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4 entries from March 2015

Fossil in the Fuel: Suncor's Rare Dinosaur Find

This week, I thought we could do the ultimate #ThrowbackThursday here on PumpTalk by going back a few million years, to when dinosaurs roamed the earth!

When I was a kid, I was told that oil was made from the remains of dinosaurs, which is why it's called "fossil fuel". Turns out that this is a myth - the bacteria, plant and animal organisms that formed oil existed even before the dinosaurs.

But a few years ago, oil and dinosaurs had an actual reason to be associated - an extremely rare dinosaur fossil was discovered at Suncor's Millennium Mine. Recently, the story of the fossil find was featured on Daily Planet and we posted this about it over on the OSQAR blog:

"In 2011, Suncor came across something a little less expected at its oil sands mining operations – a dinosaur! Thanks to the sharp eye of one of our employees, Suncor made history with this amazing find. Watch as Discovery’s Daily Planet explores what it took to extract the dinosaur fossil from Suncor’s Millennium Mine and what this rare find unveils about Alberta’s pre-historic times."


Daily Planet video

Were you a big dinosaur fan as a kid (or are you still one)? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Keeping Your Car Interior Clean Can Help Keep You Healthy

Clean Car Interior

I climbed into our vehicle last weekend and caught a whiff of something musty. After some intense investigative sniffing, I still had no idea where the smell was coming from. Then I noticed some green gunge around the window seals - the same green gunge that builds up on our concrete patio through our rainy winters. Since we park outdoors all year round, the rainy winter caused algae to grow on the car, hence the mildewy smell. Blarg.

As I looked around the rest of the car, it occurred to me that it had been awhile since we cleaned it. Like, a loooong while. So, with the spring equinox right around the corner, now seems like a good time for some real talk about spring car cleaning.

Keeping your car interior clean isn't just for car pride - having a dirty car interior can actually impact your health. A study conducted by Queen Mary University in London found that around 700 different harmful germs lurk in our car's interiors. And, if you're like me and suffer from allergies, riding around in a car filled with pollen, dust mites and other germs can depress your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and flu.

If, like the average Canadian, you and your family are spending an hour in the car every day, keeping that environment clean can go a long way towards keeping you healthy. So here are some clean car tips to inspire you this spring:

Get your car detailed or do it yourself. Start the spring off right with a deep clean. Remove and thoroughly wash and dry the floor mats, vacuum or steam clean the floor carpets (don't forget the trunk!) and any upholstery in the car. Dust hard surfaces with a damp cloth and mild cleanser and use compressed air to blast crumbs and other debris out of hard-to-reach crevices. If you have machine washable seat covers like we do, throw them in the wash. And if, like me, you have algae build up on your window seals, get an old tooth brush, some warm water with a mild cleanser and go to town. This article has some great tips on how detail your vehicle.

Make sure to change your cabin air filter every year. The cabin air filter is what keeps the air in your vehicle clean by filtering out pollen, dust mites, dirt and other particles before they enter your car.

Maintain the clean. Steam cleaning your car once or twice a year is great but little everyday acts of cleanliness can help keep your car - and you - in a healthier state. Don't leave food wrappers, coffee cups or other food garbage in the car. Wipe down hard surfaces regularly with a damp cloth and some mild cleanser - especially places that you touch most often, like the steering wheel, door handles, cup holder area, etc. Vacuum regularly, especially if you or your kids like to snack in the car or if you have a pet who likes to catch a ride.

When's the last time you deep cleaned your vehicle?

- Rose R.

Call Someone Who Cares: Top 5 Reasons to Get Roadside Assistance

Roadside Assistance

We have a friend named Daniel, who will show up and help you with anything. Moving? Call Daniel. Out of donuts? Call Daniel. Car trouble? Daniel is on his way. Even when we're halfway across the world and encounter some kind of inconvenience, our first thought is "Call Daniel!"

Sadly, when we moved to Vancouver from Toronto, Daniel did not move with us. And when you're new in town, finding a reliable friend, who has their own vehicle and jumper cables and great taste in pastries, can be a challenge. So when we moved here, one of the first things we did is sign up for a program that offers roadside assistance.

Of course, being new in town isn't the only reason to invest in roadside assistance. Here are five other reasons why signing up for roadside assistance is worth your money:

Flat Tire
Knowing how to change your own flat tire is an important skill. But there are times when you are sick or dressed up for an event or dealing with stroppy passengers and you just don't want to get dirty. So why not leave it to the professionals?

Out of Gas
Running out of gas in town is pretty rare, but things can get dicey on the road. You may find yourself low on fuel if the one gas station for miles is closed or you were paying more attention to the kids fighting in the back than to your fuel gauge. Fortunately, roadside assistance means that someone will bring the gas to you, so that you can make it to the next gas station to fill the tank.

Locked Out
You locked your keys in the car. You left your keys on the plane. Your kids flushed your keys down the toilet. There are plenty of situations in which having someone on call to come open your vehicle is useful.

Dead Battery
A dead battery in your garage might be a quick fix. But a dead battery out at the cottage is another story. With no nearby Daniel to give you a jump, roadside assistance is your best bet for getting back on the road.

Stuck in a Rut
Hopefully, if you get stuck in a deep snow drift or deep in the mud, you'll be able to get out yourself. But sometimes conditions are so bad that you need to call for some help. Roadside assistance will come and free your vehicle so that you can get where you're going.

I find that having roadside assistance offers great peace of mind - every time we head out on a roadtrip, I know we're covered. So how do you sign up for roadside assistance? There are plenty of programs out there, depending on your area and vehicle. Some manufacturers offer a roadside assistance add-on when you buy a vehicle, or you can go with your regional CAA.

Be aware that not all roadside assistance programs are created equal! Do some research to see what's available in your area and which plans best suit your family. Some plans offer a limited number of roadside assistance calls - others offer extra benefits, such as helping you replace your ID if your car is broken into and your wallet or purse is stolen.

Do you have roadside assistance? Have you ever had to call them? Leave your stories in the comments.

- Rose R.

Monthly Poll: Would you go out of your way for full serve?

Full Serve Gas Station

A co-worker was telling me a story the other day about driving with her aunt. Her aunt's fuel tank was low and my co-worker tried to be helpful by calling out whenever a gas station came into view. Her aunt resolutely ignored her and drove several blocks out of their way before she finally settled on where to buy her gas.

My co-worker couldn't figure out why her aunt would drive so far, until she realized that they had arrived at a full serve station. It turns out that her aunt had just never learned how to pump her own gas.

Full serve stations aren't as common as they once were but we do still have them. In fact, Petro-Canada has over 200 full service gas stations across the country. How you do find them? Visit the Station Locator, click on "Advanced Search" and select "Full Serve" to find one near you. 

 Station Locator with Full Serve selected

I certainly enjoy a full service gas station. As I mentioned in an earlier post, road tripping through Oregon was extra fun because I was in charge of refuelling the car and full service gas stations are the law there. It's important to know how to pump your own gas, of course. But there are plenty of reasons to seek out full serve, ranging from the very necessary to the merely convenient:

  • You're elderly or disabled 
  • You're injured or ill
  • It's cold
  • It's raining
  • You forgot to change out of your pyjama pants

Over to you - do you go out of your way for full serve? Take our poll below!

- Rose R.