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4 entries from September 2013

Is Your Car Safety Kit Ready for Long Weekend Travel?

Car safety kit
Photo: iStockphoto

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays of the year. Leaves are turning, you can get the cozy sweaters out of storage and everything at the coffee shop is pumpkin-flavoured.

The Thanksgiving long weekend is prime time for travel here in Canada - whether you're heading across town or over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house. It's also a time when weather can be unpredictable.

Before you head out for Thanksgiving weekend, take a few minutes to make sure you've packed your car safety kit so that you're prepared for whatever conditions the road may throw at you.

Your car safety kit should contain the following items:

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Should Your Car Decide When to Answer Your Phone?

As we've discussed here on PumpTalk before, it seems like our cars are taking over more and more of the driving. But until we all have self-driving cars, we're still responsible for our actions on the road - and in our increasingly connected world, minimizing in-car distractions to focus solely on driving can be a real challenge.

With that in mind, the folks at Ford Research are developing a Driver Workload Estimator that would determine whether to allow incoming calls while you're driving.

The Workload Estimator would take into account traffic/road conditions and vehicle operations as well as your own biometric activity (measured through sensors on the steering wheel) to decide whether or not you are too stressed out in the car to allow that incoming call from your mom.

They have a couple of handy infographics explaining how the system would work:

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Diesel Vehicles Making a Comeback

Diesel fuel
Photo: iStockphoto

While I was researching last week's post about the superior fuel economy of manual transmissions, I came across several articles about fuel economy and diesel engines. Formerly much maligned, diesel is making a mainstream comeback here in North America - and it has its benefits.

What's so great about diesel fuel? As we noted in our post Diesel - Not What It Used to Be back in 2011, diesel:

"…takes less refining to create it (versus gasoline), and with the recent moves to ultra low sulphur diesel fuel (what we at Petro-Canada offer), it produces less greenhouse gas. Improvements have been made to vehicle engines for "smarter" consumption, meaning these engines are more efficient and less polluting than before.

Diesel fuel has always been an important source for trucking, boats, farming and more, but now the benefits can be enjoyed by consumers, especially as manufacturers increase their options."

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Driving Standard - Worth the Effort for Better Fuel Economy?

Manual gearbox
Photo: iStockphoto

When I took driving lessons at the age of 17, my driving instructor, Darryl, was obsessed with two things: the plot of Les Misérables and driving stick. While he was grudgingly teaching teens to drive in the driving school's beat-up automatic, he confided that his real dream was to open his own manual transmission driving school called "Standard of Excellence".

According to Darryl, standard cars were more fun to drive and gave you greater control on the road, but they just sounded complicated to me. I found driving an automatic challenging enough at the time, so I ignored Darryl's chatter about gears, clutches and the raw deal Jean Valjean got in life and concentrated on not driving into trees or people.

As PumpTalk contributor Julie S. outlined in her post The Lost Art of Manual Transmission Driving, Darryl had the right idea. The manual transmission has benefits beyond "being more fun to drive":

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