Returning from vacation, you were pretty proud of yourself for negotiating all the interstates without a wrong turn. But then your seatmate engaged you in an interesting conversation, and what happened? You missed your exit.
Distraction. That interesting conversation not only made you miss a turn, it put you and your passengers in danger. If a situation occurred that required fast action, could you have avoided an accident?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, four distinct types of distraction affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
Auditory distractions include conversations with passengers and listening to music or audiobooks.
Visual distractions include such activities as looking at the scenery and checking out other cars.
Biomechanical distractions are activities such as adjusting the air conditioning, dialing a cellphone, using day planners, making notes, and eating.
Cognitive distractions include whatever is taking your mind off the road and driving. Examples are preoccupation with other thoughts, worrying, and planning what you will do later.
Cell phones, especially texting, are unique in that they encompass all four modes of driver distraction, say experts at Dynamic Science, a private research organization.
Research on cell phone use crashes shows that drivers often run off the road or hit something stopped in front of them, neither of which would happen if they were paying attention.
Leaks can be a tell-tale sign
Your vehicle probably isn’t very new. Still, it seems to be running well. Your budget won’t allow you to trade it in for a newer one. Consequently, you pay great attention to its maintenance: You check the tire pressure regularly, keep the vehicle clean, have the oil changed punctually, and use only good quality gasoline. You trust your vehicle entirely. But lately, you have noticed some dark spots on the pavement underneath it. Even worse, these spots appear to be liquid. They might very well mean you have a mechanical leak developing in your car or truck.
What can you do about it? Obviously, an appointment with your favorite mechanic is a must. He will surely find where the leak (or leaks) is coming from and, in most cases, be able to make the necessary repairs.
The key is to understand what the leaks are; in most cases, they are oil. If the spots are black and shiny and feel slick to the touch, chances are its oil, and you should try to locate the source. In many cases, you won’t be able to fix these leaks, and it is time to see your mechanic. If the slick liquid has a reddish color to it, the leak might be coming from the vehicle’s transmission. In this case, it could only be a loose-fitting joint; however, you’ll still want to have a specialist look at it.
If the liquid is green or yellow and feels sticky (and tastes sweet if you dare test it — an old mechanic’s trick that is no longer recommended), chances are the leak is engine coolant. Many other accessories could leak from the steering pumps to the braking system. Never tolerate leaks or ignore them; in every case, have the vehicle inspected by a professional.
Leaks from a vehicle can tell a lot.
How to pack your vehicle for a road trip
Are you going on a long road trip? Here are a few tips on how to organize your luggage.
Load heavy objects lower in your vehicle, and pack larger items at the back and smaller ones near the front. Fill in the gaps with bags and soft pieces. If your trunk isn’t separate from the cab, don’t stack items above the height of the back headrest. This will prevent things from falling over the seat if you suddenly hit the brakes.
Consult the manufacturer’s recommended weight capacity for your vehicle before loading your roof rack. In any case, avoid placing heavy items on the roof of your car. Store them in the trunk instead. Place the heaviest items against the roof bars and ensure the load is well balanced and securely strapped down.
Place heavy items on or close to the floor and as centrally as possible. Store light items on either side of the trailer, taking care not to obstruct your vision. Make sure you don’t exceed the vehicle’s load and towing capacity. Safely secure the items so nothing falls off or gets blown away. If your car’s rear suspension feels saggy, your load isn’t properly balanced and could negatively affect your handling.
Keep your vehicle’s registration, itinerary, tickets, sunglasses, tissues, games, bottled water, and snacks in the cab. Of course, try to leave enough space for everyone to sit comfortably.
Have a great holiday!
If you’re carrying luggage in a roof box, make sure you know the total height of your vehicle with the roof box to avoid getting in an accident.
How to clean your tires and wheels
Cleaning your vehicle’s tires and wheels does more than make your car look good. Manufacturers recommend cleaning your tires every other week. Cleaning removes brake dust, rotor shavings, and road salt, all of which can shorten the lifespan of your tires. Here’s how to properly clean your car’s tires and wheels.
What you’ll need
Have these products ready to go:
• Bucket and warm water
• Clean cloths
• Hose and spray nozzle
• Medium-bristled brush
• Dish soap
Step 1: Rinse
Wash the tires one at a time to keep the surface wet while you work. Get rid of any loose dirt with a quick spray of your hose. Spray from various angles to remove the most debris from the wheels.
Step 2: Wash the tires
Work on the tires first because the dirty water will soil the wheels. Scrub the tires with a brush, warm water, and dish soap. Allow the soapy water to soften the grime on the tires before rinsing. Repeat this step if necessary and rinse out your brush when finished.
Step 3: Wash the rims
Wash the rims using the brush, warm water, and dish soap. Use an old toothbrush to get into tight areas. Repeat if necessary. After rinsing, thoroughly dry the wheel and the tires with a clean cloth.
With shiny tires and wheels, your car is in showroom shape, and you’ll give your tires a few more miles on the road.
Is it safe for young children to sit in the front seat?
Although it may seem logical to place your young child in the front seat of your car to keep an eye on them, you might want to think again.
The back seat is safest
While legislation varies throughout North America, the safest place for your child is the back seat, away from active airbags. In a head-on collision, the front airbag will restrain the head and abdomen of an adult. When a child sits in the passenger seat, the airbag deploys at head level, potentially causing severe neck and head injuries. The sheer force of airbag deployment is enough to harm a child seriously.
Today, many vehicles are equipped with a mechanism that momentarily deactivates the passenger-side airbag if a child is sitting there. If your car doesn’t have this feature, and you must put your child in the front seat, make sure to move the front seat as far back from the airbag deployment zone as possible. You may also want to consider permanently deactivating the airbag.
Correctly using a car seat is one of the best steps you can take to protect your child in a crash.
Fleet managers turn to electric cars
Hertz recently inked a deal to buy 65,000 electric vehicles from startup Polestar over five years. The city of Houston, meanwhile, purchased a hundred electrics to replace aging gas autos, and Amazon wants to put 100,000 battery-powered delivery trucks on the road.
Wondering why these cars are so popular with fleets? Let’s take a spin.
Up front, adopting electrical vehicles may boost a company’s sustainability, which, in turn, could help with branding. However, the benefits of EVs for fleets run far deeper than marketing.
Wakefield Research polled 300 fleet managers and found that 44 percent believed that electric vehicles will reduce fuel costs. While charging an electric vehicle isn’t free, it’s currently cheaper to fill a battery than a gas tank.
EVs are potentially easier to maintain. With combustion engines, you have to worry about not just gasoline, but also oil and spark plugs, both non-issues with electric cars. Pretty much all combustion vehicles need transmission fluid, while many (but not all) electric vehicles skip transmissions altogether, making fluid unnecessary.
Moving parts are also prone to breaking down, and repairs can be costly. If a transmission goes out, you’ll have to shell out thousands to replace it. Cracked cylinder heads and rusted exhaust systems, among other things, also cost hefty sums to repair. Ultimately, Wakefield Research reports that 85 percent of current EV owners reported that traditional vehicles are more expensive to maintain.
With fewer moving engine/transmission parts, electric cars can relieve potential headaches. Still, this doesn’t mean that EVs provide a free ride. Upfront costs for electric vehicles are typically higher. And while batteries often last hundreds of thousands of miles, they do lose capacity over time and are expensive to replace. Charging times can also stretch on for hours.
Still, all told, electric cars offer a compelling option for fleet managers.
What to do when your engine overheats
Your dashboard temperature light is on, and there’s steam coming from under the hood — sure signs that your engine is overheating. When that happens, you need to act quickly to prevent permanent damage to your vehicle. Here’s what to do when your engine overheats.
Turn off the AC and turn up the heat
If your air conditioner is working, turn it off. The AC puts a lot of stress on the engine. Then turn the car’s heater on full blast. The heater will cool the engine by sucking hot air from the motor and blowing it into the cabin. You may sweat a bit, but it could save your car.
Pull over and stop the engine
Find a safe place to pull over and turn your hazard lights on. Stop the engine and wait at least 15 minutes until lifting the hood. Watch the dashboard temperature gauge to determine when the engine has cooled to normal levels.
If you have spare coolant in your vehicle, top up the reservoir. Adding water will do the trick in an emergency, but you’ll have to drive slowly to avoid overheating again.
Get to a mechanic
Start your engine and drive slowly to your nearest automotive repair shop. If the engine overheats again, pull over and let it cool.
An overheating engine needs a professional repair. A mechanic can determine the cause of your problem and get you back on the road.