.

  1. Is getting your seatbelt on a pain and does it take you several attempts at the best of times?
  2. Do you have trouble turning the steering wheel (and you’ve got power steering in the car and you’re not driving an old classic without it)?
  3. Is it hard to do head-checks (looking over your shoulder to check the blind spot)?
  4. Does driving on even short trips tire you out more easily?
  5. Do you have a few problems picking out things like road markings, kerbs, median strips, other cars and pedestrians?
  6. Do you have problems remembering who gives way?
  7. Does your mind wander while you’re driving? Here, we’re not talking about briefly running over the options for dinner or your to-do list at the traffic lights, or idly pursuing a train of thought on a long empty country road (we all do this), but going completely away with the pixies in the middle of the city or to the point that you suddenly come to and haven’t got a clue where you are.
  8. Do you get honked at a lot by other drivers? OK, everyone gets drivers tooting at them from time to time, but if it happens a lot, especially at traffic lights or intersections, then it’s possibly the case that you’re a bit slower to react that you used to be (it’s not the case that Young People These Days are more impatient, especially when the Young Person who just honked at you is a tradie in his 40s).
  9. Is reversing or parallel parking difficult, even if it’s been easy for you in the past?
  10. Have you picked up some wretched condition like heart problems, stroke, early-stage dementia, etc.?

The good news is that if your hearing is going a bit (all those rock concerts back in the 1970s and a lifetime of working with power tools make for great memories but worse hearing), this shouldn’t stop you from driving, as most hazards have a strong visual component, and even things like police and fire sirens usually come with lights as well.

For older drivers, it’s possible to get a modified licence so you can keep driving but only under certain conditions. You might want to put yourself under your own personal restrictions if you found yourself answering Yes to a lot of the questions above. A modified licence is rather like the grown-up version of the provisional licence and restricts you to driving only in certain circumstances. With a modified licence, the conditions will vary depending on your situation. For example, your modified licence may allow you to drive only short distances (e.g. to town and back, rather than interstate to see the grandkids).  Modified licences allow you to stay active and independent but without putting yourself (and others) at risk.

Conditions you may wish to put on yourself rather than official restrictions and conditions under a modified licence could include not driving alone, only taking familiar routes, not driving at night or not driving in bad weather, and avoiding driving at times when you know you get sleepy (e.g. the middle of the afternoon on a hot day).

Having a new vehicle with modern driver aids such as blind spot alerts, reverse parking sensors and autonomous emergency braking may help you stay on the road for longer. However, if you upgrade your vehicle to something with such features, make sure you take some time when you’re not actually driving anywhere to get familiar with all the buttons, symbols, beeps and knobs. And remember that as is the case with most things in life, you need to use those driving skills so you don’t lose them!

Safe and Not-so-safe Cars

With good safety credentials being an important factor with any new car purchase, it was interesting to find out that a few new cars didn’t perform as well as I’d expected they may.  The tests were carried out over the 2018-and-2019 period by the team at the Euro NCAP facility.  The following are four of the worst 2018/2019/2020 cars you’d want to crash in.  Then come the best current cars you’d want to be in if you were involved in a serious crash.

NOT SO GOOD:

Jeep’s Renegade 4×4 SUV, in the frontal crash test, showed it as being a bit weak in offering good support during the frontal impact.  Your neck is an important part of your body, and it was evident that the systems weren’t quite up to speed.  Also the pole test found the car’s structure to be weak in protecting the front seat occupant.  Poor whiplash protection during a rear collision, and weak protection during the side pole test showed the Jeep Cherokee as being a bit light.  This was its reason for scoring just the four out of five stars.

Sadly, the small Suzuki Jimny 4×4 only scored a three-star crash testing result.   The structure isn’t up to the task of keeping its occupants safe in pole tests and frontal crash tests.  Even the airbag didn’t have the pressure to prevent the dummy bumping its head on the steering wheel –ouch!

A big surprise came my way when I discovered that the Jeep Wrangler scored just a one-star out-of-five for overall safety capability during the crash tests carried out by the Euro NCAP team.  The windscreen pillars and the footwall structures reached their full limit of protection – due to their serious deformation patterns when put through the frontal impact test.  You wouldn’t want to be going faster than 40 mph!

Least safe is the Fiat Panda.  It didn’t score any stars of the five available.  Enough said!

 

VERY GOOD:

Euro NCAP calculate the best vehicles from their weighted sum of the scores in Adult Occupant, Child Occupant, Pedestrian and Safety Assist assessments for every car tested.  According to Euro NCAP, the best-of-the-best in 2019 happened to be the:

Supermini: Audi A1 and Renault Clio

Small family car: Mercedes-Benz CLA and Mazda3.

Large family car: Tesla Model 3, BMW 3-Series and Skoda Octavia.

Small Off-Road/MPV: Subaru Forester

Hybrid and Electric: Tesla Model 3

Larger off-road: Tesla Model X and SEAT Tarraco – which shares its DNA with the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Kodiaq.

There are some nice cars in the list above.  It’s great to see Subaru still delivering the goods along with the German marques.  Looks like Tesla has their cars well sorted, as well.

A Danger In Safety.

Evolution is a part of our lives and nowhere more evident than in the growth and change to the humble horseless carriage. From an open cabin with a tiny horsepower or two, to nimble sports cars and big four wheel drives, there’s been plenty of changes to witness.

Steam power came and went, electricity is back in vogue, and the fuel we use is still dinosaur based but fed to the engine under pressure, not sucked in by the sweep of a crankshaft.

We’ve seen the development of disc brakes, improvements in chassis design, changes to the structure of the glass in the windows. Parking sensors, rear view pointing cameras, even the pedals in the driver’s footwell can be directed away from the feet, and then there are bonnets that pop up to help minimise impact on a pedestrian busy looking at something in their hand that has roots in a 1960s sci-fi show.

Lighting technology has changed too. Candles in a lantern being waved by someone walking in front of a slow moving horseless carriage have given way to halogen gas filled lamps. They have, in turn, given way to three letters that mean little to the greater populace. LED or Light Emitting Diode tech gives us a brighter, whiter, purer light, and can be seen in any colour of the spectrum.

This technology is now evolving our headlights and what is called DRL, or Daytime Running Light. But it’s here that the safety factor becomes dangerous.

In all cars is a switch, be it mounted on a stalk coming from the steering column, or a dial near the driver’s knee. This switch activates the headlights fitted to the vehicle. But not all vehicles are equal. Some have the letters “Auto”, some do not. Those with Auto do tend to have the option of Off.

Why is this crucial? Simple. Auto means the headlights will light by themselves once a sensor determines light levels have fallen far enough to make seeing forward clearly difficult. Those that do not have Auto are left to the vagaries of humanity and therefore what they deem to be dark enough to activate the lights.But it’s also here that LED technology, along with the DRL situation, that raises the danger level. Let’s take the example of a vehicle with a strip of LED DRLs above each headlight and also has globe lit driving lights in the bottom left and right corner of the front bumper.

Invariably these cars either do not have an Auto headlight function OR they have a driver that is ignorant of one small but vitally important fact. The D in DRL means DAYTIME. They’re not intended to be used as a headlight substitute. Therefore their penetration and forward spread is nowhere near that of the headlights designed and fitted. Some cars also don’t light the tail lights even when Auto is on.

What this means is the driver sees something of the road ahead but drivers behind may not clearly see the vehicle in front. This then means that safety is compromised and drivers are putting themselves and others at extra risk. So a combination of believing that LED technology in the DRLs and providing the option of Off when cars have Auto headlights is a dangerous safety measure. http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/srochnodengi-online-zaymi.html

Space Saver Tyres; A Flat Option.

The last three decades have seen many innovations that have been placed into cars, trucks, and other forms of automotive motion. Anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, airbags, even FM radio and CD/MP3 playing capability. Tyres have improved in size, water drainage, and grip levels. Then there’s the space saver tyre. Intended to be a weight saving device and providing an option should a main tyre receive a puncture, just how effective can one of these be?
Given that many travel for decades without ever suffering a flat tyre or indeed any form of damage, having a space saver does make perfect sense. They’re lighter and by virtue of their name, simply don’t take up as much room, especially with the rise of larger diameter wheels and tyres. However, HOWEVER, it’s also fair to expect that most of the time, that when they get called upon for usage, that one is in an area not far from either home or a tyre retailer.

Herein lies an issue or two. First up they’re rated for a speed of fifty kilometers per hour. Maximum recommended velocity is eighty. Maximum recommended distance is 450 kilometres. That’s all fine when you’re in the built up areas surrounding your home, but when you’re three hundred kilometers away from home, in a car that’s not your own but a press review car, and one that’s ostensibly soft road capable, then there’s a problem.

Suzuki, like many car makers, fits its vehicles with a space saver. The Vitara All-Grip is fitted with Continental tyres and they’re 17 inches in diameter. Although it also comes with a switchable drive system, splitting torque to the rear wheels as well as the front, it’s not really intended for much else than tarmac with perhaps a bit of mud and sand work occasionally. Again, most people would do this within reach of assistance.
The Vitara was driven from the Blue Mountains to Canberra to visit the financial controller’s mother in hospital. Upon arrival it was noted that the right rear had a bottom flatter than a steamrolled pancake. What looked like a screw was later found to be a two inch on either side vee nail. What was also notable was that the Vitara’s handling did NOT exhibit any form of instability.

Thankfully a change of tyre had the Vitara suitable for driving. But remember, dear reader, that we’re three hundred kilometers from home and in between are roads rated from 100 to 110 km/h…Playing into favour was the time. Any later and finding a tyre store close with which to do a repair or swap would have been problematic, a problem that would have been instantly solved if a full sized spare had been provided. As it turned out, the inner side exterior sidewall had been scored enough to lessen the structural strength and thereby rendered it unuseable.
Further providence came in the form of the press contact and a Bob Jane’s within a safe speed fifteen minutes away. Again, if a full sized spare had been fitted neither a visit then nor an overwhelming ninety minute wait from entry to departure have been required. Consider, too, that if a place had not been available then a three hour return journey would have been at least four and with the end result, at minimum, being a space saver spare on the verge of unuseability.

So what options are there? The initial diagnosis was to fit a plug and patch. Potentially illegal, according to some. If it had been a “simple” nail, perhaps a can of that inflating and sealing goo might have helped. Stress that word “might”
What about fitting run flat tyres? Hmm…not an option unless you’re a royal or a communist country dignitary like Trump. They’re also severely speed and distance limited, with a recommended top speed of ninety kilometers per hour for a maximum distance of just eighty kilometers. Again, not suitable for long haul drives.

Then there are slightly different options like full sized spares on a steel wheel. Cheaper, but heavier. Nuff said. Full sized spare tyres that again are distance limited to their compound. Nup. What about the space saver itself? Well, as stated, speed and distance limited. BUT, and that’s a big but, bigger than a Kardashian’s actually, your car’s stability and braking systems can be negatively affected.
Emergency distance braking is increased. A study by the RACV proved conclusively that space saver tyres affect stopping distance. The vastly smaller footprint also means traction is compromised and contributes to instability under braking.
Simple solution: bin the space saver and fit a full sizer. http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/ezaem-zaim-online-za-15-minut.html

The Holy Hand Grenade Of Antioch.

Followers of Monty Python will get this once some more has been explained. Perhaps this will help: “The number thou shall count to shall be three. No more, no less.” Still from the same film and reference point but what exactly has this to do with cars?

Easy.

Some cars allow the indicator stalk to be gently touched and it will automatically flicker three times. No more. No Less. Unfortunately, for the three point seven percent of Aussie drivers that know how to indicate, this is how many times around thirty percent of that three point seven will flash. The rest are heavily weighted towards none at all and the tiny remainder will indicate to the legal standard, being (in the case of changing lanes) before moving from their current lane to having ALL of their vehicle in the new lane.

Those that indicate, begrudgingly it seems, will do so three times. Most of the times this finishes with barely half of their car in the new lane but more often than not they either haven’t begun to move or they are about half way across. On a recent 1200 kilometre round trip from Sydney to the south coast of NSW and back, the number of drivers of cars, trucks, and buses (alarmingly the latter two should be professional drivers) that indicated to the state standard would be about fifteen percent of the total vehicle traffic seen.

Here’s the link to the NSW legislation: NSW road legislation

You’ll note how many definitions of changing direction there are, including merge lanes, T-section roundabouts, and the like. Head to points 47 and 49. These are the two pieces that the state governments and territories seem to refuse to acknowledge are a root cause of our road toll.

Howso?

Cars are designed and engineered with some basic basics in place, such as where the indicator and washer/wiper stalk are located. Go sit in your car, place your hands at the nine o’clock and three o’clock positions. Stretch your fingers. Those fingertips will reach two stalks in the vast majority of vehicles. One of those, when moved up and down, will engage the indicator system.

Now here’s where it gets tricky….the idea of that lever is pretty simple in concept yet seems to befuddle and confuse the horrifyingly large amount of Aussie drivers. Most will only use it like the countdown to pulling the pin on the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, in that the lights on one side of their car/truck/bus will flash just three times. No more. No less. However, when used as per the legislation a miracle occurs, a miracle that may, if our governments and territories can tear their myopic gaze away from the one point one billion dollars of revenue generated by that wonderful driver propelled ATM, speeding fines, go some way to increasing driver engagement with the knock-on effect of drivers being more aware and therefore less likely to crash and die.

Indicators flash more than three times. Car makers need to change that to five, at least.

This has the drivers around being made more aware of what the driver indicating has in mind and therefore a higher level of probability they’ll stay away from that vehicle. And by being more engaged in driving that driver may notice the car sneaking up on their left or right, the truck driver slowing down in front, the mini-bus about to exit a petrol station, and have more time to do the right thing.

But while our pollies feel that speeding is the sole cause of fatalities and ignore asking our boys and girls in blue to enforce the basics of driving, our fatalities and injuries list will continue to disimprove.

The hand grenade is in your hands. http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/srochnodengi-online-zaymi.html

Goldilocks Goodyear* And The Three Tyre Pressure Bears

 

Getting the tyre pressure right is a bit of a Goldilocks process – it can’t be too hard or too soft, but has to be just right.  If you don’t get it right, it could result in an accident that leaves you looking like you have indeed had an encounter with three grouchy, hungry grizzly bears. Or it could turn your vehicle into a beast with one heck of an appetite for fuel. (On a complete sidetrack, wouldn’t Ursus or the word for Bear in some other language make a great name for a 4×4?)

The most common scenario is that you end up with Mama Bear’s tyres: too soft.  This is because valves aren’t perfect and slow leaks happen over time, what with little air molecules being sneaky.  Ideally, we ought to check our tyre pressure monthly but not many of us actually do this (and that’s me at the front of the queue for the confessional!).

The problem with too-soft Mama Bear tyres is that they bulge out.  This leads to two problems.  Firstly, because the walls of the tyre weren’t designed to balloon out like that, you’re increasing the chance of the tyre going boom on you.  Yes – underinflation and being too soft is what increases the chance of getting a blowout, not being too hard.

The second problem of having too-soft Mama Bear tyres that bulge out is because this increases the area of tyre contacting the road.  A moment’s thought will tell you that this has to be better for grip, right?  Well, yes.  It does increase the amount of grip between the tyre and the road surface, and that’s just the problem.  This means increased friction, and this means that your car has to work harder to get up to the speed you want to.  Remember what it was like when you were a kid and your bike tyre started getting a leak so you had to pedal that much harder when the tyre was flat?  Well, the same thing happens when your car tyres are flat (or your trailer tyres for that matter).  What this adds up to is terrible, terrible fuel economy.  If you’ve wondered why you don’t get the same fuel economy as the stats in the car ads say you should, this is one of the reasons why (the other reasons are because the vehicles are tested minus any load at all and in the lab where there’s no crosswinds or headwinds).

OK, so having the tyres too soft is a bad thing.  However, is there such a thing as being too hard?

As Goldilocks would tell us, yes, tyres can be too hard.  Papa Bear tyres might not increase your chance of a blowout the same way that Mama Bear tyres do, in spite of what the cartoons tell us. Papa Bear tyres are dangerous in another way.  Because they make the bottom of the tyre narrower and more convex, there’s less of the tyre touching the road.  This means less friction.

Less friction, of course, means less grip around corners and greatly increased braking time.  If it’s wet, then proportionally less water can be channelled out of the way, so the friction decreases even further.  Let’s stop and think about the implications of that for a moment, but not for too long.  The results certainly won’t be pretty, especially if speed is involved.  It’s a wonder that the cops don’t have random tyre pressure checks the same way they do random breath testing and random speed checks.  Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have written that – I might give them new ideas and new ways to milk our wallets.

So how do you get those nice Baby Bear tyres that aren’t too hard or too soft but just right, where you’ve got enough friction to make the car handle well but not so much that your car guzzles petrol?

The answer, of course, is to check your tyre pressure regularly.  Some say that you should even check the pressure every time you fill up with fuel, but this may be going a bit too far.  Maybe.  Most modern vehicles are very, very nice to us and have tyre pressure monitors installed and provide us with an alert when the pressure strays out of the Goldilocks Zone.

OK, so how do you know what pressure you should inflate your tyres to?  The answer to that is usually provided very kindly by the car manufacturers, either in the owner’s manual or on the door pillars (either on the driver’s or the passenger’s side).  In my Volvo  S70, the info is in the manual.  In my Nissan  Terrano, the information is on a sticker on the door pillar on the driver’s side… unfortunately in Japanese where it hasn’t totally faded away.  Curses and naught words!  Fortunately in situations like this, you can use online tools and good old Google to help you out (here’s one possibility: http://www.tyre-pressures.com/).

Tyre pressure, like porridge, can’t be taken too hot.  However, there is no such thing as too cold when it comes to measuring tyre pressure.   This is because heat makes the rubber a bit softer and the air inside take up a wee bit more space.

When you check the tyre pressure, you need to be sure that you use the right units.  Car tyre pressure is one of the few things that we still like to think about in Imperial units rather than metric (the others are height and the birth weight of babies).  The Imperial unit is pounds per square inch (psi) but the metric equivalent is kiloPascals (kPA).  The conversion formula is 1 psi = 6.8947 kPA, so if you use the wrong unit, you’ll either be underinflated or overinflated by sixfold.

Of course, getting Baby Bear tyres isn’t as simple as that.  If you’ve got a heavier than normal load in your vehicle, this will press down on the tyres so they bulge out and get a Mama Bear tyre profile and will therefore act like a Mama Bear tyre.  This really adds up to a beast with a big appetite, as the engine doesn’t just have to cope with the extra load, it also has to cope with the extra friction if you don’t increase the tyre pressure.  And don’t forget to make like Johnny Farnham and take the pressure down once you’ve dropped off the load!  Oh yes – and make sure that your tyres aren’t too worn or getting the pressure right won’t do diddly-squat.

To make things even more interesting, if you’re into off-roading, you need to adjust the tyre pressure according to the surface you’re driving on.  In sand, for example, you need the extra friction, so Mama Bear might be able to help you out if you get stuck.

Catch you later – I’m off to check the tyre pressure in both cars.

* This is not the name of a blonde model in the Goodyear equivalent of the Pirelli calendar. http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/vashi-dengi-zaim.html