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April 2016

5 entries from March 2016

CAA Worst Roads Campaign 2016 – Get Your Vote On!


Ahh, spring. In Vancouver, it's heralded by carpets of cherry blossoms falling on the streets. Everywhere else, pot holes spring up. Which means it's also time again for the CAA's Worst Roads campaign!

During the campaign, the CAA asks drivers, cyclists, transit riders and pedestrians to identify roads that they think need the most improvement. Too many potholes? Lots of congestion? Poor signage? The CAA wants to know. Then they use that feedback to engage with politicians and decision makers in government across the country and to advocate for safer roads.

The campaigns run at different times in different regions; however, this year the CAA has created a central site for all their chapters -

Here is a schedule of the dates of the campaigns in the participating CAA Regions:

Atlantic Canada - starts April 6, 2016

Manitoba - runs March 9 to April 6, 2016

Saskatchewan - starts April 8, 2016

Ontario (Niagara, North & East Ontario, South Central Ontario) regions and Quebec have not year announced their dates, but you can check in on the CAAWorstRoads website.

After you've voted for the worst road in your region, check out these tips from the CAA on protecting yourself from bad roads:

  • Potholes. Avoid them, but not at all costs. If you have to drive over a pothole, try to do so slowly. Don’t slam on your brakes – it will make you a danger to the car following you – and watch out for other vehicles swerving to avoid potholes ahead.

  • Congestion. If you can, drive at a different time of day to avoid the busiest periods for traffic. If that’s not possible, identify alternative routes so you can bypass some of the worst jams.

  • Traffic. Leave a little earlier and give yourself more time to get where you’re going. You’ll be more relaxed and happier for it.

  • Extra space! When the road is bad, leave yourself even more room for movement or reaction. Don’t follow other traffic too closely – the car ahead could brake suddenly for a pothole or ruts, or throw a rock at your windshield on a poorly-surfaced highway.

  • Cyclists. Make sure you’re visible on the road, to make yourself seen by motorists already distracted by poor driving conditions. Wear a reflective vest or at least carry reflective badges on your helmet, and fix reflectors to your bicycle.

How are the roads in your municipality? Did you vote?

- Rose R.

Recovering from Winter: Spring Maintenance Tips Round Up

Spring drive

The birds are singing, the trees are budding and your engine is making that weird clunking sound again. Your vehicle faithfully saw you through the worst of the winter - now’s the time to give back some love and make sure you’re on schedule for cleaning and maintenance.

Maintaining a regular cleaning and vehicle maintenance schedule not only prolongs the life of your car, but also helps you maximize your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and reduce your vehicle’s carbon emissions. Win-win! Here are a few tips from our top spring maintenance posts:

Why Tune Ups are Important

What's involved in a tune-up?

It depends on your vehicle, but a typical tune-up will involve the inspection, cleaning and/or replacement of:

  • Air filters
  • Fuel filters
  • Spark plugs and wires
  • Distributor cap and distribution ignition rotor (if your car has them - some newer models have distributorless ignition)
  • PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) valve and gaskets
  • Sensors and belts
  • Lubricants and coolants
  • Ignition timing
  • Tire alignment and tire pressure
  • Car battery
  • Windshield wipers

Regular tune-ups can help you save on fuel - and having a professional perform a thorough cleaning and diagnostic of your vehicle can help avoid costly future repairs by catching potential problems early.

Keeping Your Car Interior Clean can Help Keep You Healthy

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.

The Spring Tire Switch

How should I prepare my winter tires for storage?

  1. Thoroughly clean the winter grime from your tires and make sure to remove any brake dust, which can be corrosive. If your tires are mounted on wheels, be sure to clean the wheels as well with a cleaner approved for use with that type of wheel.
  2. Make sure your tires are completely dry. Then, seal each tire up in an opaque plastic bag, removing as much air as possible (some folks use a vacuum cleaner to get the air out).
  3. Be sure and mark each tire bag with the tire's original position (Front Left, Back Right, etc.), so that you can replace or rotate your tires come next winter. Now your tires are ready for storage!

Benefits of Rust-Proofing

When is the best time to rust-proof? There are mixed opinions on whether spring or fall is the best time. An article in says that spring is better than fall because “The mild-to-warm temperatures will allow the products to better penetrate the treated areas.” Also, your vehicle is usually dredged with salt over the winter and we know that salt helps rust form on your vehicle. Getting your vehicle rust-proofed in the spring will ensure that all the salt is cleaned off thoroughly and that there won’t be any remnants of it over the summer.

How do you shake winter off your car and prep it for spring? Share your tips in the comments!

- Rose R.

Top Driving Apps That Can Help You Save on Fuel

Petro-Canada Mobile App

If you’re anything like me, you have an unhealthily co-dependent relationship with your smartphone. We’re all on these devices all day – texting, emailing, checking the Twitter, or, if you’re me, managing my dog’s very popular Instagram account. Since we’re all using them constantly, why not put our smartphones to use to help us save on fuel?

We haven’t written about smartphone driving apps for a few years now, so I thought I’d see what’s new (or just improved) in the driving app world, specifically around ways to increase your fuel efficiency. Here are our top six apps for tracking, maximizing or saving on gas.

AccuFuel ™ Fuel Tracking App – PAID (iOS)

Accufuel App

With AccuFuel, you just update it every time you fill up, inputting the fuel purchased, the cost and your current odometer readings. It’s an American app but you can switch it from imperial to metric. You can use it to track fuel use in multiple vehicles and keep an eye on how your driving habits affect how much fuel you’re using.

Best Parking – FREE with in-app purchases (IOS, Android, Blackberry)

Best Parking App

Sometimes the best way to save on fuel is to avoid unnecessary driving – and driving around endlessly looking for parking can really cost you. The Best Parking app saves you both time and fuel by showing you the best places to park. It not only shows you where to find parking lots, but also colour-codes parking areas by price range, so that you can find the cheapest parking option fast. If you upgrade to the premium service, you can get even more granular info on individual lots, including hourly rates and dates and times – plus, the app will show you a photo of the parking lot entrance, so that you know what you’re looking for. For us Canadians, Best Parking only works in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver right now, as well as over 100 cities in the U.S.

greenMeter – PAID (iOS) 

greenMeter App

The greenMeter app uses accelerometer sensors in your smartphone to show you real-time data on how your driving style is affecting your fuel economy. It uses existing information about your particular vehicle, combined with your own driving behaviour, to deliver data on energy cost in dollars, CO2 output and oil consumption. The app doesn’t use GPS, so it doesn’t drain your battery as much as some other apps – but it does have to be mounted on or near your dashboard for easy reading.

Waze - FREE (iOS, Android, Windows)

Waze App

Waze is a community based traffic and navigation app that’s particularly useful in crowded cities where finding the route of least resistance can help you save on fuel. It uses GPS to map a route, but on Waze, that route will include additional info like accidents, traffic jams, speed traps, construction delays and other road info that has been reported by other Waze users in your community. The data on Waze is only as good and plentiful as members of Waze in your area. But since the app is free, it's worth a download to see what kind of traffic and construction reports are being added in your city. Waze has a social aspect as well, letting you build a profile and connect it to your Facebook account, so you can see when your friends are on the road.

Automatic – FREE but requires hardware purchase (iOS, Android)

Automatic App

The Automatic app is free but, it requires the purchase of an external device that you plug in to your OBD II port. Automatic is a pretty powerful diagnostic tool, intended for those who really want to get under the hood of their vehicle, and it offers a slew of cool features. The app diagnoses your check engine light, letting you know if you can fix the problem yourself or if you need to see a pro. It also keeps track of your fuel levels, analyzes your driving habits and delivers prompts when you’re braking/accelerating too much or driving too fast. The app tracks your progress and actually gives you a score on fuel efficient driving every month. After a long wait, Automatic is finally available in Canada – but it’s an American product and doesn’t work in metric.

Petro-Canada™ Mobile App - FREE (iOS, Android, Blackberry)

Petro-Canada Mobile App

I’ll admit, I’m taking the idea of “saving on fuel” literally by including this app – when you register your Petro-Points card on the app, you’ll have a digital points card that you can use to collect and redeem points in-store for fuel savings (or whatever you choose, of course). The app can also locate the nearest Petro-Canada and you can use it to reload your Fuel Savings card, among other things.

NB: While we haven’t written about smartphone apps in awhile, we HAVE written a lot about the dangers of distracted driving. Most of these apps are meant to be used in the car, with your phone mounted on the dash, similar to a GPS unit - but you should not be messing around with your phone while driving!! Be sure to either use these apps to plan ahead or have your passenger monitor the apps when you need to check something while on the road. Stay safe out there!

Do you use a smartphone app that helps you save on fuel? Which is your favourite driving app? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

Potholes, cobblestones and skidpads: Welcome to the Automotive Proving Grounds


We’ve all seen videos of automobile safety testing – most of them show airbags deploying to cushion crash test dummies as a car drives into a wall. But until this week, I’d never thought about the other, less spectacular-looking testing that car manufacturers conduct to make sure that our cars can stop before they hit that wall. Most of us spend our time on the road avoiding potholes, trying not to fishtail on wet roads and driving far slower than 190km/hr – but as I read in this article from, safety-testing a car in risky conditions is all in a day’s work for an automotive proving ground test driver. 

Automotive proving grounds are test facilities built by car manufacturers – places where they can push their vehicles to the limit in order to maximize their safety and reliability. In the early days of car manufacturing, vehicle testing was conducted on public roads, alongside regular traffic. But as the car became more popular and roads grew more congested, car manufacturers needed somewhere else to put their new models through their paces.

General Motors opened the world’s first automobile proving grounds in 1924 near Milford, Michigan. The original proving grounds were situated on 1,125 acres and included a 6.4 km gravel loop and a straightaway. Today, their proving grounds covers 4,000 acres and has several facilities, include the “Black Lake”, a pad of blacktop that can be spritzed with water and used to test vehicle dynamics. Here’s what the facility looks like today, from the air:

These days, most car manufacturers have their own proving grounds, designed to simulate every possible type of terrain you might encounter while driving. Test drivers are trained in advanced driving skills before tackling a wicked mix of terrains, conditions and speeds, all with the aim of compressing a lifetime’s worth of car abuse into just a few months. Gravel roads, skid pads and extreme off-road courses are a few of the terrains you’d find on any automotive proving ground. Ford recently laid down 50 miles of test tracks in their Lommel Proving Grounds in Belgium, dedicated to simulating potholes from 25 countries around the world – everything from the cobblestone streets of France to rutted intersections in China. 

These cars are rode hard and put away wet – literally, as driving through water helps to test the rust proofing on a vehicle’s undercarriage. Car manufacturers use the drivers’ feedback and their own analysis to improve their designs.

This hilarious, action-movie-trailer-style video from Volvo’s proving grounds in Hällered, Sweden highlights some of the different tests and terrains the vehicles – and test drivers – are subjected to in the name of car safety.

Compare that Volvo video with this footage about automotive proving grounds from the 1950s. Testing back then was more rudimentary but no less thorough!

The job of test driving looks like a lot of fun – but according to Kia test driver Howard Edmond, driving in rough conditions for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week can be a little monotonous – and can also be hard on the posterior.

Have you ever visited an automotive proving ground? Do you think test driving would be a good job? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.

New Haptic Gas Pedal Helps You Drive More Efficiently, Save on Fuel

Gas pedal

Two of the most effective ways to save on fuel (as listed in our Ways to Save on Fuel infographic) involve altering your driving style – lowering your highway speed and avoiding aggressive driving. Speeding, accelerating quickly and braking hard really take a toll on your fuel use. I know we all pledge daily that we’ll try to drive more carefully but it’s easy for your good intentions to go out the window during a frustrating commute. So…what if your gas pedal was an active participant in helping you alter your driving behaviour?

Enter Bosch’s new haptic feedback gas pedal. The word “haptic” is derived from a Greek word meaning “I touch” – “haptic” refers to any interactions that involve touch. We’re used to responding to haptic signals in our electronics, like when our phones vibrate, or even in our cars – in some vehicles, for example, the steering wheel vibrates when you’re drifting out of your lane. In Bosch’s “active gas pedal” design, your gas pedal would knock, vibrate or provide counterpressure to give you cues about how to adjust your driving in a variety of situations.

Bosch Active Gas Pedal
Photo: Bosch

Here’s how it works, according to Bosch:

“[…]The active gas pedal uses an internal connection to the navigation, powertrain, and driver assistance systems. On top of this, the pedal also uses external data, such as information from other vehicles or connected infrastructure, which is transmitted to the vehicle via the cloud. Based on this technology, the active gas pedal becomes a safety, gearshift, and coasting assistant that warns of a traffic jam behind a bend, flags unnecessarily high fuel consumption, or signals the switch to the internal combustion engine in hybrid vehicles. Warnings and indications are delivered by means of haptic signals that vary in kind and strength. This allows drivers to respond intuitively and adapt their driving style accordingly.”

Here’s the kicker – Bosch claims that following the prompts of the active gas pedal could potentially reduce your fuel consumption by up to 7%.

Bosch Active Gas Pedal
Photo: Bosch

This sounds like a pretty interesting idea – and if your car is communicating with you through your feet, driving shoes might come back into style! Then again, just plain ol’ driving in the city or on a busy highway can be a pretty sensory-overloading experience - I could see where an busy gas pedal might provide an excess of stimulation in an already tense situation.

What do you think about this gas pedal technology? Do you think a haptic gas pedal would be a helpful and intuitive way to encourage you to drive more carefully? Or would it just feel like another distraction in the car? Let us know in the comments!

- Rose R.