Various Gear Sticks

How do you drive a stick shift car?

You’ll want to engage the services of an actual driving instructor to learn to drive, but here’s a simple description of the process. We’ll start off with the basics.

The neutral sign in the middle is surrounded by the numbers one to five and the R for reverse (sometimes there is a P instead for Parking). 1-2-3-4-5-R (or P) form an extra wide H shape with the N in the middle. (If their were only gears 1-3 and R you’d have an H.

Shifting into first

With the gear shift should be in neutral you must depress the clutch and the brake.

Turn on the ignition. If you are sure it’s in neutral take the parking brake off if it is on. Then check your mirrors and signal your intention.

After some moments keeping the brake with the right foot and the clutch with your left, move into first gear. Take your foot off the brake now. Slowly release the clutch while pressing down the accelerator pedal roughly equal to the release of the clutch. You’re now in first gear.

Going Up Gears

You probably need to go up a second gear to go faster than 10mph. You will repeat the left and right foot motion to go up a gear, but your car will be rolling forward as you do. Despite this, many people feel like starting from zero forward motion is the hardest part.

You probably change gear without thinking about it but the best way apparently is to cup the gear-shift (or lever), rather than swipe or thump it. It needs to be a conscious decision that you make. Unless the gear shift pedal is pressed down the gear stick shouldn’t move.

Note: shifting up or down is informal terminology. It is more formally called a transmission level.

If you do something like go over a bump or go downhill, you need to change to a lower gear. However, most people just put it in neutral or depress the pedal the whole way downhill. It’s a better idea to shift down on a downhill so you can more quickly re-engage the engine at the right power level, or if your brakes fail you can use the engine to slow your vehicle down.

Odd Shift Levers

Some cars like the Mercedes Benz 180 have a shifter sticking out of the steering wheel. The BMW and the Audi both use a joystick, while the Jaguar and Land Rover use a rotary shifter instead of shifting a stick. A push button gear stick is the rarest – you have to press the button to change them.

The Honda Odyssey has buttons on a central dashboard or console, usually where you have your entertainment system. It’s doubtful that most people would be comfortable using a crystal glass gear shaft used by the Volvo XC60 at least to start with but if you drove this type of car you would have to get used to it.

In the Lexus LC 500 the joystick matches the leather upholstery which again takes some getting used to.

The Hurst has a pistol grip which is a bit like a huge joystick, only cooler. The Chevrolet Camaro uses a horseshoe switch design which has a certain steampunk appeal, it doesn’t however look that practical. It is not clear immediately how you change gear or even how you get out of neutral as the only control seems to be only one switch.

Historic Types of Shifting

Many old trucks have the Reverse where 1st should be or way off to the left or right of the other gears. And many trucks were geared to be able to skip gears when the truck isn’t loaded or hauling a heavy trailer. But you are unlikely to run into such things.

Hardly anyone has driven a car with sliding mesh manual transmission which was the first way to change gear, the first car invented with gear in 1894. It only had three forward gears so parking was a problem. It slid left or right but the gearing unit was basically a rotational shaft which moves or “transmits” the power from one end to the other.  Luckily this has all changed.

Pros & Cons of Manual Cars

The transmission in a manual car is much simpler so it breaks down less and is cheaper to fix when it does. By the time your automatic transmission breaks down it’ll be hard to find a replacement. You’ll have to seek out one from a junk yard which will have some milage and age on it. So if you keep a car for several years, manuals are considered the better option.

On the other hand, if you drive in congested city traffic on a regular basis, operating a clutch gets really old, really fast. So it’s just a strategic choice.

One reason we included the “how tos” in this post is that it’s a good idea to know how to shift even when you have an automatic car. You’ll get a better understanding of how your car operates when you are accelerating, even though its doing it for you.

Interior Repair and Improvement

Do you look at the bodywork and how a car runs, or do you look at the interior?

There are upholsterers who can restore a car to its original version, possibly relying on pictures taken at the time of classic and vintage vehicles.

Material Options

If you have a sedan and wish to re-upholster cloth seats you are looking at around two thousand dollars. If you are looking at leather it is even more expensive.

The cost includes removing the current upholstery, possibly repairing the springs, replacing the foam – the cushion like substance which produces the comfort in a seat – and finally re-upholstery of the outer fabric itself.

Haptex, a type of synthetic leather (colloquially known as leatherette) has been used in some cars and is said to be both durable and comfortable. BMW uses a different form of leatherette called Sensatec. Pleather is another brand name used.

Leather seats, although they may form part of the original interior and create a brilliant look, aren’t that good for sitting on. Leather can leave you with the feeling of sliding down, depending on the seat design. But it’s your car and you can choose the right textile for you.

Budget Friendly Options

A cheaper way to improve the car is buy colourful seat covers or even a blanket. You can obtain tiny toys to decorate your dashboard too. Should the steering wheel be the same colour as the gearstick? You can get matching covers for both. It’s certainly one idea.

You may like to tint the windows to improve the feeling of sitting in the car.

Do you require specialist coasters or car phone accessories?

Possibly you want to decorate your keychain?

Maybe you want to decorate your car for a specific season or holiday?

Are racing pedals better than ordinary pedals? Perhaps, but will anyone notice them? Still if you’re going for extras and you like the appeal of them, why not?

There are so many design ideas out there, some people might think too many ideas; just go for what works for you.

One thing most people don’t consider when restoring a vehicle is to obtain the original floor mats, but everything is possible to obtain online. Even if you don’t require the original style it is worth changing them every so often to keep the interior fresh.

From the floor to the ceiling…

The interior roofing fabric is known as the headliner. It’s positioned there by means of a polyurethane glue and it consists of both foam and fabric, even though most people only see the fabric.

After a number of years, the headliner can fall apart, or the glue can lose its adhesiveness. If you leave the car outside for long periods the moisture can cause the headliner to go blotchy or it can start to droop.

Some headline repairs can be made with several pieces of double-sided tape. Others may require glue or pinning the fabric back into position.

The cost of changing the headliner is dependent on the size of the vehicle and which fabric the headliner was originally made from. The other problem here is that car insurance doesn’t include these types of running repairs.

Why You Shouldn’t Pick Your Nose While Driving

There are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t pick your nose while driving.

First, and most obvious, if you need to slam on the breaks your finger will tickle your brain in all the wrong ways.

The second reason you shouldn’t pick you nose while driving is that literally every millennial (and gen-whatever-comes-next) out there has a cell phone and a YouTube channel and would love to make you famous for your gold mining expedition in your prodigious proboscis on your way to that job you hate which is why you are mining for gold in the first place. Not a good look for your 15 minutes of fame.

The third, and possibly most compelling reason why you shouldn’t pick your nose while driving is that when you are making your eloquent speech to the judge as to why you shouldn’t have to pay for your photo-radar or red-light-camera ticket, you don’t want to have to keep asking them to pay attention to your speech, not the 10ft by 12ft photo of your spelunking in your nasal cavity while sailing past the camera.

So, in conclusion, the reasons why you shouldn’t pick your nose while driving are many, and varied, but all harken back to the old adage: if you don’t want it on Instagram, don’t do it in public.

Just for Fun!

Alternative Wedding Cars

The Rolls Royce may be described as overrated when it comes to the wedding car. So, what are the alternatives out there?

Bentley

Like the Rolls, a Bentley is all about luxury, especially when it is chauffeur–driven and there’s access to chilled champagne, though maybe most couples could do without items like massaging seats?

The Bentley is all about power and rapid acceleration with a pristine leather interior. Variations include the continental GT with its impressive sound system included.

The Bentley Bentayga has a large trunk, especially important if you are heading straight for the airport to catch a flight to the honeymoon destination.

Mercs

Think twice before you skip the chauffeur so you can drive yourself. Weddings are emotionally and physically draining.

Can you really say you’re able to give the road the attention it deserves?
Could you have a friend fill in if budget is a concern?
How bad would an accident on your wedding day be?

But if your mind is made up, consider a Mercedes-Benz. These cars are smooth and elegant with items such as radar cruise control will help you avoid fatigue related accidents.

His Dream Car!

McLaren

Let’s be honest. Weddings are super expensive, and the goal is to give the bride her dream day. The groom is expected to sign off on all the decisions and he’d better pretend to be excited because a lack of enthusiasm for planning is interpreted as a lack of enthusiasm for the marriage. Truth be told the lack of enthusiasm starts about the time the groom figures out that he’s going to be over-ruled on every decision, which he probably interprets as a bad sign of things will operate after the wedding.

One thing a thoughtful bride could do is rent her groom’s dream car to drive away in after the ceremony. There’s a lot of choices and this might require some careful questioning on her part. Or perhaps she could ask the best man.

Some men might want a Mustang, which has a great sense of luxury. If the budget allows, many men yearn to be behind the wheel of a McLaren or a Ferrari or even something like a Maserati. These types of vehicles tend to be at the top end of the wedding car rental market though.

If a bride is willing to put in some research it is possible to find a number of vintage cars out there in their original colors such as the cream Chevrolet Stylemaster or a scarlet Florida fire truck. Other examples include a Ford Charabanc from the 1930s with wood veneer.

Ford Charabanc

Some more information about the Charabanc: it was an early form of coach and the word comes from the French Char a bancs – literally carriage with benches. It generally wasn’t used beyond the 1920s except for special occasions.

If you are looking for the more dated version of vintage possibly you require a replica of an Oldsmobile from 1905 which unfortunately cannot travel faster than 20mph. One of the first mass produced cars, they had the original name of Olds automobiles.

Really Alternative Wedding Cars

Items such as yellow school buses and pickup trucks have been utilized in the act of getting to and from church.

Morris Minor

There’s also the bohemian VW camper van or even something like a Morris Minor or a taxi. A tractor may be too weird for most people though.

When looking for a taxi you can do worse than looking for a Checker cab and maybe the best Checker to go for is Marathon. Based on the Checker Superba’s shape it’s noteworthy for its improved interior and came in a four-door sedan or five door station wagon. A limousine version was also built, the Marathon Town Custom. Unfortunately, the last one was made in 1982 and Checker eventually folded as a company in 2010.

The Most Important Factors

Oldsmobile

If your plate is full in making the wedding come off without a hitch, having a rental car delivered straight to location is a great way to take something off your plate. Be sure to check the car can be delivered to your location. Some rental car companies that claim to deliver actually mean to say, only if it’s a hotel or airport. There are also cars which are delivered to custom locations (like a park or church).

If planning to use a car you or a friend owns, be sure it’s reliable and that you have roadside assistance as all cars are liable to break down at the worst possible time. Peace of mind is everything.

The good news is that nearly any car is hireable and even if you can’t find a certain car online given the right amount of money there is someone who can locate it for you and allow you to hire it for a limited period. Now all you have to do is agree as a couple what to use!

Cars Which Allow Three Child Seats?

First things first, if you need to ask questions like this, life could be hard. So, take some time out and relax while you read this article because there’s a number of details to get through.

There have been many tests to see how to fit child seats in different cars.

Fitting child seats is a pain, but what happens if you have three car seats which need to be fitted? Here your choices may be limited, as there just isn’t enough room to accommodate them in the average subcompact or compact and even larger cars. You have to be looking an SUV or similar.

There are no such problems with the Audi Q7. It’s an SUV which gives a clue as to why it’s so accommodating. It’s also a five door with air suspension and has mild-hybrid tech. There are severa versions or trims available. It also has Audi Matrix LED headlights with indicators both on the front and rear.

Next there’s the SEAT Alhambra. Considering the capacity (seven) it would be surprising if it doesn’t fit three car seats but fitting them in a row is harder–you can only use the second row. Other features include blind spot detection and a choice of soft or metallic shades. The trim options are Style, Xcellence and FR-Line.

The feature of being superbly spacious goes without saying but the Volkswagen Touran also has a high-quality interior. It has long lasting LED headlights and a cruise control which can calculate what the car in front is doing. Other technology features are lane assist and even trailer assist. You have the choice of “configuring” or choosing individual features online.

There’s a certain something about the Land Rover Discovery. Although you don’t immediately associate Land Rover with the family commute there’s absolutely no reason not to. It had a choice of interiors so you needn’t have three seats at all, you may only require two seats in the back. It has a number of other features such as the tailgate, surround sound system and fast start up.

The S-Max is defined by Ford, its manufacturer, as a minivan, which are supposed to be designed for the family, although some fall way short. The contoured seats are adjustable with a massage feature. For your peace of mind there’s an emergency brake assist. It has Titanium, ST-Line and Vignale. Unfortunately, the last one was made in 2020.

The Mercedes-Benz GLS (the third-generation type) is another SUV. Its design is towards the minimal. There have been GLS vehicles manufactured since 2006; the GLS is short for a German word geländewagen which indicates it is an off-road vehicle at least in style, which explains its four-wheel drive. The third-generation car is a 3.0 liter turbo.

The Tesla Model S in an electric car with all-wheel drive; the charge point being located behind one of the taillights. It is defined simply as a large car in the US. An interesting feature with this car is the front trunk (or frunk in the US) for storage.

It would be fascinating to see these cars lined up. Despite having enough space for the child seats there’s a great variation between them.

Where Hybrid Cars Are Going

OP-ED by Editors

In the beginning of the twentieth century, it made environmental sense to buy hybrid vehicles despite the prices meaning that only celebrities could really afford to drive them. But now hybrids are passé, and the move is toward all-electric (EVs).

If you think about this, it is incredibly slow. If only a few people drove hybrids twenty years and now only a sizable minority drive hybrids it will probably take another twenty years for them to become the norm and that’s only hybrid cars, not electric cars.

A ban on passenger cars (just passenger cars it seems) with the usual Internal Combustion Engine (I.C.E.) has been mapped out but it is believed that hybrids will stick around until 2035.

New Hybrids

A self-charging hybrid was the traditional way these cars gained power; the energy when you decelerate or operate the brake feeds power back into the power system. The batteries didn’t hold that much energy meaning that any electricity generated won’t last you a mile and you can’t drive in electric mode for more than 30 mph. These aren’t considered EVs.

Even on paper, the new version, plug-in hybrids, are so much better with larger batteries and the electricity generated can reach about 30 mph or so. They do need to be fully charged in order to get the right amount of benefit.

Another point about plug-in hybrids is that they are good if you don’t want to go fully electric. If you drive them on electric power, they don’t emit pollution from the battery. They require a 120V outlet in order to fully charge. Some models switch to hybrid at about 60-70mph as well as stopping the engine when the car is at a red light or if it is in traffic.

As with the other form of hybrid, the energy created through braking is stored in the engine which is smaller than a combustion engine.

Why aren’t Hybrids Quickly Being Replaced?

A battery electric vehicle has no back up system and relies entirely on the electric stored within it. There are no emissions from this engine at all. However, if you want to take trip, say over 300 miles you’ll have to stop for 20 to 30 minutes every couple hundred miles to charge it.

Other drawbacks to EVs include the environmental impact to mine the battery material, the damage to the environment when disposing of the batteries (which only last so long), and the fact that our electrical grid wasn’t built to charge all the cars as well as power houses. In fact, many places still use coal to generate electricity so one might ask, “how environmentally sound is powering your car with electricity?”

Hydrogen Fuel Cells

The new type of electric vehicle is the fuel cell electric vehicle where the battery converts hydrogen gas into electricity which can be used to power the car. This would alleviate the range issues. These types of cars are only just appearing on the market.

Car manufacturers Toyota, Honda and Hyundai seem to favour fuel cells, especially as it allows power to be charged in a matter of minutes. The hydrogen fuelling infrastructure still isn’t in place yet, and it’s hard to say how tricky that will be to build.

One study for Energy magazine in 2016 says people won’t go for fuel cells unless they are cheaper than battery power. The study author went on to state that this is unlikely to happen in the near future.

The car manufacturers who wish to keep with battery power include Chevrolet and Tesla. It will be interesting to see if they move to fuel cells in the future, especially Tesla. Tesla is an all-electric car manufacturer founded in 2003. It’s gone from the side-lines to a major player in that time. But any hybrid or electric car manufacturer is worth watching because it’s big business at the moment.

The Feeling Of Open Road And The Annoyance Of The Closed

An open road is a free road which doesn’t end. It is linked in our primal minds like open fields, illicium (Rome’s idea of heaven), or perhaps the inherent adventure offered, like Frodo leaving the shire.

A closed road in contrast is a road that is closed at one end, a dead-end road, or a cul de sac. It may be a temporary closure for repair these frustrate us, because if your desired destination isn’t on that short patch of street you’ll have to turn around (and you know it’s going to be a three-point turn).

Dead End Roads

Dead end roads can be seen in Egypt around 1885 BC with roads ending in a wall and going no further. There is a limited size to cul de sacs as they can be no longer than 500 feet. They are rather claustrophobic according to Christopher Alexander and force interaction with your neighbours.

Open Roads

The freedom of the open road forms part of a quote from Aaron Lauritsen. The quote goes on to point out the lure or seduction of the road as well as the feeling of liberation. He also mentions serendipity, playing by chance.

Today many road trips are planned and there are many reasons for this. What happens if you reach a place which runs out of road, and you have to waste gas retracing your journey? And as you are using serendipity you may not even retrace your journey correctly and become lost? Or what happens if you are trying to catch a plane or get to a certain place on time? In which case serendipity is not the best option. But Aaron Lauritsen doesn’t seem to worry about this. To plan a trip is to some degree, to rob it of openness.

The Call of the Open Road

Tracing the term “the call of open road” seems to be linked to just after the Great Depression. It’s not as if they could go very far, there weren’t that many restaurants or service stations. Still, there was a feeling of adventure and a yearning to see the sights of the USA. Perhaps people had felt hemmed in, without options, during the depression and the idea of changing locations felt like freedom.

People imagine traveling in vintage cars as romantic, whether it is by road or by other byway but these are the very cars which are liable to break down. It’s such a good feeling behind the wheel though when the car behaves itself.

It was only after the Second World War that Americans went a-traveling as an interstate system began to form, and with it a glut of roadside attractions. The pattern was specifically to head West.

It was only when fuel became short in the 70’s that numbers diminished and hotels and restaurants in turn became more nondescript. It was good while it lasted. The good part was at least cars were less liable to act up.

There’s much to be said about the open road. It goes beyond a sales pitch and to somewhere else.

Types of Junctions (Intersections)

From the UK Desk

There are many ways to have a junction and one of the most confusing is probably the box junction. They were designed to prevent the road being blocked yet many drivers find them hard to negotiate. Many people “find themselves” disobeying the rules by accident.

Box Junctions

A box junction is marked by criss-cross lines (or alternately a giant X) in a box. You can only enter the box if the specific exit you are heading for is clear or you have an intention to make a turn, but you have to wait for the traffic in the opposite lane (oncoming) to stop.

About the same time as speed cameras became popular (with city governments, not with commuters) box junctions also became monitored by enforcement cameras. As a result they became labelled as “money box junctions.”

Items such as level crossing and the areas around ambulance stations and fire stations also use box junctions to suggest that drivers should avoid staying in these areas too long.

The introduction of the box junction was in 1967 in London, though it can now be seen throughout the world, including the US.

Three-way Junctions

A three-way junction may be a road with three arms, also known as a Y junction or intersection. A T junction may be described as a minor road joining up with a larger road.

When these types of roads aren’t being controlled by traffic lights you need to look at “right of way” rules. It seems more logical for traffic entering the main road to wait, but that oten isn’t the case.

A six-way junction usually has two roads crossing at right angles and the additional road crossing diagonally between them (if you are on the diagonal road, it looks as if the two roads are intersecting you in two V shapes).

The Reason for Roundabouts

Roundabouts are nearly universally hated by Americans and Embraced by Brits. UK roads come in two varieties.

A) Saxon Roads which developed during early tribal periods where some animal, likely a cow, wandered from place to place as it saw fit. Then because the grass and brush was pushed aside humans turned it into a trail, which later became a single lane road, eventually getting paved. These roads are very practical for getting from place to place, and tend to go around hills and cross rivers at the best place to ford.

B) Romans Roads by contrast, go straight North/South, or East/West. The seldom move around a hill they simply go over them or tunnel through them. The don’t twist or meander. The advantage here is that cities can be laid out in grid patterns, making it easier to find places you want to go. Most of the Roman roads between cities have been turned into highways.

In the UK, this left many junctions of three, four, five, or even six roads converging at all sorts of angles. A roundabout allows for all these roads to enter where they happen to intersect the junction and traffic can merge briefly, then exit on whatever road fits the need.

A secondary benefit of traffic circles is that traffic is told to yield, not stop, making them very efficient.

In the US, there are some odd junctions, often with monikers such as “Five Corners,” that could do with a roundabout. That’s of course not where the government decides to put them. Someone, usually in the traffic department at state or local level, falls in love with traffic circles and decides to use them at busy four-way stop junctions, rather than a traffic light. The result is that instead of having to pull your vehicle forward one car length at a time—dozens of times in a row—traffic can use yield and maintain a steady flow. Sounds good except that about 10% of the time they put stop signs up instead of yield at the roundabout. Even when they use yield signs American drivers are so unaccustomed to roundabouts that they get confused and cause delays.

Strange Intersections

There are a number of strange intersections in the world such as the Downtown Loop, also known as the Alphabet Loop, Kansas which consists of eight different highways joining together in 23 exits. All the letters of the alphabet are used except I, O and Z.

Swindon’s Magic Roundabout

As well as roads like Broadway, Oak Street and the romantic Grand Avenue there is a road which acts as a loop road.

Created by the UK’s British Transport Road Research Laboratory the most confusing road junction is Swindon’s magic roundabout. The instructions for use are deceptively simple; the traffic in the inner roundabout moves counter-clockwise and the traffic in the outer roundabouts move in a clockwise direction.

Because of the initial confusion to motorists the roundabout needed a pilot stage. Here a police officer was placed in the middle of each mini-roundabout, strange as it may seem.

Other strange junctions include the seagull junction which has a variety of other names such as the Turbo-T junction. They allow free flowing traffic both for the lane that enters the main road and for the road that leaves. These are called “turn lanes”.

A piece of research from 2019 stated that a seagull junction isn’t that safe if the road separates into four lanes and as such the risk of crashing is heightened. It’s almost best to be wary of any unfamiliar junction in any case.

The most important thing when taking a junction is getting to your intended destination, so good luck with that!