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Behind the Wheel

Ice, ice, baby

November 26, 2013
One of the most terrifying things in my life is driving on icy roads. Don’t believe me? Check out my last post. Every time I drive/walk anywhere on ice, it pretty much looks like this: 58097-sliding-Goat-ice-gif--watch-an-nXDT It’s pretty amusing for everyone except me. That being said, a little snow often brings a lot of terror on the roads. If you hit the ice right, you’ll find yourself with zero control of your car and where it ends up. Granted, sometimes people get extremely lucky: 1358273993_superman_stops_car_from_sliding_into_another_car But people aren’t always as lucky as the folks above. That being said, I’m going to give all of you some tips for driving in the snow/on ice. 1. Firstly, don’t be a hero (or in this sense, don’t be dumb) — there’s no need to be zipping around, flying around corners, or riding the car in front of you when the road is covered in ice. Slow your roll. Drive slowly, slowly apply brakes when necessary, and take corners extremely slowly. 2. If you live in a place where it tends to snow quite a bit, it’s worth it to invest in snow chains or winter tires. This does not include all-season tires. 3. If your vehicle is rear-wheel drive, place some sandbags in your trunk over the rear axle. The extra weight will allow more traction for your wheels in snowy conditions. Make sure not to add too much, because that could sling out the rear of the car in a turn. 4. If you find yourself sliding, let up on the gas and gently turn your wheels in the direction you want to go — it’s as easy as that. Make sure you don’t over-correct re-apply gas until you’re headed in the direction you want to go. 5. If you start hydroplaning, ease off the gas (but not completely). 6. When faced with a hill, do not slow down at the base (you need enough momentum to get up the hill, after all). But when you are about to drive down a hill, slow down before you start heading down, and the coast down as long as you can. 7. Don’t get too tense. White-knuckling your steering wheel will only stress you out even more. Just learn to relax.
Behind the Wheel, Holiday

What's the scariest experience you've ever had while driving?

November 22, 2013
You know that feeling you get when you’re driving in your car, you look away from the road for half a second, look back and suddenly the car in front of you is a lot closer than it was last time? You hit the breaks and clench the steering wheel and pray that A) you don’t hit the car in front of you, and B) your car doesn’t loudly screech to a stop. Often times it’s no harm, no foul — you vow to  never even blink again while driving and thus will never be caught off guard with slowing cars in front of you. But other times it can result in terrifying incidents. My question for all of my readers: What’s the scariest thing to ever happen to you while driving? I have a one particular story off the top of my head that I’ll share, which is especially applicable because it was around Thanksgiving a few years ago.
I was heading back to school post-Thanksgiving with two other friends. The drive was normally a six-hour one, but once we hit the halfway mark, we also hit a huge snowstorm. Not only was the snow pounding down, but the road was covered in black ice. Traffic was moving pretty slowly to stay safe, but we passed overturned semi-trucks and other cars that had veered off of the road because of the crazy weather. At one point, we were cruising around 30 mph and saw traffic slow in front of us. My friend who was driving hit the brakes but kept sliding towards the car right in front of us! She managed to veer off the road so as to avoid hitting the car, but it was still pretty awful. The weather ended up being so bad that we stayed at a friend of a friend of a friend’s house in the area for the night, and then took off early, early the next morning. Even the next morning, though there weren’t many cars on the road, the road was still covered in snow and snow plows trying to clear the way. Plus, we still decided to drive pretty slowly so as to avoid any potential danger. The three hours it should’ve taken us to get back to school ended up taking us six hours. This was a few years back, but I can still feel the stress I had for an entire 15-straight hours!
Behind the Wheel, Under the Hood

Automobile ABCs, Part 1

August 15, 2013
Who doesn’t love learning all there is to know about cars? I’m definitely a big fan of it, so I decided to take on this rather large and daunting blog post subject. I decided there’s no better way to learn all you can about cars than finding a car fact to go with every single letter of the alphabet. So with that said, here goes nothing. Starting off with A-E:


A: Is there ever a time that I should turn my ABS (anti-lock brake system) off? There must be, otherwise it wouldn’t come with a switch to disable it. (Asked by Terry Berggren.) I’m not going to recommend turning off your anti-lock brake system, because I believe it’s more a personal decision than anything. That being said, The National Safety Council states the following concerning ABS:
Four-wheel ABS is a safe, effective braking system when used properly. It offers an important safety advantage by preventing the wheels from locking during emergency braking situations, allowing drivers to maintain control over steering and operate vehicles more effectively.
Needless to say, ABS isn’t something you just want to turn on and off haphazardly. On the other hand, I do know of people who simply don’t feel as safe with ABS on. Disabling the ABS isn’t going to change the brake feel for good breaking, but it will make bad braking techniques worse. Simply put, a lot of people (your insurance company included) think ABS on is the safer bet, but some people have also had negative experiences. You’re not going to be arrested for not having your ABS off, but you need to be fully confident in your decision.

Cadillac CTS-V Cross-Drilled Brakes. X06SP_CA001

B: How often should I expect to have my brakes checked? (Asked by Ted Wienstroer.) Generally you’re going to want to check your brake system out about every 10,000 miles, or at least once a year. On that note, it’s also important to consider your driving techniques and the terrain you generally drive on. If you live in a hilly area, you’ll be hitting your brakes more frequently; and if you’re a constant braker in general, that’ll wear ’em down faster, too.


C: Clutches… how to tell yours is going out. (Asked by Steve Jones.) There are a few ways to tell if your clutch is in its final days/weeks. First, if your clutch goes out most of the way before the gear catches in a simple drive around the neighborhood, it’s probably worn out a bit too much. Second, a burning smell is not a good sign. It means there’s some direct friction from your slipping clutch. Third, if your vehicle shakes and shudders as you shift gears, then it’s a bad clutch. The shaking will be most apparent in first gear and reverse. And last, if you remove the inspection cover to see your clutch and notice visible damage to the actual clutch, then it is time for a new clutch, my friend.


D: Which is better, DISK/DISK or DISK/DRUM brakes? (Asked by Ted Wienstroer.) Most cars these days have DISK/DRUM setup and they’re completely adequate. An Edmunds article discusses why disk/drum gets the job done:
Today’s front disc brakes are truly exceptional in terms of stopping power. Combined with the fact that between 60 and 90 percent of a vehicle’s stopping power comes from the front wheels, it’s clear that a well-designed, modern drum brake is all that’s required for most rear wheel brake duty.
Higher performance cars that might deal with sanctioned racing activity can totally justify a four-wheel disc brake system.


E: Electronic fuel injection… how to clean those pesky ports. (Asked by Steve Jones.) First things first: you’re going to need to purchase a fuel injector cleaner kit, especially if you want to have all of the supplies necessary. Also, make sure you review the layout of your fuel injectors so you know what to expect and what to look for. Disconnect the fuel pump from the fuel injectors, then attach the cleaner to the fuel injectors. Remove the cap from the fuel tank, which’ll stop excessive pressure from building up, and then turn the vehicle on and let the engine run. This’ll take about 5-10 minutes. The engine will eventually shut down on its own after the cleaner has been fully used. Remove the cleaner, reattach the fuel pump, and replace the fuel cap. Turn your car on again, listen for any weird noises, and take your car out for a spin just to make sure everything is running smoothly!