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Safety

Get More Life Out Of Your Tyres

We’re all facing rising costs for this, that and the other thing, and tyres aren’t cheap.  I think that the car wears more expensive “shoes” than I do.  You should never, ever skimp on tyres and get about on rubber with a barely legal tread depth.  However, nobody wants to spend more than they have to, so how can you extend the life of your tyres so you get the most out of them and they last as long as possible?

Rotate your tyres regularly.  This means every 10,000–13,000 or thereabouts.  How do you rotate your tyres?  This depends on your drivetrain, and whether or not you use directional tyres (i.e., left-hand and right-hand tyres).  The instructions sound like dance steps but they’re a lot easier.  If you get easily muddled, then mark your tyres with chalk before you start (e.g., FL for front left, etc.).

  • For a front wheel drive vehicle, the front tyres go to the back on the same side.  Then the back tyres go to the front and the opposite side (i.e., they swap diagonally).
  • For a rear wheel drive vehicle, the rear tyres go to the front on the same side.  Then the front tyres go to the back on the opposite side (i.e., a diagonal swap).
  • For a 4×4, front left swaps places with rear right, and front right swaps with rear left (everything swaps diagonally)
  • With directional tyres, the left-hand tyres swap places with each other.  The same happens on the right.

Get your wheels aligned if you notice problems.  The problem usually shows up in two main ways.  The first is if you spot irregular wear on your tyres.  You’ll only spot this if you check your tyres regularly, which is something we should all do.  The other way that poor alignment shows up is if your car pulls to one side.  To test this, find a nice straight bit of road that’s fairly empty, position yourself in the middle of your lane and let go of the steering wheel (you may want to disable any driver aids such as lane keeping assistance).  If your car pulls to one side, rather like my dog catching a sniff of a dropped fast food wrapper on the side of the road, then your alignment is out of whack and needs tweaking.

Use the right tyre pressure. The right pressure will depend on the individual tyre, your type of vehicle, whether or not you’re towing and even the temperature.  Get to know what your car needs – you’ll probably find this in the driver’s handbook that came with your car, probably in the glovebox – and check it on a regular basis.  Maybe not every time you stop to top up, but more often than you get the oil changed.

Don’t drive aggressively.  OK, when you were in your late teens or early twenties, it might have seemed super cool to rev off and screech to a halt in a way that left black marks on the road, but you know what those black marks are made of, don’t you?  That’s bits of your tyres left on the surface of the road, meaning that your tyre won’t have lasted as long as it would have.  Enjoy your driving by all means, but grow up a bit and don’t be so forceful in how you start and stop.  It’s easier on your car as a whole and also helps with your fuel bill (something we can all do a bit more of these days).

If stuck, don’t keep spinning.  We’ve all been there now and again, especially if you like a bit of off-road driving.  You get a wheel into somewhere it loses traction and it starts spinning.  If you’re like most people, you’ll put your foot down and spin it some more just in case it grabs and moves this time. Unfortunately, slipping is slipping, and the only things you’ll do are (a) wear your tyres down a bit more than you would have and (b) dig yourself in deeper.  Instead, get out, have a look at how you’re stuck and see what you can do.

If your car is parked up for a long time, or if you have a set of tyres in storage, keep them at the right temperature (i.e., not too hot) and out of the direct sunlight, as UV breaks down the rubber compounds in the tyres, leading to what is known as dry rot.

Don’t carry too much in your car.  The more weight your tyres have to support, the quicker they’ll wear out.  Although we all need to take big loads now and then, the less you can cart about on a regular basis, the better it will be for your tyres and for your fuel bill (these two often go together).  For those of you who drive BEVs, don’t get too smug about the fuel bill thing – reducing the weight you cart about will also get you more range from a single change.  It’s simple physics, folks!

Avoid the rough stuff.  In some cases, you can’t avoid rough roads simply because of where you live.  However, if you can avoid potholes, ruts, etc., this will help your tyres last longer.  It would be nice if there were fewer of these potholes, etc. but that’s another story.  At best, the rough stuff can wear at your tyres more; at worst, going into a pothole can slash the side of your tyre (ask me how I know this…).

However, even if you do all these things, the Second Law of Thermodynamics decrees that your tyres will eventually wear out and need replacing.  When that time comes, as stated above, don’t skimp or try driving on worn tyres.  It’s just not worth it.

Throwing Some Light On The Subject Of Lights

Once upon a time, cars were fitted with carbide lights, practically identical to the sort old-school miners wore on their helmets.  These had to be lit with a match, a cigarette lighter or, if you were lucky, a built in flint and steel striking mechanism.  They weren’t in the business long, as electric lights were put on cars in around 1912 or so.  We’ve certainly come a long way since then and we’ve got more than a pair of carbide lanterns.  If you’ve thought about adding some aftermarket tweaks to your vehicle, lights are some of the first things that we can try adjusting or adding.  However, it pays to know what you’re talking about, so let’s look at what’s what.

Headlights

These are your bread and butter basics.  They are there to stop you running into things at night and see where the road goes.  They probably don’t need any introduction, but we’ll touch on them briefly.  They are at the front and they’re white.  The idea is that they illuminate as far as possible when on full beam and are dipped when another vehicle comes the other way.  We know how they work.  However, please remember the following: (1) you turn them on when there’s not enough light to see a person in dark clothing 100 m away, i.e., when the sun is below the horizon; (2) don’t play Headlight Chicken where you see who dips first.

Auxiliary Lights

Auxiliary lights are the ones that aren’t the bog-standard headlights, indicators and taillights.  Not all cars have them when they roll off the factory floor, but many of them can be fitted as after-market mods.  They’re particularly popular on off-roading vehicles, and for good reason.  If you’re going out into the middle of nowhere, you really need to see all the rocks, holes and wandering animals, so more lights are needed (doubly so if you go spotlighting for rabbits).

Let’s have a look at the different sorts and what they’re for.

Fog Lights

Fog lights are for moments when something’s blurring visibility rather than for when it’s dark.  Fog lights tend to keep the beam of light low so that it lights up the road but doesn’t hit the fog or dust and make the problem worse.  If the light hits the dust or fog, then it will be scattered and make visibility worse.

Fog lights can be either amber or white.  They have to turn off and on separately from the headlights.  You’re not supposed to use them at night time as auxiliary lights, and you’re not supposed to use them at all unless the conditions warrant it.  

Daytime Running Lights

Daytime running lights, commonly abbreviated DRLs, are lights fitted to the front of a vehicle that aren’t there so the driver can see but so that they can be seen. They’re supposed to be wired so that they go off when the headlights go on (unless you’re flashing your headlights temporarily to alert another driver about something, like the fact that their boot is open). 

In some places, DRLs are required by law on all new vehicles.  I’m not sure whether I agree with this or not. Certainly, out on the open road on an overcast day, DRLs have alerted me to a grey car on a grey road under a grey sky that would otherwise be hard to pick. However, around town, when every vehicle has DRLs and everything around them seems to have lights or at least be reflective, DRLs fall victim to the “if everyone’s special, then nobody’s special” syndrome and they don’t act as a warning of the presence of another vehicle more than the big metal box on wheels they’re mounted on.

Additional Driving Lights

Additional driving lights are like your headlights but they’re in addition to your headlights.  Instead of having two headlights (or, in quite a few cases, four), you can have four (or six).  Because they’re not as sophisticated as your main headlights, they only come on when the headlights are on high beam and should go off when you dip the headlights.  This is for the simple reason that these auxiliary lights can’t dip, so if they stayed on, they’d dazzle the oncoming driver.  They are sometimes called spotlights or spots. 

The exact laws about where you can install additional driving lights vary slightly from state to state and they seem to be updated all the time. The general idea is that you are supposed to install them symmetrically about the centre of the vehicle’s bumper and that you can’t put them somewhere that could be dangerous, either because they protrude like horns or because they block the driver’s vision or dazzle the driver.  In general, if you put lights on the front of your 4×4 so that they are surrounded by the bull bars rather than sticking out from them in front or on the side, you’re all good. 

Light bars are a subcategory of additional driving light. Light bars are made up of a strip of LED lights, all acting in tandem.  Legally, they are considered to be one light if they all turn on and off at the same time; if different bits turn on and off at different times, each bit of the light bar is considered to be a separate light.  As lights must be mounted symmetrically around the front of the car, you can have a single light bar in the front and centre of your vehicle.

The ultimate in auxiliary lights or spotlights is the roof-mounted rack of lights that you’ll see on some 4x4s and are popular with hunters going out after dark.  These are not legal in all states of Australia under all circumstances, with some states allowing them for use by hunting or when the vehicle is stationary or when the vehicle is off-road.  These rules also seem to be updated every time you turn around, so check what applies to you before going to the effort and expense of buying or fitting them.

Puddle lights

The sole purpose of a puddle light is to cast a patch of light on the ground beside the door – very useful if you don’t want to put your best shoes into a puddle or a pile of dog poo. Some of the cars that have them as standard have a clever design so as well as throwing a patch of light onto the ground, it can also throw down a logo as a shadow – or even a patch of light thanks to LED tech. Aftermarket puddle lights are also out there, some of which have some quite quirky styles.

Is Enough Being Done on Driver Education?

We’ve been wondering for a while now, with driver technology vastly better than it has ever been, but road fatalities going in the wrong direction, is enough being done on driver education? Of course, who you ask may afford you a different answer because driver education programs in themselves have become a point of differing views among policymakers, educators, and concerned citizens alike.

What is Driver Education?

Driver education seeks to equip aspiring motorists with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary for safe and responsible driving. More traditional programs typically focus on a mix of classroom instruction with practical on-road training, but also delve into education as far as traffic laws, hazard awareness, vehicle mechanics, and defensive driving techniques.

The Criticisms of Driver Education

Although few, if anyone would take issue with the intended outcomes of such programs, there is a viewpoint that takes exception with driver education programs.

For starters, such criticism often focuses on the fact that accidents involving young drivers, who are the primary recipients of driver education, remain greater than other age groups.

What’s more, the correlation between driver education courses and reduced accident rates is one that isn’t exactly overwhelming. And some would even go as far as to say other factors relating to the individual or third parties probably accounts for any discrepancy.

The Issue with Such a Data-Driven Focus

By the numbers, it might be hard to find conclusive data supporting the efficacy of driver education programs. But this should not be the only metric for analysis. After all, there is little doubt that the intended outcomes of such programs are to foster a culture of responsible driving and increased awareness and decision making skills on the road.

In addition, driver education provides a foundation for lifelong learning courtesy of the base understanding it provides with regards to traffic laws, road signs, and safe driving practices. Drivers are brought up through a culture that instills a sense of responsibility, which lasts beyond the duration of the time they are completing a driver education program.

At a societal level, driver education also serves as a conduit for social change, fostering a collective commitment to road safety within communities. Road users are more collaborative as far as their understanding in how they share the road with one another, in a way that you might say reflects mutual consideration and risk reduction.

We must not also forget that driver education can provide the best-case virtual reality scenario of dangerous scenarios in a controlled environment. These sort of demonstrations are the only real practice one can get for preparing to real-world dangers, and in the real world, no one would want to enter such situations without knowing how to respond.

The Key Takeaway

The efficacy of driver education should not be measured solely by accident statistics. Ultimately, the value of such programs also rests in its ability to serve as a catalyst for positive change.

By equipping individuals with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for safe and responsible driving, these programs lay the groundwork for a future where road users can display respect for one another in a way that reduces risks to all.

In this sense, the question should not be whether driver education works, but rather how we can enhance and expand its reach.

What are 5 Easy Aftermarket Safety Upgrades for Your Car?

Upgrading your car’s safety features doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a plethora of aftermarket options available, it is now easier than ever to enhance the safety of your current set of wheels.

These upgrades not only provide peace of mind, but also contribute to a safer driving experience for you and your passengers. Here’s a detailed look at some easy aftermarket safety upgrades for your car:

Upgraded Headlights

Visibility is crucial for safe driving, especially during low-light conditions or bad weather. Upgrading your headlights to brighter, more efficient LED or HID bulbs can significantly improve visibility. These aftermarket headlights produce a clearer and wider beam pattern, illuminating the road ahead more effectively.

Moreover, some upgraded headlights come with features like adaptive lighting, which adjusts the beam pattern based on the vehicle’s speed and steering angle, further enhancing safety.

Blind Spot Mirrors

Blind spots can pose a significant hazard, especially when changing lanes or merging into traffic. Installing aftermarket blind spot mirrors is a simple and cost-effective solution to mitigate this risk.

These small convex mirrors are attached to the side mirrors and provide a wider field of view, minimising blind spots. They help drivers detect vehicles approaching from adjacent lanes, which in turn reduces the likelihood of accidents caused by unnoticed vehicles in blind spots.

Reversing Cameras

Parking and reversing is tricky for many drivers, particularly in crowded or tight spaces where visibility is limited. Adding a reversing camera to your vehicle enhances rear visibility, making parking and reversing safer and more manageable.

Aftermarket reverse camera systems typically consist of a camera mounted on the rear of the vehicle and a display screen installed on the dashboard or rearview mirror. Some advanced systems even include features like dynamic guidelines that assist drivers to guide the vehicle with greater accuracy.

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System

Maintaining proper tyre pressure is essential for vehicle safety, as underinflated tyres can lead to decreased traction, increased braking distances, and higher risk of blowouts. Aftermarket systems continuously monitor tyre pressure and alert drivers to any significant deviations from the recommended levels.

These systems typically consist of pressure sensors installed inside each tyre, which transmit data to a display unit in the cabin. By promptly notifying drivers of low tyre pressure, aftermarket tyre pressure monitoring systems help prevent potential accidents and improve overall vehicle safety.

Dash Cam

A dash cam serves as a reliable eyewitness in case of accidents or disputes on the road. It continuously records video footage of the road ahead and can provide invaluable evidence in insurance claims or legal proceedings. Additionally, dash cams can promote safe driving behaviour by encouraging motorists to adhere to traffic laws and drive defensively.

When choosing an aftermarket dash cam, look for features such as high-definition recording, wide-angle lens, loop recording, and built-in GPS for accurate location tracking. Installing a dash cam is relatively easy, requiring only a secure mounting position and connection to a power source.

These five aftermarket safety upgrades offer simple yet effective ways to enhance the safety of your vehicle. Whether it’s improving visibility, reducing blind spots, or monitoring vital parameters like tire pressure, investing in these upgrades can contribute to a safer driving experience.