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Safety

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

Are You Sitting Comfortably?

One of the things that I’m sure you’ve noticed in a lot of new cars coming out these days is all the adjustable this and that in the seats, especially the driver’s seat.  You can adjust the seat angle, the seat back and how far the seat is from the steering wheel.  With a lot of seats, you can also throw in lumbar support and (oh glory – one of my favourite bells and whistles) heating and even cooling in the seats.  Then you’ve got the ability to adjust the steering wheel itself.

With the ability to adjust the seat to a position that’s just right, it’s something of an irony that a lot of us don’t really adjust the seat much at all, or not really beyond how far forward or back the seat is, plus the seat angle. And if this is all you do, you could be making a big mistake.

Believe it or not, seating position is actually a safety issue. This is for at least three reasons. Firstly, where and how you are seated affects things like how well you can see the road around you, including the mirrors and what’s over your shoulder (even if you have blind spot warning sensors on your vehicle, you still need to do a head check like your driving instructor told you to, just in case).  Secondly, the position of your legs and feet affects the speed of your reactions if you need to bang on the brake and/or the clutch – and the same applies to your hands and arms working the steering wheel. Thirdly, bad driving position also increases driver fatigue, which is a contributing factor in a lot of crashes.

Given the importance of proper seating position for road safety, you might wonder why cars don’t just come with one configuration. Fortunately, the powers that be haven’t decided that this is the best solution, mostly because even the densest pen-pushing analyst knows that you can’t have just one ideal seating configuration because humans don’t come with the ideal proportions of the Vitruvian Man, crash test dummies, Barbie, etc. etc. I’m thinking of the four drivers in my family. My son is tall and lanky to the extent that he nearly hits his head on the roof of little hatchbacks, but my daughter is petite. My husband is stocky with long arms and has long since traded his six-pack for a grown-up keg, and I’m average height but with a long torso in proportion to my legs. There is no way that a single seat configuration would suit every single member of the family and the mathematical average would end up with all of us sitting in less-than-ideal positions.

So you’re going to have to adjust your seat and make sure that you’re sitting comfortably – and properly.  Unfortunately, for a lot of people, what’s “comfortable” for them is not the best driving position. The worst of these “comfortable” positions are the two extremes: the driver (stereotypically young and male) who has the seat as back from the pedals as possible and the seat tilted back with the steering wheel low, and the driver (stereotypically older and female) who has hunches over a high steering wheel and the seat so far forward that she could just about steer it with her boobs or teeth.  These positions will be hell on your back and neck if you stay in them for a long time, and they don’t make for great road safety.

So what’s the right way to sit in the driver’s seat?

First, get yourself ready.  You want to have your back and front pockets free of house keys, wallets and cell phones (and put that phone somewhere you can’t reach it so you’re not tempted!). You also want to have footwear that plays nicely with the pedals. Footwear at both ends of the formality spectrum are unsuitable for driving, with work boots, flip-flop thongs, stiletto heels and wedge heels all being atrocious.  Even bare feet are better than those.  Flats and low heels that aren’t at the risk of coming off your feet or jamming around the pedals. Wear comfortable clothing, too. Anything that’s too tight, too baggy or itchy will distract you.

Now you can get into the car.  Firstly, let’s get the seat at the right distance from the pedals and the wheel.  Get it where you can rest your heels on the ground ready to operate your pedals and so your knees are slightly bent. Having your knees bent slightly but not too much reduces fatigue (a lot of us sleep with slightly bent knees) and also means that you can use more of your leg muscles if you need to bang on the brake hard and suddenly. Also play around with the seat height and tilt so that your hips are level with your knees.

Now for the seat back.  You want it somewhere so that you can have your elbows bent so that your wrists are straight when you hold the steering wheel correctly.  And the correct way to hold the steering wheel is the way that your driving instructor told you: 10 o’clock and 2 o’clock with your thumbs up as if you were holding wine glasses – or 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock if you want a bit of variation. What you need to avoid is 12 o’clock, or 5 o’clock and 7 o’ clock – and definitely not 6 o’clock!   The seat back should be tilted somewhere so that your shoulders can press against the back – if you have to hunch forwards, your seat is too far back. Now pull the headrest forward so it cushions your head.

Your bum should be pressed all the way back to where the seat back meets the seat of the seat.  You’ll strain your back if your bum is too far forward and there’s a big triangular gap between you and the seat back.  Lumbar support helps but your bum should still be well back.  Use cushions if you have short legs or if your car doesn’t provide you with lumbar support.

Some suggestions you see for ideal seat position go to the bother of telling you the ideal angles for this, that and the other thing. These are all very well in their way but forget that people don’t always have the proper proportions for the proper angles. I know that I don’t and if I have my seat back to the proper 100-degree angle recommended by some, I can’t bend my arms when holding the steering wheel.

Next, adjust the steering wheel.  You should be able to hold it correctly as described above. It should also not be squashed against your thighs or your stomach or any other bits. You should also get the height of the steering wheel to that happy medium where it doesn’t block your view of the windscreen or of the dashboard controls.  If you have to obscure some of the dashboard, make sure that you can see the important bits of the speedo so you can tell if you’re going over the speed limit.

Next, adjust all of your mirrors so you can see the road behind and around you. Never think that you can rely entirely on rear vision cameras and blind spot sensors.  You may also adjust the vents on the climate control system so you get a nice cooling breeze on your face or warm air to toast your chilly toes.

Lastly, put on your seatbelt so that the lap belt is resting on the top of your hip bones (or where they’d be if you could see them) and so the sash runs from shoulder to hip and doesn’t press against your neck when you lean forwards.  This is a bit of a nuisance for female drivers with bigger boobs, as the sash part of the seat belt is continually sliding up to the throat area.  The right bra helps – something that separates the girls so you can get the sash between them rather than a hoist-me-high cleavage enhancer if possible.  (Yes, I’m the wowser who says that it’s best not to drive in tight clothes that enhance your cleavage and stiletto heels – change when you get to the party!)  It’s another story again if you’re pregnant – but that’s worth a whole post of its own.

Now, are you sitting comfortably?  Good – then you can begin. http://credit-n.ru/ipoteka.html

ESP Does Not Mean Your Car Is Psychic… At Least Not Yet

Molecular Thoughts

In the last 10 or so years, ESP has become almost as standard in new cars as seatbelts.  OK, the manufacturers may not call this feature ESP, which stands for Electronic Stability Program(me) (the preferred term for Audi and a few others).  It could also be called Electronic Stability Control (ESC – the original term used by Mercedes Benz and BMW) or some fancy marque-exclusive name like “Advance Trak” (Ford) or Porsche Stability Management (guess which marque uses that one!).  ESC is the most common abbreviation but ESP has a tendency to stick in the mind a bit more, what with the mental images of psychic cars.  Or maybe this only sticks in my mind because I’m weird.

Right, no matter what you call it, ESP or ESC is designed to prevent those hairy situations that happen during understeering or oversteering.  For those of you who aren’t sure what this means, understeering happens when you don’t get enough turn when going out of the corner and fly off the side of the road, like a stone flying out of David’s sling while the sling itself (the road) keeps curving around.  Oversteer is the reverse, when you end up turning more sharply than you ought to and end up on the road on the other side.  This happens through driver error while we’re going through the learning process but it can happen to experienced drivers as well when the road is slippery.

Yaw Pitch RollThis is where ESC or ESP kicks in.  During understeer that isn’t caused by driver inexperience, the front wheels start sliding rather than rolling.  During oversteer, the rear wheels are the ones doing the sliding.  ESP detects that a wheel isn’t spinning all of a sudden when it ought to be but is sliding and skidding.  This is done with yaw control.  Yaw is a lovely old nautical term that’s been used for several centuries to describe how things swing and sway around a centre point, along with its siblings pitch and roll.  You can visualise these easily by holding out your hand flat with the palm down and your thumb and pinkie pointing out so it looks like a plane.  If you wiggle you hand from side to side so the tips of your fingers stay level with your wrist and your thumb and pinkie stay level, that’s yaw.  Flip your hand over so it goes palm up, then back again and you’ve got roll.  Tip your hand up and down like you’re doing a snake-arms wave dance move, and you’ve got pitch.  With me so far?  Well, the yaw detector feels how the car is yawing and matches this to what the steering system is doing.  If there’s a mismatch, the rest of the system kicks in.  It works alongside the traction control, which compares how fast the wheels are turning with how fast the engine is going (a mismatch means slipping (spinning too fast) or skidding (not spinning fast enough)).

espESP always works in tandem with ABS (anti-braking skid) brakes.  This is because the main way to stop a skid is to reduce the speed, which your ESP system may do by overriding what your right foot is doing and controlling the throttle to take the power down, and by braking.  However, as most of us experienced when we were learning to drive, if you slam the brakes on when you’re travelling at speed, you skid.  What we had to do when learning old-school style without any driver aids was to pump the brakes so they didn’t lock up and skid.  ABS brakes, however, spare us all the tap-dancing, as they’re able to pump the brakes much faster than we can, even if we’re part of a Riverdance line.  A really good ESP system will apply the ABS brakes to as many wheels as it needs to (one, two, three or four) to get the speed down and get the “what ought to happen” and the “what is happening” in the yaw and traction departments happening.

ESC has been proven to reduce accidents on wet, slippery or icy roads.  However, like any other driver aid or active safety feature, it’s not a substitute for common sense and driving to the conditions.  No matter how good the ESP package is, it can’t suspend the laws of angular momentum.  It also won’t do anything about understeer or oversteer caused by driver error when an inexperienced driver turns the steering wheel too little, too much, too soon or too late, as these won’t cause the mismatch that triggers the system.  Although it’s called ESP, it can’t actually read your mind as to where you want to go.

At least cars can’t read your mind and work out where you want to go quite yet.  Inventors and other clever-clogs are working on it, however.  In China at the end of last year (2015), some researchers at Nankai University, came up with a brainwave – or, more accurately, a brainwave detector.  This consists of a headset that contains EEG sensors that read the electrical pulses given off by different thoughts, which are then transferred to the steering and braking systems.  According to a press release and a video, the team has managed to rig this up to what looks like a standard Haval H9, and the “driver” can make the car go forward, reverse, stop, lock and unlock.

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-brainpower-car-idUSKBN0TQ23620151207#FyqvAPiGuj8bgRDV.97

The mind boggles at how this could be combined with Google’s Driverless Car concepts.  But hopefully, the mind won’t boggle too much or goodness knows what might happen. http://credit-n.ru/trips.html

Real Life Bond Cars?

bondcarOne of the neat features that you can expect in any good James Bond movie is a great set of wheels.  It just wouldn’t be James Bond without the Bond car.  In fact, it wouldn’t be Ian Fleming without the car, given that Ian Fleming also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

However, cars tricked out with tons of neat features aren’t just from the movies.  We don’t yet have cars that can get invisibility cloaks or ejector seats but it is possible to get cars that might look normal on the top but are otherwise underneath.  Cars that are just a bit… well, I’m afraid that “badass” is about the only word, little as I like it (and even though the quality of being badass is nothing to do with substandard bottoms or donkeys).

Armoured cars or “personal protection vehicles” are more common than you might think.  Plenty of Hollywood superstars have them – they say that Kanye West has one that has electrified door handles to zap overly invasive paparazzi.  However, in the Middle East and Venezeula, you’ve got a combination of a bunch of super-rich folk and an unscrupulous underclass plus volatile politics and you’ve got a situation where kidnapping for ransom is likely.  And it’s not just something that happens in dodgy countries – it happens in the USA as well.  Heck, it could happen here some time.  For the oil sheiks and similar, a personal protection vehicle is a good investment.  It’s a good investment to the point that there’s even a company based in Texas (where else?) that specialises in customising vehicles so they have what it takes.

However, many of these badass personal protection vehicles aren’t the cool Aston Martins and Lotuses (Loti?) that you’d see James Bond drive.  Apparently, the cars that get done up most often are Toyota Land Cruisers and Lexus LX 570s.  In the case of the Lankies, it’s probably because they’ve got the off-roading capacity to go gnarly places in their day-to-day lives as well as taking evasive manoeuvres if needed.

The Texas Armouring Corporation (check them out at http://www.texasarmoring.com/) takes its job seriously.  Their job involves keeping the cars in question nice and luxurious while being as tough as nails – now, that sounds Bondish enough for me.  They also have to keep the handling of the car top-notch, although a bit of handling and performance will be sacrificed, as all that armour will add a bit of weight.  The job usually involves a total strip-down before the Kevlar, ballistic grade steel and other cool materials get added in.  Then comes the bulletproof glass, the run-flat tyres, the improved suspension and braking (to deal with the extra weight) and other extras before the interior is re-installed.  Some of the badass Bond-type gadgets that can be added include the electric-shock doorhandles, road tack dispensers, smokescreens and night vision.

The end result is a vehicle that might look like a regular luxury sedan but can withstand fire from an AK-47.  Here’s one of Texas Armouring Corporation’s videos showing a Mercedes-Benz being shot up in a promo video:

Of course, given the unfortunate frequency of terrorist attacks, one vehicle company now makes production vehicles that can withstand AK-47 fire.  BMW has come up with the BMW X5 Security that comes straight from the factory floor with one of three spec levels of armouring.  It looks like a regular X5 with BMW’s X-drive and all the other luxury features but it’s also got armouring, bullet proof glass, fireproofing and emergency fresh air.

The BMW X5 Security isn’t available for regular sale in Australia yet, although there are a few knocking around in the hands of the Federal Police.  Some of BMW’s other luxury armoured vehicles (based on the 7-series) were bought by the government for the top brass during the G20 conference.  The rest of us oiks have to stick with the ordinary – if you can call it that – X5 and 7-series.  However, us ordinary oiks probably don’t have to worry about kidnapping threats, so that’s OK.

Safe and happy driving, even without armour,

Megan http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/4slovo-bystrye-zaymi-online.html