What’s That Smell?

Your nose knows when something’s not right with your car

By Pete Candela

Pete Candela is Director of Approved Auto Repair, Automotive Services, at AAA Auto Club South.

I recently had a member ask if it’s normal for his car to always smell like gasoline. After I answered with a resounding “NO!” I offered some suggestions on what potential leak points exist, and what steps to take next. Then I got to thinking…I wonder if this is yet another category of postponed to-do’s that are left undone because of busy schedules and the effects of the economic pinch we’re all feeling right now.

If you are riding around with an unusual odor (from your car, that is), it’d be wise to at least get it checked out. Unless you are technically knowledgeable about cars, you’ll have no idea whether or not you are riding around in a time bomb until you get a professional opinion. Once the cause of the odor has been identified, you can decide if it’s a priority that needs to be addressed immediately.

Some rules of thumb I live by when it comes to car odors:

  • If it smells like fuel, don’t chance it. Get the car towed. Leaking gas is never good, and should the leaking fuel get on hot components like the exhaust system, your car could be a fire waiting to happen.
  • The smell of burning oil is usually a sign of a leak from a seal or gasket. While an oil fire is possible, it is much less likely to occur. However, it is still a good idea to get it checked to ensure no further damage is being created. And yes, check the oil level!
  • Antifreeze/engine coolant-or the smell of overheating-is one of the more unpleasant odors. Get it checked out, because aside from the dangers of overheating and causing irreparable internal engine damage, leaking antifreeze is hazardous to the environment and fatal to animals (including your beloved pet).
  • Leaking transmission fluid will smell a little sweeter than oil; it is more flammable than engine oil, but not as flammable as gasoline. Either way, running low on transmission fluid can cause internal transmission damage, and catching this problem before it turns catastrophic will save you a lot of money.

The bottom line: No matter what may be causing the odor, if it’s unusual, take the time to get it checked out. It could end up saving you both time and money in the long run!

Tire Pressure

Over-inflated tires ride roughly and suffer premature wear at the center of their tread. Under-inflated tires decrease fuel economy, cause imprecise handling, suffer premature wear at the edges of their tread, and can overheat and fail at highway speeds.

Check the tire pressure (including the spare) at least once a month when the tires are cold. Always follow the inflation pressure recommendations in your owners manual, or those on the tire information label that is located in the glove box or on the driver’s doorjamb-not the inflation pressure molded into the tire sidewall.

How To Parallel Park in a Tight Parking Spot

If you are a first time driver, or if you have just recently received your driver’s license, one of the biggest challenges that you probably have to face is parallel parking. Parking is easy if you have plenty of space, but in cities where the parking spaces are very cramped, you will need to work on your parallel parking.

Parallel ParkingHere’s how you can do it:

Check the parking space. Start by making sure that there is actually enough space for your car in the lot. Most parking lots come with markings on the ground, so that you will be able to easily tell whether there is space or not. In unmarked parking lots, however, you may have to use your eyes to determine whether there is enough space. As a general rule, you should side up to the spot where you plan on parking, to gauge whether there is enough space or not.

Use your signal lights. Once you have determined that there is enough space for you to park in, the next step is to put your signal lights on. This is required, and will give other drivers the notice that you are trying to park. Apart from warning other drivers, it is also a way for you to ensure your safety. When other drivers see that your lights are on, they will wait for you to finish parking, or move away from you so that you will have more space.

Reverse. Now, begin to reverse the car into the tight spot. Make sure that you move your wheel as far as it will go in reverse, especially if you are working on a very tight spot. Move in reverse until you have reached the end of the parking space.

Straighten the wheel. In most tight spots, however, you will not easily fit in with just one reverse. You will usually need to straighten the wheel and then move forward for a couple of inches or feet. Afterwards, again turn the wheel as far as it will go and then reverse the car. Do this repeatedly, until you are able to slowly position your car as close as possible to the parking space. Once you are fairly certain that you are already aligned into the parking space, you can straighten the wheel and then reverse as far back as possible. Make sure that you use your rear view mirror to assess the distance between the back of your car and the tip of the parking space.

Park mode. After you have finished inserting your car into the tight parking space, all you need to do is to put the car in park. The first few times you try to do parallel parking may be very difficult and may take you some time. You can practice at home, if you want to improve your parallel parking skills.

With these steps, you should be able to easily park your car no matter how tight the parking space may be. Best of all, you no longer have to worry about denting your car or scratching the car next to you.

Ten Tips to Keep Teens Safe Behind The Wheel

Ten tips to keep teens safe behind the wheel, written for teen drivers… but anyone can use these safe, helpful driving ideas. Be smart and safe behind the wheel of your car.

Waiting for a teen driver to return home safely probably causes the most anxiety and loss of sleep for parents. And with good reason — car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers, accounting for 35 percent of all fatalities among young people 15 to 20 years old, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

While statistically teen deaths related to motor vehicle crashes have declined over the last several years, a dark cloud remains over the alarming rate of deaths among teen drivers, who are four times more likely to die in a car accident than drivers 25 years or older.

That, combined with a surge in the number of young drivers — the children of baby boomers — who are taking to the roads, is leading more states to institute tougher teen driving regulations. Measures range from graduated licenses to a ban on the use of cell phones while driving for teen drivers, according to Findlaw.com, a leading online source of legal information.

Besides keeping teens safer when they’re behind the wheel, the new, tougher regulations also aim to get parents more engaged in helping their teens learn the rules of the road.

Findlaw.com offers 10 tips to help protect your teen driver from an accident.

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice.
  2. During the first 500 miles of driving, teen drivers are 10 times more likely to be in auto crashes than any other age group. Driving requires mental and physical skills that can only be honed with time on the road. That’s why it’s essential for teen drivers to get professional training and why more states are issuing graduated licenses that require teens to drive with their parents for an extended length of time before being eligible to drive on their own.

  3. Create A Safe Driving Contract.
  4. Parents should consider creating a safe-driving contract with new drivers to build safe driving habits. Have clear, consistent consequences when your teens do something inappropriate while driving so they understand their boundaries as drivers. The focus of such a contract should be on removing distractions, such as cell phones or eating in the car, which may divert a teen driver’s attention from the road, and keeping teen drivers off the roads at particularly risky times of the day (after 10 p.m. and before 6 a.m.).

  5. No Cell Phones.
  6. Texting while driving is banned in 26 states and D.C., and an additional eight states prohibit text messaging by minor drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Six states prohibit all drivers from using handheld phones while driving. Make sure you and your teen driver are familiar with your state’s laws on mobile devices and driving.

  7. Seatbelts.
  8. Fifty-five percent of teens killed in automobile accidents in 2008 were not wearing seatbelts, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Wearing a seatbelt is not only a good idea, in a growing number of states, it’s the law — 31 states have primary seat belt laws and 18 have secondary laws, according to Findlaw.com.

  9. Passenger Restriction.
  10. Parents should try to limit the number of passengers in their teen’s car, especially those younger than 18. Some states even have laws that do not allow minor passengers to be in the vehicle for the first six months after a new teen driver receives his or her license.

  11. Curfew.
  12. Teens can be more distracted at night. A study done by NHTSA finds that nighttime, especially after 10 p.m., is one of the riskiest times of the day to drive for teens. Check state and local city laws regarding curfews as some states impose curfews on teen driving.

  13. No Drinking and Driving.
  14. On average, a drunk driver kills someone every 45 minutes, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Help your teen find other solutions to drinking and driving, especially responding to peer pressure to drink. Lead by example and show your kids it’s never okay to drink and drive.

  15. Make Sure Your Teen Gets Sleep.
  16. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most teens need at least nine hours of sleep. Sleep deprived teens can drive like someone who is impaired by a blood alcohol content of .08 percent. Don’t let your teen drive if they are feeling drowsy. Offer to drive them or let them sleep more before driving. Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 car crashes each year.

  17. Train Teens For Poor Weather Conditions.
  18. Your teen will never know what challenges he will face on the road. Make sure he is able to handle snow, wind, and rain. Ride along with her during a storm before she has to face this challenge alone.

  19. Make An Accident Kit.
  20. You never know what tools you will need after an accident, and it’s better to always be prepared. Some ideas for your accident kit: a disposable camera, flashlight, glowstick, pen and personal info sheet to list all of your insurance information and personal details. You may also include info cards and witness cards to collect license plate numbers, insurance details, and other information from all cars, drivers and witnesses involved in an accident.

To learn about the law and for more information about a parent’s liability with their teen drivers, visit www.findlaw.com.

Safe Fall Driving Tips

School Buses

In September the school buses return. Watch out for school buses and children, especially early in the morning and the afternoon. Remember, you can’t pass a school bus with its red lights flashing. You must stop. Watch for school zones and reduced speed limits.

Watch Out for Leaves

Once leaves become wet they can become as slippery as ice! Watch for patches of wet leaves in the roadway. As nights get cold wet leaves can turn to icy leaves.

Drowsy Time

Daylight Savings means the clocks are turned back one hour. That one hour change can have several effects:

  • You may become easily tired until your body has adjusts to the time change.
  • You must adjust to commuting in the dark.
  • Incidences of drowsiness are much higher during the first weeks following the time changes.

Tire Pressure

With our frequent temperature changes tires expand and contract. This may cause them to lose air. Low air pressure is a major facture in accidents where the driver loses control.

Carry Sunglasses

You may need them as the sun rises and sets… especially at commute time. Sunglasses can cut glare which reduces danger almost 100%.

Fog and the Low Beams

With the autumn comes fog. Keep your headlights on the low-beam. This aims the light at the road. High-beams aims up and into the fog. That’s not good.

Deer Crossing

Deer will be trying to avoid hunters and may cross roadways. The risk of deer/vehicle collisions is greatest during Autumn and early Winter. Two thirds of these crashes occur in October, November, and December when deer movements peak due to the onset of the breeding season.

Here are some suggestions for avoiding deer:

  • Use extreme caution if driving at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active and visibility is poor. This means deer are often most active during peak commuter traveling times.
  • The risk of deer/vehicle collisions is greatest during Autumn and early Winter. Two thirds of these crashes occur in October, November, and December when deer movements peak due to the onset of the breeding season.
  • Slow down when approaching deer standing near roadsides. Deer may “bolt” or change direction at the last minute.
  • If you see a deer cross the road, slow down and use extreme caution. Deer often travel in groups — if you see one, expect more.
  • Use flashers or a headlight signal to warn other drivers when deer are spotted on or near the road.
  • Use caution and be alert when passing through areas marked with deer crossing signs. These signs are placed in areas that have shown a high incidence of deer/vehicle collisions in the past.

Changing Your Cars Fluids Depends On Your Driving: Normal Or Severe?

Have you ever tried to actually read your owner’s manual, especially the part about maintenance and service? As if this kind of stuff isn’t confusing enough, there are always two schedules listed, one for a vehicle driven under “normal” conditions and another for “severe.” But what exactly does this mean? I have yet to see an automaker that actually explains, in plain English, what these terms mean.

Service Schedules For Fluids

Let’s start by trying to understand the differences between normal and severe. The severe schedule, which always has shorter recommended intervals between fluid changes, applies if any of the following are true:

  • Most trips are less than 10 miles (16 km). This is particularly important when outside temperatures are below freezing.
  • Most trips include extensive idling (such as frequent driving in stop-and-go traffic).
  • The vehicle is frequently driven in dusty areas, like on dirt or gravel roads.
  • The vehicle is frequently used for towing a trailer or using a carrier on top, both of which place extra demands on the engine.
  • The vehicle is used for delivery service, police, taxi, or other commercial applications.

If none of these conditions are applicable, you should go ahead and follow the normal schedule. Your owner’s manual will tell you the specific mileage suggestions for your vehicle, thus, make sure you check it for the recommended fluid, lubricant and filter change intervals. Keep in mind that with these fluids, there’s not exactly a rule of thumb like there is with engine oil. In fact, some of the items discussed in this article may not be listed in your service schedule. If this is the case, consider our recommendations suggested under each section.

Transmission Fluid

While some manufacturers suggest that transmission fluid can last for up to 100,000 miles if you’re following the normal schedule, I tend to think that this is one of the cases where it’s better to be cautious and follow the severe schedule if there’s any question. A severe service schedule might call for transmission fluid to be flushed at 35,000-40,000 miles, and at usually less than $200 for this procedure, it’s good prevention. Getting an automatic transmission rebuilt is a costly repair, easily running into the thousands of dollars, so it’s one you particularly want to avoid.

The transmission fluid performs a few functions. It serves as a medium by which the hydraulic pressure, necessary to operate the transmission, is created. It absorbs heat within the unit and carries it away to the transmission oil cooler, insuring that the transmission does not overheat. This vital fluid also lubricates the moving parts inside the transmission. Finally, it keeps dirt and debris in suspension until the filter can remove it from the fluid.

Transmission fluid is an oil, and is therefore subject to viscosity breakdown and the loss of its protective, lubricating, and cooling properties. Operating the transmission on fluid that is worn out results in premature transmission wear and ultimately failure.

In determining which service schedule to use for your transmission fluid, there are a few key real-world activities that indicate you should use the severe interval. These include towing, frequent driving in stop-and-go traffic or spending long periods of time with the vehicle idling, driving your vehicle off-road, hauling heavy loads, or using a snowplow. Following this more vigorous severe maintenance schedule will help head off the damage caused by excessive friction, heat, and internal wear, which can kill your transmission.

Differential And Transfer Case Lubricants

First a note: Most modern front-wheel-drive cars do not require this sort of service, because they don’t have transfer cases or serviceable differentials. Servicing the transfer case and differential is usually applicable to four-wheel-drive, all-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles. While not all will require frequent service in this area, it can still be necessary, especially if you’re a candidate for the severe service schedule. Most manufacturers do not require the transfer case or differential to be drained unless there’s a problem, but the fluid should be regularly inspected.

Differentials turn the axles that turn the wheels, while the transfer case is an auxiliary gearbox that allows a four-wheel drive vehicle to shift from low to high range and back again. Each of these gearboxes house lubricant to keep them running smoothly and keep them cool.

The best way to determine whether your transfer case or differential needs its fluid changed is by a visual inspection of the fluid. Lubricant that contains metal flakes indicates internal wear. If this is the case, the unit should be opened up and inspected. Fluid that is black has been overheated and the unit should be inspected for the cause of the overheating, alas wear is the usual cause). Fluid that is milky in color has been contaminated with water and should be changed immediately to avert premature failure. Also check for open or broken vents that allowed the water in and repair them.

Years ago, 90-weight gear oil was the only lubricant used in differential or transfer cases. However, today’s carmakers use specially formulated lubricants in many of these units. These special additives can be specific to your vehicle and can make other gear oils incompatible, so make sure you check your owner’s manual for the exact fluid specifications.

Engine Coolant

Engine coolant runs through your vehicle’s engine, absorbing and transferring heat to the radiator where it is cooled before being re-circulated. Coolant contains specially formulated chemical packages that inhibit rust and scale buildup, lubricate water pumps, help protect against freezing, and improve heat transfer.

There are plenty of things that can cause your coolant to “wear out”: Not changing it frequently enough, running the engine in an overheated condition, and even just working the engine extremely hard can result in breakdown of the coolant’s chemical properties. This leaves the cooling system more susceptible to rust and scale buildup and freezing in the winter. In addition, the water pump can wear out from excessive friction and heat.

The rule-of-thumb for flushing and replacing your coolant is every two years or 24,000 miles.

Power Steering Fluid

Power steering fluid is hydraulic oil, just like transmission fluid. Your power steering system consists of a pump and fluid reservoir, lines, and a power steering gear. The pump creates hydraulic pressure from pumping the fluid, which powers the steering gear, making steering easy.

On most vehicles, power steering fluid does not show up in the maintenance schedule, so there are no severe or normal service recommendations. The only recommendation suggested here is to check it at every oil change, inspecting closely for evidence of metal flakes, indicating steering gear or pump wear, or a black or dark color, indicating overheating. Either condition calls for replacement of the fluid and inspection of the system. If the fluid appears to be overheated, the pump should be checked for internal wear. If you catch these problems early enough and replace the pump, you can usually circumvent replacing the steering gear later.

Brake Fluid

On most vehicles, brake fluid does not show up in the maintenance schedule and so there are no severe or normal service recommendations. The only recommendation suggested here is to check the brake fluid every oil change, inspecting closely for the proper level and signs that the fluid needs to be changed. Some manufacturers do suggest having the brake fluid completely changed every five to seven years, especially if you live in a state where you experience winter or a lot of rain.

Brake fluid is a hydraulic fluid used as a medium to generate the pressure needed to activate the brakes. When you press the brake pedal, the master cylinder pumps fluid through the system, which pushes the brake caliper pistons against the brake pads, which in turn make contact with the brake rotors and slow the car.

Brake fluid that is black in color has been overheated. Excess heat in the system is usually caused by a stuck brake caliper. So if the brake fluid is dark in color, the brakes should be checked for a malfunction. Rust sediment is an indication that moisture has contaminated the brake fluid. You need to keep a close eye on brake fluid because it is hydroscopic in nature, meaning it absorbs moisture, which reduces the effectiveness of the fluid.

How To Keep Your Passengers Safe

The season of driving over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house is upon us. Addressing three aspects of driving will help make holiday trips — or any trip — safer and more comfortable.

Holidays are times of good cheer and family road trips. They are also some of the most dangerous times to be on the road. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), drivers are significantly more likely to be involved in accidents on three upcoming holidays. In order of increasing driving danger, Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve are statistically risky times to be on the road.

In addition to holiday jeopardies, drivers have much to consider as fall transitions to winter. Fewer hours of daylight, cooler weather, and increased precipitation present challenges, especially when they all hit at once.

Prepare Your Passengers

Aside from making sure everyone’s gone to the bathroom, here are some things to remember before setting out on your next family journey.

1. Obey all state and local laws regarding seat-belt usage and distracted driving. Seat belts have been proven lifesavers for decades, yet there are still some drivers who do not wear them consistently. Distracted driving is dangerous enough when you’re alone, so refrain from using your mobile phone while driving.

2. If your children are still required to ride in safety seats or boosters, make they’re riding in the proper seat type, and be sure those seats are properly installed. The site www.safercar.gov walks you though the kid-seat matching process. If you have questions about their installation, Safer Car also has information on registered locations where a trained technician can check your car-to-car-seat hook-up skills. The site also lets you check whether your car seat has been recalled, an important thing to know.

3. On longer trips, bring activities that keep children content. Hand-held video games, audio books, mobile DVD players, car-friendly snacks, and even something as simple as a coloring book and crayons can make a huge difference in how many times a driver hears, “Are we there, yet?”

4. For those passengers prone to motion sickness, there are alternatives to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Candied ginger can help prevent queasy stomachs, as can purpose-designed wristbands with integrated beads. When passengers are happy and comfortable, they demand less from a driver who needs be focused on driving.

Prepare Your Vehicle

1. The key to visibility includes clean glass, especially the windshield. Cleaning the outside is easy. Hit the windshield with a traditional glass cleaner, and wipe things clean with a microfiber towel or a newspaper to eliminate lint. Wipe-on windshield coatings that make the glass shed water improve visibility when the rain falls, as well.

2. Even though it’s not exposed to the elements, the glass inside your vehicle also gets dirty. Glass cleaners and microfiber towels work well, as do convenient glass-cleaning wipes. Both cut the film that clouds your vision.

3. If your windshield wipers are more than a year old, replace them. And be sure to fill one or both of your vehicle’s washer fluid reservoirs (some vehicles have separate containers for the rear window).

4. Check your headlights to make sure they’re illuminating. If the bulbs are more than three years old, consider replacing them. New halogen bulbs are significantly brighter than older bulbs, improving nighttime vision. Additionally, new do-it-yourself products are available to polish and clean headlight lenses, making sure the light produced makes it out onto the road.

5. While its not related to visibility, tires are also important to safe driving. Keeping tires properly inflated improves fuel economy and optimizes vehicle performance. When checking pressures, also check the tread depth to make sure the tires are safe.

Clean Out The Clutter

Think about how your vehicle’s interior might fare in an accident. Do you have anything rolling around in the back seat that could be dangerous in a rollover or a crash?

1. Pitch empty bottles, cups, CD cases, trash and anything else that isn’t essential to driving. Items can get jammed under pedals in an accident.

2. Clear off the dashboard and the rear package shelf. This improves visibility, but more importantly, it eliminates potentially perilous projectiles. Anything left unsecured could become a dangerous flying object during evasive maneuvers or collisions.

3. Secure everything you choose to leave inside: Sunglasses, cell phones, PDAs, DVD players, MP3 players, navigation devices, etc. Doing this helps reduce distractions that can pull a driver’s attention away from the road ahead.

Prepare Yourself

Today’s vehicles do a better job of protecting their occupants than ever before. As good as modern vehicles are, the driver is still the key to safety on the road.

1. Here’s something to think about after a high-calorie Thanksgiving dinner rich in sleep-inducing tryptophan: Driving while over-tired or exhausted is risky. Sleepy drivers react more slowly. Although not illegal like drunk driving, tired driving puts drivers, their passengers and other motorists in danger.

2. Additionally, auto racers know that a proper seating position is key to safety at any speed. Seating position impacts outward visibility and the control a driver can exert on the vehicle.

3. While driving from a reclined position might look cool, it dramatically reduces a driver’s vision close to his vehicle. Driving with arms and legs outstretched also forces drivers to use “dumber” large-motor muscles to turn the steering wheel and operate the accelerator and brake pedals. When a driver sits closer to the wheel, he uses “smarter” small motor muscles that enable more precise control that is critical to avoiding accidents.

Car Maintenance 101

Keep Your Car Battery Fully Charged

Most people don’t pay attention to a car battery unless it stops working, but keeping your battery at full charge extends its useful life. Repeated charging and discharging can weaken the battery’s ability to hold a charge over time.

Your car battery also becomes depleted when you don’t use the vehicle for more than a few weeks. Even though the car is not running and all accessories are shut off, if the battery is connected, there is a gradual draw of current.
What to do: To avoid depleting your battery, don’t use the radio, headlights, interior lights and any other accessory when the engine is off.

If your car is not used regularly, consider buying an automatic “trickle charger.” This device is connected by cables to the car battery in the car and plugged into a household electrical outlet to provide a charge. I prefer the automatic models, which cannot overcharge your battery because they automatically turn off when the battery reaches full capacity. Trickle chargers are available at auto-parts stores for about $40.

Fill Your Gas Tank

A full or nearly full tank reduces the odds that you will need expensive fuel system service in the years ahead. Most gas tanks are made of metal, and a partially empty fuel tank is prone to rust. Rust particles flake off and can clog fuel filters, fuel lines and fuel injectors, leading to costly repairs. In addition, rust can eat through the tank, creating holes. That might take 10 to 15 years, but modern cars often last that long and longer. Replacing a gas tank (and fuel lines) is an expensive job.

What to do: Keep your gas tank as full as possible at all times. Never let it get lower than half a tank.
Bonus: You won’t ever have to make an emergency almost-empty stop at a gas station that charges more than the average price for gas.

Watch Your Tires

Today’s tires are much more reliable than tires in the past — so much so that people tend to not think about their tires or check their air pressure. Result: Underinflated tires are more common today. Tires that are underinflated create more friction than those that have the right amount of pressure. This hurts gas mileage and can cause tires to wear out faster.

With today’s high-quality tires, air leakage typically is very slow and might not be noticeable to the eye until the pressure has dropped to dangerously low levels.

What to do: Check your tire pressure. Almost all new cars now have built-in electronic tire-pressure monitors. For older cars, it’s wise to check your pressure the old-fashioned way, with a handheld gauge, at least every two weeks. It is best to do it when the tires are “cold” (not warm from driving). Add air whenever tire pressure falls below the carmaker’s recommended minimum level. This is listed in the owner’s manual or on a sticker on the inside of the driver’s door jamb.

Oil Changes

Oil’s main job is to capture contaminants that would otherwise contribute to the wear and tear of the car’s engine.
What to do: Keep the engine well-serviced by always changing the oil at the prescribed time. Don’t go longer than one month or 200 to 300 miles past the mileage/date interval.

Protect Your Clutch

The clutch on a car with a manual transmission wears down during the course of normal use, mainly because of friction. Replacing a clutch can cost $1,000 or more, so the longer you can go between clutch jobs, the better.
What to do: Most wear and tear takes place when you start and stop the car and shift gears. To cut back on wear and tear on the clutch, try to minimize stop-and-go–type driving as well as gear changes.

Example: Try to maintain your vehicle’s momentum by anticipating changing lights and the ebb and flow of traffic. It is much easier on the clutch to “roll out” in second or third gear than to start from a dead stop in first gear. When you change gears, do it smoothly, not abruptly.

Important: Avoid excessive use of the clutch or “riding” it (partially engaging the clutch, which increases friction and can wear it out).

The Legality of Driving Barefoot

Our research indicated two facts –

1. There is no specific law restricting the operation of a motor vehicle without shoes in any of the fifty states or the District of Columbia


2. Every state’s department of public safety has a recommendation that drivers wear shoes, either to avoid reckless driving charges (a very real possibility) or injury during an accident.

Still, we stand behind our original advice — driving barefoot can get you ticketed for reckless driving (or any number of other statutes) and can cause severe injury in the case of an accident.

While you will not be ticketed specifically for “driving barefoot”, your state’s DPS can ticket you for any number of driving offenses related to barefoot driving.

Don’t Eat And Drive?

Drinking (alcoholic beverages at least) and driving are never a good mix. Everyone knows that. But has it ever occurred to you that eating and drinking non-alcoholic beverages while driving can be just as fatal?

Think about it, how often have you passed by a fast food’s drive through and eaten your meal while driving? The chances are that you have done this so many times you can’t even count! And why not? With the fast paced life that most of us live these days, there are instances wherein we can only grab a quick bite while on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, however, this is not such a good idea. They recently conducted a study which showed that about 80% of all car accidents and 65% of near misses are due to motorists being distracted. So what’s new? Well this is what’s new – the drivers are distracted by their burgers and drinks! Instead of focusing their attention on the road, drivers involved in accidents are probably eating, the study says.

And if you think that drinking coffee makes you a better driver, you might want to think again. The study actually ranked the worst food and drink items that you can eat/drink while behind the wheel. Yep, coffee is one of them. Researchers say that the distraction stems from the potential spill each time you hit a bump or turn a curve. Same goes for that cheeseburger – the pickle might fall, forcing you to reach for it….

Bottom line? You might want to think twice before getting a Big Mac meal to go.

Pull over to the side when you hear sirens

At times when you are on the road, you are bound to see police cars, ambulances or VIPs flashing blinkers and sirens meaning they are in a hurry. Well, they are always in a hurry to reach their point of destination and as a sign of courtesy, private and public vehicles know for a fact that they have to give way or clear the road to let them pass.

That is a common practice that is done anywhere in the world today and for sure, no one wants to get into trouble or be ticketed as an obstruction for refusing to give way. As a rational driver, emergency or not it would be wise to allow them to pass since you never know what could happen and may be held accountable in the end if the emergencies fail to reach their actual point of destination.

As far as having blinkers and sirens is concerned, there are some people who install them without licenses or permits. By doing so, you are placing yourself in a lot of trouble. In most countries, unless you are licensed or authorized to have such things installed on your car, it would be best to keep that thought clear.
These gadgets are normally restricted to the proper people commissioned to do them. It goes in hand with their work. Some use them for status symbol while others just want to feel powerful. They are used for a purpose. Do not install one unless you have the right to have them.

Top 10 Driving Tips

Pro driver advice for avoiding accidents

Virtually all Americans think they are “above average” or “average” drivers. The four percent that are “below average” are everywhere! Most U.S. males think they should be in NASCAR instead of Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. It’s nice we have such positive self-images.

Since you don’t need the following driving tips… how about passing them on to your friends?

10. Don’t Back Up
Backing accidents happen far out of proportion to the small amount of time spent in reverse. Injuries are few but tragic-frequently a child related to the driver. Choose parking spaces that you can drive straight into and out of, or CAREFULLY back in so you can drive forward out of the space. Walk around your vehicle before you get in. Limit your backing to the shortest distance in order to restrict your exposure. Also, look out the rear window while backing: Some driving instructors require students to come to a stop when they check mirrors or front clearance.

9. Work Smarter
Only a fool closes his eyes while driving 70 mph on the freeway. Yet, you do essentially the same thing whenever you look over your shoulder before changing lanes. With properly adjusted outside mirrors you’ll need to look no more than about 50 degrees away from straight ahead. That way, your peripheral vision can keep tabs on the traffic ahead and clear blind spots. Your mirrors are improperly adjusted if you can see the sides of your car. To correctly adjust your left outside mirror, rest your head against the side glass and move the mirror out until you can no longer see the side of the car. Then lean your head as far to the right as the seatbelt will allow and move that mirror out until you can no longer see sheet metal. You don’t need to see the car’s sides-they always follow obediently along. Your “reference” is now the slightly overlapping images on the inside and outside mirrors.

8. Go Right
Almost half of all left-turn crashes in urban areas result in injury. And if you’re the one making the left, you’ll also receive the insult of a traffic ticket-even if the straight-through driver ran the red light. Plan your route to limit intersections without a left-turn arrow. Rather than turning left out of a parking lot, take a right and go around the block. While two wrongs don’t make a right, three rights make a left.

7. Learn Your Car
Humans who haven’t practiced for an emergency often lock-up like a virus-infected computer, or a deer blinded by headlights. Many-if not most-car crashes would be avoided if the drivers had employed the timely and proper combination of additional braking and more steering. With anti-lock brakes, it’s easy to experience your vehicle’s ultimate stopping power: Find a vacant stretch of road (or parking lot) and “Stomp, Stay, and Steer.” Stomp the brake pedal to the floor. Stay hard on it. (Other than slightly accelerated brake pad wear, it won’t hurt the car.) Finally, steer around the obstacle. (Understand: A little bit of steering goes a long way.) Practice before the emergency.

6. See And Be Seen
Regularly scan out to the limit of your vision. (Measure how far ahead you look: With a dry-erase marker, make a thin line at pupil height. See how often you look under the line.) Use only your peripheral vision to position your car laterally within your lane. Apply a rain-shedding product to the exterior surfaces of all windows (and the outside mirrors, too). Replace windshield wipers twice a year. Engage the air conditioner and fresh air (not recirculation) setting when windows fog over. Turn on your headlights-not just the parking lights-well before sunset and in rainy or foggy weather. Use your turn signals.

5. Figure Out The Clues
Other drivers regularly tell you things. Brake lights on a straight section mean there’s a ladder in the road. Oncoming cars burning headlights during the day mean a rain shower ahead. Out-of-state plates or car rental agency stickers tell you to expect sudden stops and turns. Rusty dents says, “I have so many wrecks, I don’t bother to fix them.” A can of orange juice on the dash means there’s possibly a bottle of vodka under the seat.

4. Prep Your Ride
On under-inflated, mismatched, or worn-out tires, Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher can drive no better than a chimp. With worn-out brakes, his Ferrari will stop no shorter than the Flintstone mobile. Many of the new safety features, such as electronic stability control, cannot perform their magic without top-performing brakes and tires.

3. Sober — And Hang — Up
Despite two decades’ worth of education, enforcement, and harpy nagging, a third of fatal accidents involve a drunk driver. Sadly, cell phones are replacing alcohol as a driving impairment. Hang up and drive. And a spilled soda is several times more distracting than a “What do you want for dinner-” phone call.

2. Anticipate
Fans often marvel about racers’ lightning-fast reactions. The truth is that racers can’t afford to react. Instead they anticipate. At 160 (or 60) mph, if they wait until their car’s rear tires start to slide, there’s little hope of avoiding a spin. But if they can anticipate the loss of traction-either by knowing a section of track is slick or by feeling the incipient slide-they won’t lose control or even much time. On the highway, you need to do the same thing. Anticipate that the light rain shower has filled the wagon-wheel ruts with water. Anticipate that the driver on the cross street is not going to stop. Anticipate that the little old man in the car ahead will brake for no apparent reason. Anticipate that a crash in the southbound lanes will mean a backup in the northbound lanes. Anticipate that one driver will turn without a signal and the next will go straight with his signal on.

1. Pay Attention
A recent study found that in about three-quarters of crashes, the driver was inattentive within three seconds of the wreck. Investigating officers far too often hear” “I never saw the other car until right before we hit.” If you’re not looking, you won’t see the other car until it lands on your hood.

Driving Test Tips

Getting your driver’s license is a big step in life, and it can be a necessary tool for getting a job or the key to experiencing the world around you. Preparing for your driving test can seem especially daunting because you have to take everything you’ve read and actually do it! Thankfully, there are some easy ways to prepare that don’t cost a lot and can really improve your chances of success. Here are some ideas for you to consider:

1. Who you will be driving with during practice? Are they someone you respect and can take advice from, or will you get flustered or anxious with them?

2. Practice in a car with an automatic transmission and power steering. Not having to worry about shifting and awkward controls will let you focus on your driving.

3. Find a quiet area without a lot of other traffic when you first start your driving practice, even if it means going a bit out of your way. Starting in a busy area with complicated traffic signals will hurt your confidence!

4. Plan your practice routes with your mentor to ensure you get to experience all of the required traffic signs, maneuvers and traffic patterns.

5. Always bring your driving manual with you on your practice drives so that you can refer to it for any technical details that you can’t recall clearly.

6. Before going on a practice drive with your mentor, imagine yourself driving and visualize what you will do in different situations and what it will feel like in the car.

7. Talk to your friends about what their driving test was like, and get a sense of what the examiner was getting them to do and where they felt unprepared.

Applying these tips while you practice will reduce your stress and allow you to focus on learning the skills you need to pass your driving test the first time!

Driving and Car Maintenance

Transportation accounts for 67% of U.S. oil use-mainly in the form of gasoline. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to improve gas mileage.

Driving Tips
Idling gets you 0 miles per gallon. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. No more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days is needed. Anything more simply wastes fuel and increases emissions.

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking) wastes gas. It can lower your highway gas mileage 33% and city mileage 5%.

Avoid high speeds. Above 60 mph, gas mileage drops rapidly.

Clear out your car; extra weight decreases gas mileage by 1% to 2% for every 100 pounds.

Reduce drag by placing items inside the car or trunk rather than on roof racks. A roof rack or carrier provides additional cargo space and may allow you to buy a smaller car. However, a loaded roof rack can decrease your fuel economy by 5% or more.

Check into telecommuting, carpooling and public transit to cut mileage and car maintenance costs.

Car Maintenance Tips
Use the grade of motor oil recommended by your car’s manufacturer. Using a different motor oil can lower your gasoline mileage by 1% to 2%.

Keep tires properly inflated and aligned to improve your gasoline mileage by around 3.3%.

Get regular engine tune-ups and car maintenance checks to avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, low transmission fluid, or transmission problems.

Replace clogged air filters to improve gas mileage by as much as 10% and protect your engine.

Combine errands into one trip. Several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

Green Driving Tips: Small Changes Save Big

Unless you only ever travel on a bicycle and never watch the news or read the newspaper, you probably are aware that gas prices are on the rise. If you were already on a tight budget, then filling up the tank might be draining your account fast. There’s never been a better time to be a treehugger for both personal finance reasons and for the obvious reasons of treating the planet with respect and kindness, but there are ways to do it in small steps and cutting back on gas usage by choices you make behind the wheel.

Although switching to alternative fuel choices would obviously be beneficial to you and the planet, there are a few small changes you can make in your driving habits that can save on gas and make a noticeable difference in the long run.

~Cruise your way to savings
When you’re on the highway, set your vehicle to cruise control close to the speed limit. You’ll save money by using less gas and the environment will love you for cutting back on the toxins that your car is spitting out.
~No drag racing
Ok, drag racing is obvious, but you can also avoid quick starts at lights and accelerate from 0 to 60 in a flash. not only will this cut back on gas but it’ll also cut back on the wear and tear of expensive tires!
~Ease up on the brakes
Unless you need to avoid hitting something, go easy on the brakes. This will help save on gas in the stop and go traffic and will also save on brake jobs in the long run.
~Lighten up
Unload an weight in the vehicle that you don’t need. For every 100 pounds you reduce, you will significantly save on fuel mileage.

Driving with Cruise Control On Wet Pavement

Wet-road driving is full of dangers that are not always apparent, even to an experienced driver. Roads constantly accumulate oily substances and this residue settles deep into the pavement. Rain brings the residue back to the surface, making roads especially slippery during that first hour of downpour or even misting. Under these wet conditions drivers are likely to experience reduced control, and are cautioned to be extra careful for the first half-hour after it begins to rain. Just a thin layer of water lying on pavement can unexpectedly send a car hydroplaning into another lane or even off the roadway.

What is hydroplaning? In rain, a layer of water builds up beneath your tires. As you drive at higher speeds, the car begins sliding on this layer and can cause you to lose all physical contact with the ground. The car’s wheels skim along the water’s surface instead of making contact with the road. This is called hydroplaning, and greatly reduces control, allowing even slight gusts of wind to cause your car to skid. Thus, it is highly advisable to avoid high speeds during rains.

The only way to stop this wheel-spin and maintain control is to immediately reduce power. However, an activated cruise control system will continue to apply power, keeping the wheels spinning. By the time you disengage the cruise control, you may have lost control.

If your car hydroplanes:
* completely stop acceleration
* keep the steering steady
* avoid braking till your speed is reduced and the tires grip the road again.

How to avoid hydroplaning:
* Don’t drive with bald or badly worn tires.
* Ensure your tires are properly inflated.
* Check tire pressure and slow down when rainfall is heavy or storm water is standing on the road.
* Don’t use cruise control on wet roads
* Winter driving with ice, snow and sleet can also cause hydroplaning. For your safety, cruise
control should also be avoided during these wet and slick conditions.

Green Summer Driving Tips

Now that summer has arrived and the temperature has risen, while driving in a car this question invariably comes up. Should I put the windows up with Air Conditioning on, or leave them down?
With many things in life, the answer depends on the circumstance.

SAE (the Society of Automotive Engineers) compiled a test of the fuel efficiency going at different speeds on a sedan and SUV. To sum up their findings, while going on a highway at speeds approximately 55-65 mph it is better to keep your windows up and AC on, as there is not much energy gained from having it off with the air drag that your car will have with the windows down.
At lower speeds it is more beneficial, if only slightly, to keep the windows down and have the AC off.

The biggest difference will be seen if driving an SUV, but typically if you are driving an SUV fuel efficiency isn’t at the top of your concerns. Basically, there are much easier ways to green up your lifestyle than putting your car in a wind tunnel and seeing the air drag on your car.

Skidding and Hydroplaning in Rainy Conditions

Losing control of your car on wet pavement is a frightening experience.

Skids are scary but hydroplaning is completely nerve-wracking.

Hydroplaning happens when the water in front of your tires builds up faster than your car’s weight can push it out of the way. The water pressure causes your car to rise up and slide on a thin layer of water between your tires.

Taking these simple tips into account can save your life.

1. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal.

2. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. This procedure, known as “steering into the skid,” will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you steer into the skid.

3. Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your tires inflated correctly. Maintain good tire tread. Don’t put off replacing worn tires. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.

4. If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car’s computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.

5. A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures.

Taking Your Date For A Ride

Unless you live in an area where public transit is the norm there’s a good chance that you will be using some sort of an automobile to pick up and transport your date. Before you take your date for a ride read the following guides to make certain you don’t give your date good reason to make it a one way trip.

This isn’t just for the guys either, in the society we live in today there’s no reason why the female can’t drive, especially if she did the asking! Let’s face it, whichever gender does the asking, that’s the one who does the driving. Personally I like the guy to drive. Okay, here’s some car etiquette, are you buckled up for the ride?

1. Automobile doors
It’s as simple as this, if you are driving your automobile then you open the passenger door for your date first. That means from outside the car folks. It’s like inviting someone to your home and saying, “Go ahead and go in, I’ll be around in a minute.” Not the best impression and certainly not one that makes the person you are trying to impress feel very special.

Now, I don’t suggest that you unlock the door, open it and stand waiting as they pull their legs into the auto and then you shut their door and act all formal and stiff. What you do is walk over to their side of the auto, unlock the door if you don’t have one of those remote un-locker things, and open the door. Then if there is anything on the seat you can whisk it away before you embarrass yourself trying to hide the remainder of last week’s fries. After you’ve opened the door to their side you leave them be and as they get into the car you walk around so no one feels uncomfortable. The only exception to this is when a woman has a long gown on and may need some help making sure that none of the material is hanging out the side of the car.

2. Clean the inside and outside
This is another way to either make a great impression or turn someone off forever. The best thing to do is take the old clunky, or the bright shiny sports car to the car wash and do the outside and inside. Your vehicle is a reflection of you. Put some air freshener in there and get rid of the dog hair and you’ll have a better time on your date. I know what you’re thinking, the person you’re dating should like you for who you are and not how you care for your car or what you drive but listen, you should clean your car for the sake of it anyway so why not do it for them? By the way, people in general are less apt to judge you in appearance or what you drive if you keep what you have clean and well cared for.

3. Road rage and other noise.
You are on a date. Does it really matter if the other guy cut you off or is slowing you down? It shouldn’t if you want to make a good impression on your date. Leave the road rage and all the other noises to other times. That means no cussing, no yelling, no big intakes of breath. Just drive and date, you will feel better and have a better date. Lower blood pressure too!

4. Ask and you may receive!
As far as the radio goes, it’s best to ask your date if they even want it on. Then ask them what kind of music they would like to listen to, or what their favorite radio station is and be so gracious as to listen to their choice. Also, never smoke even in your own car unless you ask your date if they smoke first. I say this because if your date doesn’t smoke but you ask if you can, what can they say? They are trapped inside your car, you are asking if they mind if you do something in your own vehicle? If they have social savvy they may just say go ahead and hate it every minute. Or they could say it’s gross and that they mind very much if you smoke and that’s not a good beginning either. Best to leave the smoking outside for the time being.

I’ve gone over the most pressing problems, from what to do about doors to the basic things we may forget and I hope this will help you next time you ask someone out. Remember for etiquette and for relationships, it’s about making the other person feel special. Wash your car, watch your mouth and ask the questions. Easy huh? Get moving and in the long and bumpy road of dating may you always have a pleasant drive!


Teenagers, are the most active texters, sending MORE THAT ONE TRILLION text messages in the U.S. in 2008.
Texting while driving is a deadly practice and ILLEGAL in many states, including Virginia and Tennessee FOR ALL DRIVERS.
A driver’s CRASH RISK DOUBLES when he or she looks away from the road for TWO OR MORE SECONDS.

Teen Driving Safety Tips

Getting a driver’s license is one of the most important milestones in a person’s life. It means freedom, independence, adventure and…responsibility. Becoming a safe and responsible driver is one of the best things you can do for yourself, your family and other motorists on the road with you.

Safe, responsible driving all begins with you:

* Buckle up! Make sure you always wear your seat belt and that everyone else in the vehicle is buckled up. This is your best defense against anything that might happen on the road.
* Make sure you get enough sleep. Teens need more sleep than younger children and adults. Teens need at least nine hours of sleep every night, but most teens are sleep deprived and get less than seven hours of sleep each night. With school, homework, jobs, sports and social activities, sleeping for nine hours can be a challenge, but sleep allows you to stay alert while driving.
* If you are a teen with a motorcycle, make sure you take motorcycle safety training and always wear your safety gear. Motorcycle helmets are required on Virginia roadways and are necessary to protect your head.
* Alcohol use by people under the age of 21 is prohibited in Virginia. Virginia has a “zero tolerance” law regarding teens and alcohol use. Some of the penalties include losing your license, large fines and maybe jail time. The legal limit for teens is a .02 blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which is the normal alcohol content of the average person. So, even a small amount of alcohol can be too much.
* Single vehicle crashes are the most common type of crash involving teens. Speed, lack of seat belt use, inexperience and alcohol use are contributing factors to fatalities and serious injuries in these crashes.
* Parents and caregivers have a big role in teen driver safety right from the beginning. Take your teen out to practice their skills, set clear ground rules and stick to them, and most importantly, be a good role model. Always buckle up, obey speed limits, and don’t drive aggressively.
* Drive sober. Alcohol and drugs are illegal, slow your reaction-time, and distort reality. At the same time, they may make you think you’re an awesome driver. Avoid this bad combination. Don’t drink and drive.
* Ride with sober drivers. If you’re riding with a driver who has been drinking or doing drugs, you’re also in danger because 48 percent of teenagers who die in car crashes are passengers.
* Always use your safety belt. These are the facts: air bags are made to work with safety belts, and most crashes happen close to home. So buckle up for every trip.
* Always drive with your headlights on. See and be seen.
* Don’t tailgate. Try to keep four seconds of following distance between your car and the vehicle in front of you.
* Focus on your driving. Don’t blast the music, talk on the phone, eat, study, or put on makeup while driving.
* Don’t load up your car with too many friends. Focus on your driving, and resist distractions and peer pressure.
* Don’t get stressed out. Pretend everyone else on the road is a close, personal friend.
* Check the rearview mirror before and after you brake, every time.
* Follow traffic safety rules and don’t drive faster than the speed limit. Watch your speed!
* Never let friends drive your car. If your friends drive your car and crash, you could lose money, car privileges, a friendship, and even your life.

What to Do When You Are Pulled Over

There are few things more nerve-wracking, or more anxiety-producing for even the most law-abiding driver, than seeing the flashing red and blue lights of a police car in your rear-view mirror.

It doesn’t always have to be a harrowing experience, even if you know that you were driving well over the speed limit, or that your registration is expired, or heaven forbid, you’ve had a few too many cocktails and are behind the wheel anyway.

There are a few simple rules to follow to make sure the experience doesn’t have to be any more unpleasant than it already is — considering that it’s likely you will come away with a fat ticket.

We sought the advice of a former Virginia State Trooper, now retired and working happily at an intelligence analyst job for a federal agency in Washington, D.C. He asked that we not use his real name, “because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to draw attention to myself,” he said. He chose a colorful alias, asking that we just refer to him as Trooper Tom. Here are his six tips.

Pull Over in a Safe Area

First of all, the most important rule to follow is to pull over in a safe area, as soon as it is reasonable and safe to do so. “Don’t pull over in a place that is going to put you or the officer in danger,” says Police Officer Tom — like a narrow left-hand-lane shoulder on a highway. “If you do that, the officer is not going to get out and risk being hit — he’s going to get on the loudspeaker and tell you to move over to the right shoulder, and then you have to negotiate traffic to try to cross the highway. That can be aggravating, and you don’t want to lock yourself into a ticket by making the officer mad,” he says.
Don’t Coast

Secondly, don’t coast for several blocks before pulling over. “If you just keep coasting, the cop is going to think, ‘What is this guy doing?’ He may think you’re stalling because you’re trying to stash something,” warns the police officer. “If you pass a few safe places to pull over, the officer is definitely going to think you’re up to something, and that raises suspicion.”

Keep the Engine Running

Surprisingly, Police Officer Tom also advises you not to turn off your engine, especially if you’re driving an old beater that’s not reliable. “I generally didn’t like the citizen to turn off his engine, because if it’s an older car, it might not start again, and then you’re in a situation where you have to wait for the guy to call a buddy or call a wrecker, and he’s mad because you stopped him — I’d just as soon not have to negotiate all that,” says the police officer.

Keep Your Hands on the Wheel

Keep your hands on the wheel as the trooper or officer approaches your vehicle. “That’s how people kill you — with their hands,” muses Police Officer Tom. “They can reach for a weapon or the gear shift, which can turn the car into a weapon. We always focus on the driver’s hands, and if they’re not on the wheel, we’re immediately more apprehensive, and that doesn’t help your situation if you’re the driver.”

Stay in the Car

You should always stay in the car. “I didn’t want anyone out of the car, ever,” says Police Officer Tom emphatically. “If they get out of the car, I’m thinking they have something to be afraid of, like they’re wanted, or intoxicated, and in either case, that’s a safety issue for the officer,” warns the police officer. “I don’t care if you’re the baddest officer there is, there’s always someone out there who’s badder than you, and if we can keep them inside the car, that’s the best way to keep from being injured. If they’re inside the car, they can’t fight you and maybe grapple for your gun and shoot you.”

Be Careful What You Say

Being polite to the officer isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite, concedes Tom. “I never demanded respect,” the police officer insists. “I only didn’t want dis-respect. If you want to be rude and yell and complain and say you’re going to file a complaint against me, that’s fine, I heard that all the time — just don’t get physical. And don’t use curse words in an aggressive way, because in Virginia, anyway, that can get you arrested for disorderly conduct.”

The police officer details some of his more exciting or amusing traffic stops — that is, when people did not take the advice he shared above, and paid the price. Once, he pulled a woman over on the highway for violating the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) law. In Virginia, during morning and evening rush hours, vehicles traveling in the left-hand of some highways near Washington, D.C. are required to have more than one occupant. The ordinance is aimed at cutting down congestion by encouraging more drivers to car pool.

“She got out of the car and she was immediately extremely irritated,” recalls the police officer in his Tennessee-by-way-of-Virginia accent. “I guess she was en route to a job interview. Now, I can put up with a lot of static, so it takes a lot to get me excited over an HOV ticket, but she was is in my face immediately, and she starts cussing and complaining, and she’s actually making the process take longer because she won’t let me write the ticket. I asked her to get back in her car, and she did, but in 15 seconds, she came roaring out again.

“This happened several times, and her anger kept escalating, and she kept yelling and cussing,” continues Police Officer Tom with a wry laugh. “So finally, I had to roll my window up while she was yelling at me, just so I could finish writing the ticket. Well, I guess she didn’t like that because she yanked my door open and said, ‘Don’t you ignore me, you m — — — – f — — — !’ Well, that was it, she crossed the line there, so I cuffed her and arrested her for disorderly conduct and took her in.”

The bottom line is that the original HOV violation was just a $50 fine, but the disorderly conduct conviction would have given her a criminal record, explains the police officer. “And she had a job with the federal government, so a criminal conviction would have meant losing her security clearance, and therefore her job. So during negotiations between her attorney and the commonwealth prosecutor, she eventually paid a $2,500 fine in exchange for lowering the charge to a careless driving violation. So that turned out to be a pretty expensive outburst on her part.”

One serious but amusing tale involved a driver who was “power-braking” his pick up truck outside a raucous Springfield, VA bar at 3:00 a.m. He was extravagantly spinning and screeching his tires “and just filling the air with blue smoke and burning rubber,” recalls the police officer. “And he’s doing it right in front of me at a traffic light. So I pulled him over, and he was clearly intoxicated, but he wasn’t belligerent or anything — he was a nice guy, an ‘ol’ country boy. But he failed every field-sobriety test I gave him.” This included a breathalyzer test, which revealed that he had a .18 blood alcohol level, more than double the legal limit for driving.
But the guy kept insisting that he be allowed to perform “his own test” which he claimed would prove he was not drunk. So finally, just out of curiosity, the police officer acquiesced — with no guarantees. “So the guy takes off running, and all of a sudden he goes into this cartwheel/back flip, with his cowboy boots on, and his legs go counter-clockwise, and he lands it, perfectly, in his cowboy boots, like he was a gymnast at the Olympics or something.”

Drive Safely In The Winter

Tires lose traction in cold weather, even when the road is dry and clear, because low temperatures reduce tire flexibility and grip. Cold weather also reduces air pressure in tires.

Safety: Switch to winter tires with enhanced cold-weather grip. Be sure that tires are inflated to pressures specified by the vehicle’s manufacturer. Be wary of having reduced traction even in good weather — take care to accelerate and steer smoothly rather than abruptly, and leave ample space between you and the vehicles ahead of you.

What’s the difference between four- wheel -drive (4WD) and all-wheel-drive (AWD) ?

Technically , both 4WD and AWD are four-wheel-drive systems, because all four wheels are powered at one time or another. Most 4WD vehicles are part-time, which means that the vehicle is operating in 2WD with the power going to the rear wheels until the driver engages the 4WD. AWD systems is full time, meaning that the system is always on.
Bottom line is if the majority of your driving is on paved roads, then an AWD system is probably the best choice. If you regularly tackle rugged terrain or unplowed snow then a 4WD system may make more sense.

Pedestrian Safety

More than 170,000 pedestrians are injured walking along roads each year, and more than 4,700 died in 2006.
Safety: Walk on the sidewalk. If there is none, walk facing oncoming traffic.
To be more visible to drivers: Wear light-colored clothing and reflective accessories at night, and stay clear of obstacles such as parked cars and hedges. Cross streets only where drivers expect you to, at corners and crosswalks.

Rely less on gasoline — Cost-efficient steps…

Combine errands: Instead of making a trip in the car each day of the week, plan ahead so that you drive only two or three days a week.

Also: Share rides with friends.

Bonus: Planning errands with friends gives you more opportunities to socialize.

Park in the first vacant spot you see: You’ll save gasoline and get exercise.

Ride a bicycle, walk or use public transportation: Many of us are so used to driving that we don’t even think about alternatives. In fact, there may be many places we don’t need to drive to.

Renewing Vehicle Registrations

Customers are urged to avoid renewing vehicle registration in DMV Customer service centers where a $5 service fee will be added under a new Virginia law.

Here are the service options for vehicle registration renewal:
Internet: Renew online, receive a $1 discount and avoid the $5 fee.
Mail: Avoid the $5 fee by returning the renewal notice you receive from the DMV.
Telephone: Avoid $5 fee (1-888-337-4782)
Customer Service Centers: Will be charged a $5 fee.

How often should you change…

How often should you change your oil?

Unless oil change frequency is noted in your owner’s manual, every three thousand miles is the average requirement. For a more exact idea of when to change your oil go to www.motorwatch.com.

Use oil analyzers

Oil Analyzing kits, used every few years, will determine the time/mileage window for oil changes since they can vary from driver to drive and location to location. Go to www.oaitesting.com or call 800-956-5695 for a testing kit.

How often should you change your brake fluid?

Brake fluid should be changed every two years or 24,000 miles in vehicles with ABS. Vehicles not equipped with anti-lock brake systems can go three years or 36,000 miles. DOT 5.1 synthetic brake fluid is a safe bet.

How often should you change your power steering fluid?

Power steering fluid should be changed every two years or 24,000 miles.

How often should long life radiator coolant be changed?

Long-life radiator coolant should be changed every three years or 36,000 miles. If you decide to mix your own use distilled water and not tap water. The trace minerals in tap water can be harmful.

How often should you replace your transmission fluid?

-In front-wheel-drive vehicles: every three years or 36,000 miles.
-In rear wheel drive vehicles: every five years or 50,000 miles.
-Synthetic transmission fluid will add one year or 10,000 miles onto transmission fluid’s effective life span.

How often should you change your fuel filter?

It is always best to replace a fuel filter with the same brand the vehicle’s manufacturer supplied. These need to be replaced every 50,000 miles.

Avoid the temptation of car theft.

Owning a vehicle of a color that is not the most popular on the road may save your car.

To a car thief, vehicles with smart keys can often be more trouble and risk than they are worth.

Engine immobilizers are a wonderful theft deterrent. Installing them as an after market item on your car may earn you discounts with your insurance provider

Even engine immobilizing systems can be beaten if the thief has your key. Gas stations and bars are the ideal places for them to pocket your smart key. Keep it close and safe.

Though one car alarm may sound the same as a hundred others in a crowded city, if you live where you may hear your car alarm, and recognize it as your car, you may be able to prevent your car being stolen if the alarm begins to sound.

The Club is a physical device that prevents car thieves from accessing your steering wheel. Thieves can overcome them, but the process can be time consuming and thereby force them to pass up on your car all together.

Many car thieves haven’t even heard of this product. LoJack can help find your car even after it is stolen. The downside: you have to know your car has been stolen, and report it stolen.

Avoid excessive wear and tear.

Keep only a few keys on the ignition key ring.

The extra weight from a fistful of keys can wear out the ignition switch prematurely in some vehicles.

Use a car cover if you don’t garage your vehicle.

It reduces environmental damage to the paint and sun damage to the interior.

Invest in a windshield or dashboard cover.

Using a windshield sunshade or dashboard cover will preserve the dash vinyl when your car is parked in the sun.

Accelerate slowly.

Avoid jackrabbit starts. Flooring the gas pedal when the engine is cold is a major reason for blown head gaskets, which are expensive to fix. Drive as though you have an egg between your foot and the gas pedal. Reserve rapid acceleration for emergency situations.

Allow the engine to get hot.

To help flush contaminants, such as fuel and moisture, from the motor oil, drive at highway speeds for 30 minutes at least once a month.

Delay heating or cooling.

To prevent adding an extra load on the engine, allow it to run for a minute so that it is lubricated before you turn on the windshield defroster or air conditioner.

Coast as much as possible.

Plan your approach to red lights, stop signs and turns long before you reach them. Don’t accelerate unnecessarily and then step on the brake at the last moment — that wears down brakes quickly.

Use your heating and cooling system.

Run the air conditioner or windshield defroster at least once a month (even in cooler weather) for about a minute to circulate oil through the heating and cooling system. Otherwise, oil may settle in the compressor, causing the system to stop operating.

Use the parking brake.

If you don’t use it at least once a week while parked — even if you’re not parked on an incline — the parking brake can freeze up and fail to release.

Wind down turbocharged engines.

The engine should be allowed to idle a few minutes before you shut it down. This allows the turbo to stop spinning while it is still being lubricated with motor oil. (Don’t close the garage door until the engine is off.)

Avoid two-footed driving.

Using the left foot to brake can lead to unconscious riding of the brakes, which wears them out and confuses the engine control computer, possibly leading to stalling, surging and high emissions.

Use the brakes to slow down.

With manual transmissions, use the brakes and not the gears to slow down — brakes are cheaper to replace than the transmission. For most manual transmission vehicles, aim to operate the engine between 2,000 and 3,000 revolutions per minute (RPM) to avoid overworking or over-revving the engine. Don’t keep the clutch pedal pressed any more than necessary. Keep your hand off the gear shift when driving to avoid excess strain on the transmission. Don’t necessarily park in gear — if another car bumps into yours while yours is in gear, the transmission could be damaged. Exception: Park in gear is for extra traction on inclines.

Shift into park when idling.

With automatic transmissions, shift into park when idling for extended periods to allow the transmission to cool down. Don’t idle for long periods in neutral, because some bearings are not lubricated in neutral.

Use a gas additive.

Try to use a gas additive with every fill-up because modern gasoline doesn’t contain enough detergents to keep the fuel system clean. Avoid additives that contain methanol, methyl, alcohol, xylene, toluene or acetone — these can damage the fuel system hoses and pump.

Use the octane called for in the vehicle’s owner’s manual.

Putting premium fuel in an engine designed for regular, or vice versa, won’t deliver better mileage, and it can cause a buildup of carbon in the combustion chambers, which hurts driving performance.

Don’t let the fuel level drop below one-quarter tank.

A low tank promotes condensation, which can damage the fuel pump.

Don’t fill the tank to the top of the filler neck.

Topping off after the gas hose clicks can damage the evaporative emission canister, which will cause the “check engine” light to come on. Repairs could cost more than $500.

Replace major parts before they fail.

Determine the normal life expectancy for major parts so that you can replace them before they fail.

Example: Most people never think to replace their radiator, but a radiator should be changed every 10 years or 150,000 miles — or sooner, depending on your driving conditions. A list of the normal life expectancies for most parts is posted at www.motorwatch.com (click on “Automotive Bible,” “Service Charts,” then “Depart Parts Chart”).

Rotate tires every 7,500 miles to extend tire life and improve gas mileage.

(Some vehicles have tires that cannot be swapped from front to back or side to side.) It’s also a good opportunity for your technician to check the vehicle for potential problems, such as leaks or parts that are about to fail.

Have your battery tested.

Have the battery tested annually at a shop that uses a “conductance” tester, which can predict battery life. When the battery wears out, replace it with an Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) battery, which lasts at least twice as long as an ordinary battery, offers more cranking power, recharges faster and increases starter and alternator life. AGM batteries are sealed and don’t vent explosive gases or cause corrosion of the cables or nearby electrical components, as conventional batteries do. Examples of AGM batteries: Optima, Odyssey (prices start at $130).

Top off your battery fluid.

If the battery can be opened up, you can top off the electrolyte (fluid). Use distilled water only for this.

Clean the throttle body and fuel injectors.

The throttle battery and fuel injectors should be cleaned every 30,000 miles — unless a gas additive is used regularly.

Change spark plugs every 60,000 miles.

Replace plug wires, if applicable, every 100,000 to 120,000 miles.

The Right Way to Test-Drive a New Car

You might spend 1,000 hours or more behind the wheel of your next new car. Choose the wrong car, and those hours could be uncomfortable and/or unsafe. Yet most shoppers make this important purchase after test-driving the car for just 10 minutes.

How to get test-drives right…


Call the dealership to ask…

  • When is the best time for me to take an extended test-drive? It is very important to spend enough time in the vehicle—at least 20 minutes and preferably longer—to fully address all your concerns and questions.
  • Can I test-drive the exact car that I’m interested in, with the same engine, transmission and options? Dealerships typically designate just a few examples of each model for test-drives to avoid running up the odometers on other cars. But seemingly minor variations can make a big difference.

Example: If you intend to buy a car with a sunroof, test-drive one with a sunroof. Sunroofs often reduce headroom, and some sunroofs create more noise than others when open.


Before you start the engine…

  • Adjust the position of the driver’s seat precisely. Make sure that there is a driving position that you find very comfortable.
  • Check whether the knobs, dials and cup holders are within easy reach. This seems minor, but it’s dangerous and annoying to have to lean to reach such things while driving.
  • Try out the backseat, particularly if you frequently have three or more adults or teens as passengers.
  • Load any large items you often travel with into the trunk or hatch. For example, if someone in your household requires a wheelchair, walker or stroller, make sure this item fits without much struggle.


Most drivers do little on test-drives beyond confirming that the ride quality, acceleration and handling are at least minimally acceptable based on personal preferences. But you can—and should—do much more…

  • Choose a route that tests the car under various conditions, including highway acceleration, bumpy roads, sudden stops, parallel parking, backing out of a space in a crowded parking lot and any other conditions that you normally drive in.
  • Ask the salesman to stop talking so that you can focus on the drive. There will be time for talk later.
  • Check the blind spots. Change lanes on the highway…make a right turn at an intersection where there are pedestrians. Does this feel comfortable…or are there worrisome blind spots?
  • Test the seat heaters. There is great variation from vehicle to vehicle on how warm the seats get.
  • Listen for annoying noises, including whistling wind. If you find a noise annoying on a short test-drive, it will drive you nuts when you own the car.
  • Let everyone in the family who is going to drive the car take a turn behind the wheel on the test-drive. Too often one family member takes charge of the car-buying decision, leaving the others to drive a car that is not well-suited to them.

Source: Grant Winter founder and reporter for Real World Test Drive, a Web site based in northern New Jersey that provides video reviews of dozens of different vehicles. He has been a TV journalist in various cities since 1982 and has been reviewing cars for nearly 20 years.

Use the New Social Media App to Out-Smart Traffic Together!

When you download Waze, you not only get free navigation, but also become part of the local driving community in your area, joining forces with other drivers nearby to outsmart traffic, save time and improve everyone’s daily commute. All you have to do is drive, so get involved today!



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One Unexpected Benefit of Extended Warranties

Some warranty plans are transferable when a policy holder sells the car to a private party ultimately increasing its value to potential buyers. The longer we keep our cars, the more they need repairs. Those costs, as with most everything, rise over time. The average car on the road today is 11 years old.