Previous month:
July 2012
Next month:
September 2012

4 entries from August 2012

Adjusting Your Mirrors to Avoid Blind Spots

 If you've bought a new car in the last three years, you may drive a vehicle that features a blind spot detection system. The blind spot detection system activates when you're changing lanes, to let you know (with a flashing light or a vibrating steering wheel) when a car has entered your blind spot. Very helpful when trying to avoid collisions on a busy freeway!

This system - along with the rearview camera that newer model cars are sporting these days - can really help to increase driver safety, which is great. But what about those of us whose ultimate driving machines don't offer these high tech features? Or those of us who are a bit leery of becoming reliant on this kind of technology (because we've seen Terminator 2 just a few too many times)?

Fortunately, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has provided recommendations for positioning your side mirrors that can help virtually eliminate blind spots, saving you the trouble of glancing over your shoulder (and potentially eliminating the need for a complex blind spot detection system as well) when you're changing lanes.

This graphic from Car and Driver  shows you the SAE-approved positions for your side mirrors and how these new positions help to give you a clearer view of the road.

Adjusting Your Mirror to Avoid Blind Spots
Image credit: Car and Driver

If you're used to seeing the side of your own car in your side mirror, this new positioning may take some adjustment. But it can help lead to safer driving and fewer accidents, which makes it worth giving it a try.

Does your car have a blind spot detection system? Or do you think you'll give these mirror positions a try? Let us know in the comments. 

- Rose R.

Where Are You Headed on This Year's Summer Road Trip?

Stretch of Highway
Photo: iStockphoto

When I was a kid, my parents would pack my brother and I into our red 1984 Plymouth Reliant and drive from Edmonton to Kelowna every summer to visit my grandparents. The car had no air conditioning and it was always blazing hot, but the amazing mountain vistas (and the Three Valley Gap real fruit juice gummy bears) made up for it.

There were no in-car DVD or gaming systems back then - my brother and I amused ourselves by reading books, sleeping, quietly punching each other and causing my dad to swerve on mountain roads by shouting out "Waterfall!" whenever we saw a waterfall (which was frequently).

The memory of these road trips is seared into my brain and whenever summer rolls around, I have the urge to grab my favourite pillow and my sandcastle set and head out on the highway. Where will I start? Probably on Highway 1 - the mighty Trans-Canada.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Canada Highway, the highway system that travels through Canada's ten provinces from coast to coast. The Trans-Canada's main route spans 8,030 km, making it one of the world's longest national highways (only Australia's Highway One and the Trans-Siberian Highway are longer).

To mark this momentous occasion, journalist and author Mark Richardson - with a little help from the CAA - is driving the Trans-Canada from St. John's to Victoria this summer. In a yellow Camaro, no less! He called his trip the Trans Canada Trek and Mark is writing daily about their time on the road (his 12 year old son Tristan joined him on the trek a couple of weeks ago).

Mark's posts include great photos, fascinating pieces of history about the highway when it first opened, his observations about the current state of the highway and surrounding area, interviews with local car or highway aficionados, contests that readers can enter and stories from readers about their own Trans-Canada travel experiences. His son Tristan is writing too about his favourite parts of each leg of their journey. Family road trip!

Mark's trip is pretty inspiring for any road trip fan - plus, he's sharing great tips on local attractions from coast to coast. You can follow Mark's journey on MacLean's and on his personal Twitter account.

Where are you headed on your summer road trip this year? Will it include a stretch of the Trans-Canada? Share your road trip tips and stories in the comments!

- Rose R.

Rotating Your Tires

Rotating Your Tires
Photo: iStockphoto

Vehicle maintenance is so important for extending the life of your vehicle. Even if you lease your vehicle for the minimum 36 months, you still need to perform maintenance to keep the vehicle running well.

We've already covered many types of vehicle maintenance:

In our next segment, we focus on tire rotation and try to answer some common questions.

Why should you rotate your tires regularly?

Your tires are the legs of your vehicle - without them, you're not going anywhere! With a front wheel drive car, your front wheels are responsible for almost all of the braking, and carry most of the weight. As a result, front tires wear out about twice as fast as the rear tires. So rotating your front tires to the back and your back tires to the front can definitely help in extending their life.

Did you know that keeping your tires on the same side is important?

The wear patterns that develop on tires can be tied to the suspension or the alignment of the vehicle. So rotating from side to side means that you could potentially be putting some excess strain and wear on your tires. The other reason is that most tires manufactured today are directional tires. This means that they are meant to move primarily in one direction - therefore, switching them side to side, or criss-crossing (moving front driver to rear passenger) means that they will be moving in the opposite direction and can cause premature wear. Of course, this all depends on your tire manufacturer specifications and what type of drive train you have: front, rear, 4x4, AWD, and so on. If you are rotating the tires yourself and you are not sure, a good rule of thumb is to rotate from front to back.

How often should you rotate your tires?

Anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 km, depending on the type of vehicle and the conditions you drive in. You should consult your owner's manual for a recommended maintenance schedule. A nice reminder is to switch them at every second oil change if you can, if you change your oil regularly, of course – which you should be! See our PumpTalk Post on Oil Changes for why it’s so important. 

Now that your tires are off for a rotation, it might be a good time to perform a brake inspection. Read our PumpTalk Post "All About Brakes" for more details.

Are you diligent with your tire rotations? Do you rotate them yourself or let a professional handle it?

- Julie S.

Keeping It Cool - And Idle-Free - In the Summer

Stop Idling
Photo: iStockphoto

We drove the dog to the park the other day for some frolic in the hot summer sun and as we parked (in the shade! Score!) I noticed a van idling in the parking lot with a gentleman inside. I assumed he'd just arrived and hadn't turned off his vehicle yet. So you can only imagine my horror when I returned 45 minutes later and found he was still there and still idling.

"Wow," I thought, as I stuffed my heavily panting dog into the car, "Clearly, this man is made of money." I waved at the man to try and get his attention, but he pointedly ignored me. Then, before I could call the bylaw officer, (idling is illegal in Vancouver) he drove off, leaving his 45-minute-long cloud of exhaust in his wake.

We've talked about idling in a few posts here on PumpTalk, but often in regards to winter idling. When it's cold out, it's tempting to idle more under the guise of "warming up the car". Of course, in the summer, you have the opposite problem - you may be idling the car in order to cool it off, or, like the fellow in the park, running the car to keep cool when parked.

Continue reading "Keeping It Cool - And Idle-Free - In the Summer " »