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Red Planet Rover: Perseverance Pays Off.

Late evening Sydney time, July 30. An Atlas V rocket lifts off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, on Florida’s south eastern tip. At 191 feet in height, it’s barely half as tall as the mighty Saturn Vs that lifted off from the same area in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It’s also just a few feet taller overall than the full space shuttle assembly.What makes this launch important is the cargo. Perseverance, a new Mars rover and named by Alex Mather, a now 13yo schoolboy from Virginia after NASA had a naming contest, is the reason for the launch and is expected to land on Mars in February, 2021. It’s the newest and better version of the two valiant rovers already on Mars, Spirit and Opportunity. Both landed on Mars in January of 2004, and far exceeded their design specifications.
NASA learned many things from the efforts of the pair, and this includes for Perseverance a better power source, more cameras, and for the mission, a dedicated suite of investigative tools. the aim? To look for signs of any lifeforms, existing or previous, in the landing site on Mars. Jezero Crater is the chosen point, and for the possibility of life due to the postulation water once flowed there. A fan-shaped delta indicates water flow and the clay material is why NASA has chosen that site, with the thinking the clay may have signs of microbial life.

Perseverance itself is a bit of a beast. At roughly the same size as a micro-car, the rover is bristling with tools that will dig, drill, photograph, and listen for the first time ever, to Mars. A pair of microphones have been fitted to Perseverance, along with Mastcam-Z, a stereo-imaging zoomable panoramic camera system. Rimfax (Radar imaging for Mars sub-surface experiment) is a sub-surface (up to 10 metres) radar scanner that along with Perseverance’s autonomous driving programming, will measure the ground under the six driven wheels and hopefully avoid the sandtrap that stopped Spirit in her tracks. A boom arm of 2.1 metres in length and hinged in five places will hold the mechanisms to drill into the surface. In a first, samples will be stored and eventually launched from the Mars surface and rendezvous with a craft and return the samples to Earth. This is expected to be accomplished in a decade’s time.

Sherloc (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) and Watson are the pair of cameras up front, and they’ll work together to provide spectrometry in the ultra-violet spectrum. Supercam is a laser powered micro-imagining device, and perseverance can keep an eye on the weather thanks to an inbuilt weather station called Meda (Mars environmental dynamics analyser) which will measure temperature, wind speed and direction, pressure, relative humidity, radiation, and dust particle size and shape. And in an exciting experiment, Moxie (Mars oxygen ISRU experiment) will use the thin Martian atmosphere as a source to see if oxygen can be produced.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the Perseverance design is how NASA has fitted Ingenuity. This is a drone ‘copter, and will fly above Perseverance to map out a way forward, plus it will be the first aircraft to fly upon a world other than our own Earth. The blades are a two by two configuration, and are constructed of a carbon-fibre foam core mix. The landing legs are carbon-fibre, and the blades circulate under a solar panel that will both drive the blades and provide power to the senors & cameras underneath.Perseverance herself is a re-evolution of Spirit and Opportunity. The wheels have been increased from 50cm to 52cm for a greater rolling diameter. The design and the construction of the wheels has changed to allow for more durability with aluminuim and titanium being employed. Extra equipment sees Perseverance up to 1,050kg in mass over a predecessor, Curiosity. She weighed in at 899kg.

Power comes from a plutonium dioxide pack weighing 4.8kg and producing 110 watts. A pair of lithium-ion batteries will supplement this on demand. Dubbed the MMRTG, the multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generator replaces the solar panels that are susceptible to dust coverings and subsequent power loss. It’s not cheap to build, at over US$109 million…The expected lifespan is 14 years.Perseverance is due to land on Barsoom, a name given to Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs in one of his early 1900s novels, on February 18, 2021. The landing process is fully autonomous and NASA describes it as “seven minutes of hell” as the lander goes from 21,000kmh to virtually zero to land, safely, on Mars.

What Can A Motorist Do During Lockdown?

Although the restrictions aren’t in place all across the country, the state of Victoria is having to cope with lockdown. We sympathise, we really do. It’s not easy and we wish you all the best.

The lockdown rules mean that you’ve only got four reasons for being in a vehicle on the roads: “to shop for food and essential goods or services; to provide care, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment; to exercise or for outdoor recreation; for work or study, if you can’t do it from home” – and that’s a direct quote from the website. You are also advised to “not travel further than you need to”. This means that you probably won’t have much luck convincing the Powers That Be that driving counts as “outdoor recreation”. Of course, if you’re an essential worker, you can keep on working and driving to work (actually, that’s one of the four reasons). Enjoy the clear roads and drive safely, even if you’re exhausted.

So what can a keen motorist do during lockdown to keep that part of their psyche satisfied? The most obvious answer is to spend time during lockdown playing motor racing games on whatever device you fancy. This is all very well and there are some great ones out there that help you fulfil your racing driver or speed freak fantasies. However, one has to remember that (a) don’t get too used to driving that way, as you can’t walk away from a car that crashes by flipping end over end in real life and (b) there is only so long that you ought to spend hogging the X-box or PC console.

There are other things that are (mostly) more productive to keep you occupied. Here are a few suggestions that you can try:

  • Take the time to deep clean the car you own. You know that you need to keep it clean and to get all those stray chips out from under the seat. Now’s your chance. Give your car a bit of TLC and really see it gleaming. While you’re at it, do all those little maintenance jobs on your car that you’ve always meant to get around to.
  • If you don’t know how to do basic maintenance jobs on your car, this is your chance to learn how. If there isn’t anybody at home with you who knows how to do all those little jobs like checking and topping up the oil, rotating the tyres, or whatever needs to be done, then the internet has a lot of useful videos. Watch a few to get an idea of what’s needed, then have a go. If you do know how to do these maintenance jobs and you have kids at home, teach them how to do the basic things. Even if you don’t have anything that needs doing right now, show them how to change a tyre. It’s a life skill that everybody needs to use at some point, in contrast to quadratic equations, which only get used by a few people (including motor engineers).
  • Spend time browsing and learning about all the great new models and makes out there. Who knows, when all this is over, you might decide it’s time to get a new set of wheels. Our car reviews may be a great place to start.
  • Order a model car online and make it up.
  • Read a good e-book or listen to an audiobook on any motoring-related topic.
  • Play with the toy cars with the kids – and teach them about road rules while you’re at it. Sound effects are encouraged.
  • Use those motoring magazines you’ve got stashed away as inspiration and try your hand at drawing.

Iconic Screen Cars That Aren’t 007’s Aston Martin

If you mention iconic screen cars or movie cars, it won’t be long until the Aston Martins driven by the various incarnations of 007 are mentioned. After all, the long-running Bond series or franchise is practically synonymous with the Aston, and there’s debate about which of the Bond cars was the coolest (with a few honourable mentions going to the aquatic Lotus in The Spy Who Loved Me). However, what about all the other movies (and TV series) that have seriously cool sets of wheels? What are some of the other iconic drives, whether they feature in motoring movies or not, that aren’t associated with Bond, James Bond?

Here’s my pick of instantly recognizable cars from the screen, big and little…

Mini Cooper

It carries out the famous chase scene in The Italian Job, it’s Mr Bean’s drive of choice on the small screen and the big screen, it turns up in one of the Bourne movies, and a fleet of them act as the ghosts chasing a giant Pac-Man in Pixels. With the ability to star in thrillers as well as comedy, this makes the beloved Mini a pretty versatile actor.

VW Beetle

OK, how many cars get to star in a movie all of their very own? Or, for that matter, six movies, spanning from the late 1960s through to 2005? And their own TV series? Yes, we’re talking about Herbie the Love Bug, that absolute classic Volkswagen.

DeLorean DMC-12

We may have passed 2015 but the Back To The Future is still a fun watch. If it wasn’t for this movie using the futuristic-looking metallic DeLorean as a time machine, the DeLorean would have been as forgotten as the Geely Rural Nanny but without even the silly name.

Ford Camaro

If you talk to a non-petrolhead about a Ford Camaro, they’re likely to look at you blankly. If you mention the Transformers Bumblebee car, they’ll instantly know what you’re talking about. Bumblebee is so recognizable that it seems unthinkable to have a Ford Camaro that isn’t yellow.

Dodge Charger

If it didn’t feature a Dodge Charger going over a jump, then it wasn’t really a Dukes of Hazzard episode. It’s gathered some controversy about that Confederate flag painted on the roof (let’s face it: a good chunk of us Down Under didn’t realise was the Confederate flag from the US Civil War but just thought of as “The General Lee’s Logo”; we didn’t know who the original General Lee was either). Even if it’s just plain 1970s orange, it’s still instantly recognizable, almost as much as Daisy’s cutoff denim shorts.  Oh yes – it also took centre stage in the first of the Fast and Furious movies (what number are we up to now?).

Pontiac Firebird Trans Am

Another beauty from the 1970s, commonly known as KITT and as much a star of Knight Rider as Michael Knight. It’s not for nothing that a few people of a certain age have opted to have the navigation system of their vehicles talk with this voice. Pontiac really ought to make a limited edition version using modern tech that was just a fantasy in the original series… but not the turbo thruster that practically made the Firebird do suspension-wrecking jumps. A Trans Am also featured in Smokey and the Bandit.

Ford Anglia

This is another vehicle that would have been forgotten by all except a few classic car enthusiasts but was re-introduced to a new generation by the Harry Potter books and films. For you muggles who haven’t read or seen them, the 1962 Ford Anglia belonging to Arthur Weasley was enchanted to fly, turns feral after crashing, then saves Ron and Harry from a tight spot involving giant spiders. People of a certain age are likely to turn to look twice at all light greeny-blue cars of this era just in case it’s a Harry Potter Anglia.

Classic Car Movies: The Car Is The Hero.

There are some topics in life which are more divisive than pineapple on pizzas. Star Wars versus Star Trek, Holden versus Ford, Connery versus Moore. Best car films in any discussion fall into the divisive category.

What makes for a good car film, though? Is it the car or cars that are why the movie is regarded as a classic ? The story line? The set pieces? Trying to pin down a definitive list is impossible, so we thought we’d shop around and get an idea of what people thought. One film that was a clear favourite is a home grown production.

Starring a young up and coming actor named Mel Gibson, it’s a movie that brings in just about everything a good car film needs. Action, pathos, a chase scene or three, “The Goose”, and of course that incredible XB Falcon. “Mad Max” is a film that simply can’t be overlooked.Steven Spielberg is best known for a few films starring Harrison Ford and a mind-blowing sci-fi film or two. However, an early part of his career involved a story that is about is simple as it comes. With minimal dialogue it relied on Spielberg’s ability to heighten tension with a simple camera move. Starring Dennis Weaver and based upon a book written by a car driver that had a similar experience with a mad truck driver, “Duel” remains one of the most gripping films of its kind nearly fifty years on.It’s almost impossible to write a list of car films without including this entry. The stars of the film were three little machines designed by Alec Issigonis. The story line, again, was simple. Money, in the form of gold bullion, a few gags, some brilliant scenery and an amazing chase sequence, toss in the broad Cockney accent of Michael Caine, and you have “The Italian Job”. This one celebrates fifty years or delighting audiences.It was agonizing to toss out some of the films that could have made the cut. There is the original “The Fast and The Furious” from 1955, and the remake & subsequent series of films. There was Jason Statham’s “The Transporter”, and the sublime recreation of the relationship between James Hunt and Niki Lauda in “Rush”.

But number 4 goes to a Steve McQueen favourite. Based on real life events, and featuring film from one of the races itself, “Le Mans” takes our fourth grid spot. Packed with macho appeal, and the sense of unburnt “gasoline” hovering around the screen, Le Mans was notable for the bravery of the cameramen hanging on to the cars and heavy cameras of the time.Number five features a product of Ford. It also happens to feature McQueen. It’s a film that has an unbroken street based chase scene of nearly ten minutes. Two cars were used, powered by a 325hp 390ci V8 powering down through a four speed manual. The film is, of course, “Bullitt”.  The car? A 1968 Ford Mustang 390 GT 2+2 Fastback. We know there are plenty of truly classic films that are built around and feature cars as the real heroes of the films. Let us know your thoughts. http://credit-n.ru/avtokredit.html

Flying At Ground Level.

A certain British car show once had a story about a car powered by an engine sourced from a WW2 fighter plane. It was a spectacle to behold with flames, sparks, and smoke being emitted as it was piloted around the show’s test track.

British based John Crowhurst is one member of a very select group that has similar thoughts to the builder of that car. John, formerly based in South Africa, has found an engine that comes from the same basic aeronautic background, however it’s a British engine, not German.

During WW2 the Merlin engine powered planes such as the iconic Spitfire. Rolls-Royce sourced parts from engines that had been in crashed aircraft with the hope of being able to use them for something else during the war. A home was found for the project by using these parts as the basis for an engine that was called Meteor.
The Meteor engine was built for and used in tanks and was used until 1964. One of these has been repurposed to be the powerplant for a handbuilt car that John, sadly, can’t legally drive on UK roads.

It’s a V12 configuration, something that fans of Jaguar or Aston Martin can appreciate. But it’s the capacity that gives pause for thoughts. Consider for a moment that a Holden 5.0L engine was 308 cubic inches. John’s beast is 27.022 litres or a whopping 1648ci!
Naturally something this big needs a good (great?) cooling system and John has fitted a set of tanks that have a total of 70 litres worth of fluid capacity. This is where the Australian based Davies, Craig have joined the party. Two of the biggest electronic water pumps that Davies, Craig have, the EWP150, were sent to John and have been fitted, one at the rear and one at the front end for the radiator.

The car itself is built on a ladder chassis with tubular components forming the upper body structure. It’s strong but flexible enough to deal with the 631 horsepower and 1449 lb-ft (470 kW and 1964 Nm).

John’s naturally quite happy with this laments that, in his extensive sponsor list, he doesn’t have a fuel supplier. Why? At around 100 km/h or 60 mph it uses a litre of fuel every mile.
At least it won’t overheat thanks to the two Davies, Craig EWP150s! http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/sms-finance-express-zaimy-na-kartu.html

Private Fleet Car(?) Review: Santa’s Sleigh

At this time of the year, one particular vehicle is commented on, illustrated and watched for (on Google’s Santa Tracker, for example). It has come to my attention that we haven’t reviewed this vehicle yet for Private Fleet.  Unfortunately, it won’t be available through our car reviews page, as it’s an extremely limited edition vehicle and pricing information isn’t available. Nevertheless, because this is the Christmas edition of the Private Fleet blog, let us now present you with the official Private Fleet review of Santa’s Sleigh.

Make and Model: Santa Sleigh, Yuletide Saturnalia variant.

Years manufactured: First reviewed in 1821, then modified in 1823 by Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Updated in 1939 to include Rudolph. Prior to this, Santa’s transportation of choice has included a white horse (possibly eight-legged). The sleigh concept was apparently imported from Finland – obviously some winter rally driving expertise went into the development of this vehicle.

Top speed: According to an article originally published in Spy magazine that worked out the physics of Santa’s Sleigh, the top speed required by Santa’s Sleigh is 650 miles per second, which is about 3000 times the speed of sound. As the sleigh operates silently without sonic booms, we suspect that the sleigh makes use of hyperspace and multiple dimensions to cover the necessary distance.

It is not known if any other vehicle can match this speed, although it was once given some stiff competition by Six White Boomers (snow white boomers) who raced Santa Claus through the blazing sun on his Australian run. It is thought that these may be used as his hot weather equivalent for Outback use.

Engine: The very best in German engineering, the Dasher-Dancer-Prancer-Vixen-Comet-Cupid-Donner-Blitzen-Rudolph unit is laid out in a V configuration.  The actual power output of this unit is uncertain, as the power equation requires us to know the weight, which is unknown and also is linked to gravitational force acting on mass, and the sleigh may have anitgravity features. The power requirements of interdimensional or hyperspace physics are also uncertain. Torque is not applicable, as this refers to rotational acceleration; as a sleigh uses runners rather than wheels, the acceleration – which is considerable – is linear rather than rotational.  The 0–100 km/h time is phenomenal and is probably measured in nanoseconds.

Fuel type:  Runs exclusively on biofuels, mostly carrots, with refuelling stations provided along with milk and cookies (or mince pies and sherry, depending on the household) down many chimneys.  Emissions are also environmentally friendly and while they contain some greenhouse gases in the form of methane, the majority can be used for compost or can be broken down by algae for biodiesel (as invented by Rudolf Diesel – a relative of the other Rudolph?). We presume that the compost is used to grow carrots, possibly enhanced by fairy dust and magic.

Seating: One main seat is provided for a driver, although smaller passenger seats may be installed for elf assistants.  A pinhead may also be provided for angels to dance on, as angelic beings are multidimensional and multiple entities are thus able to occupy the same unit of space-time (so that’s how the interdimensional capacity of the sleigh is worked!).

Lights: Bioluminescence provides the main lighting system.  Fairy dust and candles may also provide auxiliary lighting. The most notable feature of the lighting system is the Rudolph front fog light, a nose so bright and you could even say it glows. The Rudolph feature is illegal in most countries, which do not allow red lights on the front of vehicles.  We can therefore assume that the North Polar road regulations are different from those of the rest of the world; the importance of red in the total ensemble also suggests this.

Off Road Ability: The off-road ability of Santa’s sleigh is second to none.  Not only are sleighs and reindeer superbly suited to winter driving conditions without the need for snow chains, Santa’s Sleigh can go further off the road the most vehicles.  According to the original reviewer, Clement, “when they meet with an obstacle, [they] mount to the sky”.  Flight capacity is an essential feature of this vehicle, so ground clearance is, theoretically, infinite.

Cargo Capacity: The cargo capacity that is usually depicted as being located to the rear of the sleigh and is styled to resemble a sack probably also makes use of hyperspaces and interdimensionality.  According to the Spy magazine review, Santa delivers to 378 million children (this figure doesn’t include Buddhist, Hindu or Muslim children, who have their own traditions and figures).  Quick experimentation with a sturdy hiking sock and a couple of small beer bottles reveals that the typical stocking contains approximately 1 litre, giving the sleigh a cargo capacity of at least 378 million litres.

Safety Features: The braking system allows the sleigh to go to a complete standstill from Mach 3000 almost instantaneously.  As the sleigh appears to use multiple dimensions and appears to be weightless, it is possible that an antigravity function is at work and the braking ability is achieved by suddenly switching this off so the force of gravity can slow the sleigh to a standstill.  It is no wonder that the driver comes with side and front airbags installed.

Sound System:  Similar to other wintertime forms of transportation involving animals with a bouncing gait, music is provided by small bells attached to the harness: jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.

Driver Assistance: Some navigation appears to be provided by the Rudolph package, which was specifically asked to guide the sleigh one foggy Christmas Eve.  Stop-go functionality, off-road ability and possibly steering are completely voice activated:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

 

“Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

 

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St Nicholas too.

The sleigh also seems to have automatic parking ability.  Reindeer are capable of seeing light in ultraviolet spectrum that humans cannot see and each reindeer has a 310° field of vision; detecting signals in the remaining rear 50° degrees is handled by the ears, which are capable of tilting in any direction.  Possibly, the elf assistants also provide rear sensor ability.

It is probably just as well that all these driver aids are provided, given the British, Irish and Australian trend of leaving alcoholic beverages out for the famous and presumably immortal driver.  These units of alcohol are probably not off-set by the milk and cookies provide in the US.  Even given the noted bodyweight of Santa Claus, the amount of alcohol would probably put him well over the legal limit in all countries, probably excepting the North Pole.  However, as only one accident has been recorded involving Santa Claus (involving Elmo and Patsy’s grandma, who was reported to have been drinking too much egg-nog and to have forgotten her medication when she got run over by a reindeer), the sleigh operates at full speed and with perfect safe handling year after year, so the driver assistance and collision avoidance ability of the sleigh must be superb and flawless.

Have a safe Christmas and New Year season, everybody.  And for goodness’ sake, leave the high speeds and driving under the influence to Santa.  His vehicle is built handle it.  Yours isn’t. http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/joymoney-srochnye-online-zaymi.html

Roads With A Difference

There are some pretty amazing roads around our world that might just be worth going to see.  Following are spectacular roads that have world record status, and you’ll see just why these ones stand out.

The Road Of Bones

1/            First of all, here in Australia we have the world’s longest road.  Highway 1 circumnavigates the continent and travels around the outside of Australia for over 14,000 km.  Along the way, you’ll be passing through some incredible scenery as well as some of Australia’s major cities that include Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide – along with a huge number of smaller towns.  Northern Territory roads allow a speed limit of 130 km/h on open road travel.

2/            Head over to Saudi Arabia and you’ll be able to take yourself down the world’s straightest road: Highway 10, Saudi Arabia.  This road was originally built as a private road for King Fahd and connects Highway 75 to Highway 95.  It runs for almost 240 kilometres, and is the perfect straight road to try out your Lane Assist and Fatigue Warning safety features!

3/            The world’s twistiest bit of road is found on Lombard Street, San Francisco, USA.  Unbelievable, the road features a 400 metre slope with a 27% gradient and a sum total of 1440 degrees to turn through and has a 5 mph speed limit.

4/            For those of you with a head for heights: you will enjoy the world’s highest roads around Uturunku, Bolivia.  Not only do they have amazing views but they are over 5500 m above sea level.  You will feel the lack of oxygen on this run!

5/            There are also roads that travel below sea level, and, in Israel, Route 90 is home to the world’s lowest road.  The road follows the western side of the Dead Sea where the water is so salty that you can go for a swim and float unaided.  No fish or plant-life are able to survive in this salty environment, either.

6/            Temperature is always a great leveller, and in Russia you’ll find the world’s coldest road that is called the ‘Road of Bones, (or M56).  Not for the faint hearted, the M56 has claimed many people’s lives whose cars have broken down and they’ve frozen to death.  Travelling in convoy is best.  During winter the temperature is rarely warmer than -30C.

7/            The world’s oldest road is the Via Appia, Italy.  Parts of this road have been preserved and are only open to pedestrians.  The Via Appia is located in south east Italy and can be dated back as far as 312 B.C.

8/            Our neighbours over the Tasman sea can lay claim to the world’s steepest road which is called Baldwin Street and is found in Dunedin, New Zealand.  Walking up Baldwin street can be as much fun as driving up it.  If you do drive up, just make sure there is room to turn around because it can be alarming having to stop just before the top of the road – your Hill Start Assist might just come in very handy.  A popular activity is to roll M&Ms down it!

9/            The world’s widest road is the ‘Monumental Axis’ found in Brasilla, Brazil.  In one part it is 250m wide!

10/         You are sure to find the world’s longest road bridge called the ‘Bang Na Expressway, Bangkok, Thailand entertaining.  Lasting for over 50 km, the bridge required an enormous 3.84 million tonnes of concrete in its construction.  Needless to say it wasn’t cheap to build, costing as much as £770 million to complete it build.

11/         On the other hand, the world’s tallest road bridge is the ‘Millau Viaduct’, France.  At its highest pint it is almost 250 m high!  The views are awesome.

Who said civil enginering was ever boring.  Let yourself loose on these roads, and you’ll have plenty of new conversation starters. http://credit-n.ru/offers-zaim/creditplus-online-zaimi.html

How To Repair A Scratch In The Paintwork

If the scratch is this bad, it’s probably best to take it to a professional.

#$%^&*()$%^&*!!!!!!! You left your car in the supermarket carpark looking perfect with nicely polished paintwork, and when you got back, you found that some clown opened their door and nicked the paintwork. Or the dog was just so pleased to see you and jumped up trying to lick your face through the car window with scrabbling paws and left marks of their affection all over the panelwork. Or (worst case scratching scenario) some pillock (and that’s using mild language) decided it would be funny or appropriate to key your car and leave marks all down the side.

It doesn’t matter how the scratch got there, whether you missed the keyhole with the key or whether your toddler rode a tricycle too close to the car in the driveway: it’s got to be fixed. And yes, despite what dodgy used car sales people will tell you, even a teeny weeny little scratch does matter. It lowers the value of your car and it makes your car’s paintwork look ugly. What’s more, not bothering and not caring about the scratch can lead to a general attitude of neglect and can’t-be-stuffedness about car maintenance, which can lead to you eventually not bothering about or putting off essential maintenance tasks like topping up the fluids and checking the oil.

Most importantly, scratches allow water, chemicals, grit and dirt to get to the metal beneath the paintwork. This means that the metal is going to corrode more quickly, and we all know how once rust starts, it doesn’t stop easily without a lot of hard work, either by you or your local friendly mechanic.

Small scratches, if they’re not associated with dents, are easy enough to fix at home with equipment you may already have or that is easily picked up at your nearest automotive supply shop.

First of all, clean the area on and around the scratch. There’s no point sealing grit and dirt under new paint.

Next, assess how deep the scratch is. If it hasn’t gone all the way through the paint or it has only gone through the top layer, it will take a lot less effort to fix. Did you know that car paint involves four layers? Lightly run the tip of your fingernail across the surface (making sure you don’t scratch the paintwork any further). If the tip of your nail snags a little bit in the scratch, you’ve got a deeper one to deal with. If you can’t feel it, you’ve got a surface-only scratch.

We’ll assume that you’ve already washed the area thoroughly, rinsed it and dried it. Now you need to roughen the surface so that it will take the new paint or filler. Small scratches that have just taken off the top coat or so can be prepped with toothpaste – apply whatever’s in the bathroom cabinet to a soft damp cloth and buff away. Rinse thoroughly after you’ve enjoyed the nice minty smell and dry the area. If you’ve got a deeper scratch, use very fine sandpaper (2000 grit) to work gently over the area. Then wash and dry the area like heck to get all the dust away.

Now the road divides.  If you’re dealing with a more serious scratch that gets into the colour layer, the base coat or even (horrors!) the metal of the vehicle body, you need to go to the next paragraph.  If you’ve got a small scratch, then just read on. With a small scratch, you get rubbing compound and wax from your local automotive supplies shop, apply a little bit of the rubbing compound and buff it like heck in small surfaces.  If you’ve ever buffed a floor or your nails, you know how this is done. After this, apply wax and you should be all good.

With a deeper scratch, you’re going to have to replace the coloured paint and possibly the primer below it as well. Here, you’ll have to spend a bit of time doing your homework, as you will need to get the right sort of paint or you will have an odd patchwork spot on your vehicle that looks worse than the scratch.  If you know where to look on your car body (it varies from marque to marque), you can find the code number for the paint type. Try the door jamb, the glove box, in the bonnet by the VIN sticker, in the boot by the spare tyre, the owner’s manual…  Yes, there are websites that have databases of the codes, but you have to be sure that you search on an Australian site (US and UK ones don’t have some Aussie favourites like the Ford Falcon).  It also pays to know the name of your paint colour – there’s a lot more than 50 shades of grey out there…  Do your homework, get that number and march down to the automotive supplies shop with it and ask for it (or you can try ordering it online).

Use a scuffing pad to roughen up the surface immediately on and around the scratch so it will take new paint. Don’t do too wide an area. After brushing surface dust away (blow on it), apply the primer and let it dry.

Once the primer has dried, it’s painting time. You can apply it with a brush, a pen or as a spray. A spray gives the nicest finish, but you’ll need to mask off things like headlights and bumpers. Let it dry for at least 15 minutes, then apply another layer. You may need to apply several layers until the scratch area looks like the undamaged paint around it.

Finish off with a spray-on clear coat, then a good waxing after the clear coat has dried.  Wax the whole car while you’re at it so you don’t get funny looking patches of dull and shiny.

More extensive scratches, such as those inflicted by pillocks keying your car, may be better dealt with by a professional. It’ll certainly be less hassle.

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The Passengers That Drivers Hate Most

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

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

#1: The Litterbug

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

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

#2: Donkey

This clip from Shrek 2 says it all:


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

#3: The Map Illiterate

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

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

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

#4 Backseat Drivers

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

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

#5 The Slammer

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

#6 Bigfoot

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

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

#7 The DJ

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

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

Are there any others that we’ve missed? Now’s your chance to have a bit of a gripe! http://credit-n.ru/zaymi-na-kartu-blog-single.html

Why I’m Uncomfortable About Driverless Cars

Driverless-Car-AboveThe automotive news overseas is humming about how Ford  has just managed to put its driverless cars through its paces in a model city in snowy conditions. This is a big breakthrough for the world of driverless cars, because snowy conditions usually send the LIDAR (like radar but using lasers) sensors that make driverless cars “aware” of their situation berserk. To say nothing of what snowy conditions do to your traction when cornering or braking.

I’m not comfortable with the idea of driverless cars. This is not because I’m a technophobic Luddite (now there’s some big words for you to start the year off). It’s more because I spend a lot of time behind a computer and I know all too well that computers don’t always do what you want them to do. They stop working for mysterious reasons. They get too clever for their own good and try to do things that you don’t want them to (such as the time that my son borrowed my smartphone to check his Facebook feed, with the result that all his friends ended up on my contact list and I pocket-dialled them). Even those super-smart algorithms that customise the ads you get on social media make mistaken guesses about the sort of thing I am likely to buy (I’m already with that bank and I have bought my first home, thank you. And I am not interested in a university course. Or special offers on sunglasses. Or weird old tips.). So I can just imagine how things can go wrong with a driverless car.

This is especially the case if said driverless car is plugged into the sat-nav or GPS system. I’ve heard stories about navigations systems that have decided that the most efficient way to go is to take a 4×4 track that is marked as an official road but is only open for a handful of months a year, or decides to send you down a road that was permanently closed last year (and the system doesn’t know it). And what about all those stories from the UK about delivery trucks getting stuck in tiny old alleyways that barely fit a little wee Fiat 500?

So you can imagine what would happen with a driverless car. What if it decides that the best way to get to the shops is via the local golf course? What if it suddenly crashes like all computers do in the middle of a busy intersection?

The inventors, designers and legislators agree with me, too. Just last month in the US (in California, of course), the Department of Motor Vehicles decreed that all driverless cars must also have traditional controls, rather than the no-steering wheel, no-pedal Google prototype. In addition, the same governing body said that responsibility for crashes and traffic violations will still be squarely on the shoulders of the “driver” of the driverless car.Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles

As for the inventors, one of Toyota’s inventors who just landed a nice big funding packet, Daniela Rus, points out that there are tons of things that robots and artificial intelligence can’t do for you, as they don’t have the sensitivity. Heavy weather like fog, snow and torrential rain is still an issue for driverless cars – which is why Ford was so thrilled about getting a driverless car to work in the snow – and so is heavy traffic.

The place where driverless cars are really likely to stuff up is in shared spaces. Shared spaces, as covered in one of my posts last year, are where pedestrians and cars aren’t in separated zones but share the same bit of “road”. This helps with road safety, as drivers (and pedestrians) have to stay fully alert to what and who’s around them, and use a bit of courtesy and common sense to avoid collisions. In situations like these, drivers and pedestrians communicate in subtle and very, very human ways: a quick cock of the head to one side, a raised eyebrow, a glare, a smile, a brief hand gesture…  Computers, even the most sophisticated, just can’t handle these things. They may be able to recognise your face in a crowd but they can’t recognise your emotions. These shared spaces are becoming more common in town plans, just to make things more interesting.

Driverless cars also have trouble with other places where humans or other sentient beings have overridden the norm. They won’t spot the line of ducks or the boneheaded spaniel on the road ahead. They don’t really know how to tackle the situation commonly encountered on a country road where a farmer is moving stock along the road. Around town, cops on point duty when the traffic lights have failed, a ball bouncing into the road closely followed by a crazy kid, a pedestrian suddenly stepping out, the road works crew’s hand signals and the local school crossing are all things that autonomous cars (to give them their official name) can’t really cope with.

Yes, I know jumbo jets fly on autopilot around the world all the time. However, I also know that jumbo jets with autopilot function (i.e. all of them) have a pilot-in-charge and two back up copilots on hand, all of whom have trained for much, much longer than the typical driver has, just in case things go wrong.

Anyway, where’s the fun in a driverless car?

Safe and happy driving (computers don’t get the “happy” bit),

Megan

More info is available at these links:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/12/27/aianxiety/

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-35280632

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-33676388

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