When A Car Loses Control

It doesn’t matter whether its loss of life, injury, damage to vehicles or building, or other things like roadways, public lands, or societal infrastructure – out of control vehicles are a major concern to everyone, especially those on the road.

Sometimes drivers lose control because of rain which makes roads slippery or a deluge blinding the driver by overwhelming the wipers’ ability to clear it. When there are curves, bottlenecks, or obstacles, this only gets worse. An older vehicle is even more at risk, susceptible to break failure, suspension problems, or even blow outs. If the driver is under the influence of an intoxicant, anything goes. It doesn’t matter if the weather is perfect, your car is completely tuned up, or you are a seasoned track driver, it is always best to slow down when approaching a corner.

Bad habits like driving too closely behind another vehicle or by wandering in and out of one’s lane are big mistakes too. If you see someone driving erratically, it is best to keep your distance. If it is safe to do so, use your hands-free phone to contact 911 and report the driver, it could save lives.

As mentioned, driving in rainy conditions comes with the risk of hydroplaning. The treads of a good all-weather tire are designed with channels where the water displaced by the tire can be funneled away, allowing for a good connection between the rubber and the road. If the treads are worn down too far, or the tire is not rated for rainy weather driving, the water can separate the road and the rubber, causing it to lose contact and traction. In the Southwest, where it is often hot and dry, a sudden rainstorm can cause one to quickly lose control. If this happens to you, don’t panic, don’t make any sudden moves – of course that’s easier said than done.

For reasons we won’t discuss in this note, water displaced by the tire, which isn’t funneled into the water channels, tends to move along in front of the tire. For these reasons it is important not to drive through large puddles or any water where depth cannot be accurately anticipated. Besides, any pedestrians nearby won’t appreciate taking an impromptu shower as they amble by.

When applying the brakes, it is important not to hit them too hard, apply gentle pressure to the pedal, ease off, and then do it again. Cars with an automatic braking system (ABS) automatically follow this procedure. This process can help ensure that once the tires get traction, they are able to maintain it, rather than going into an uncontrolled skid. Steer the vehicle in the required direction, but don’t make any sudden changes. A quick jerk of the steering wheel will likely cause you to skid in the opposite direction.

If your brakes fail completely there are a couple of things you can do. First, try gearing down, meaning shifting the car into a lower gear. This uses the engine’s gears to control speed. Be mindful of the tachometer which shows how fast the engine is revving, if it goes to high (into the red) it could cause irrevocable engine damage (although a crash won’t do it much good either). Whether or not shifting gears helps, your final option is to use the emergency brake. It is designed for exactly this purpose, for use in an emergency – when all other options have failed.

Just to be sure, before an emergency arises, test your emergency brake by putting your car on a small hill, take your foot off of the brake pedal, and as the car slowly starts to roll, pull up on the emergency brake handle (or push the pedal if that’s the design of your vehicle).

With any luck you won’t lose control when driving, but if you do, hopefully these instructions will help you safely navigate the situation.

Locating Missing Cars

Looking for a particular vintage or classic car, you can actually do worse than searching through local barns and under trees in some back-forty. Though they will invariably be found under a layer of muck, brush, or worse, they are there to be found. Believe it or not, people don’t always think to protect these gems in the way you might imagine. Some have been found in the oddest places.

The Dino

A Dino was reported stolen in December 1974. A Dino, for those of who don’t already know, is a real-wheel drive car that was produced by Ferrari between 1957 and 1976. The car’s name was the nickname for Alfredo Ferrari, the son of the venerable Enzo Ferrari. The Dino finally turned up when two young boys were digging in their garden. How it ended up there, no one knows.

The Bullitt Mustang

The stunt car from the original movie Bullitt disappeared not long after filming, turning up later in a scrapyard in Mexico. When found, it was hardly recognizable as a Mustang. It was riddled with holes, whether it was used for target practice or maybe as an object for someone drilling holes, it’s a mystery. Not even being in a movie was enough to keep it from being abandoned by its owner.

The Cuban Falconwing

A Mercedes Benz, a Gullwing (also known as a Falconwing due to how its doors open like wings of a bird), was reported missing in Cuba only to turn up in a lot far away. It then disappeared again, later turning up under the shade of a banana tree miles away. The most famous gullwing is probably the DeLorean, a model of car that never sold well, finally ending with hundreds of models being scrapped, sending the manufacturer into bankruptcy.

The Largest Barn-find

In another amazing barn find, over three hundred cars were found in a large barn in Europe. The collection began in the 1970s and included a Bizzarani, which was created in the 60s, a race car which had been entered in Le Mans. Created by a joint enterprise between Alfa Romeo and Ferrari, this car was considered to be ahead of its time, likely being the reason why it didn’t last long.

How to Make your Own Barn-find

If you want to make your own barn-find, start with some research. Talk with people from the older generation, especially those who live out in the sticks – there’s no use looking for barn finds in the middle of Chicago, Dallas, or Seattle. It’s best to network your target area. People like mail-carriers, hairdressers, delivery drivers, and established real-estate agents may be the ones you need to get the break you’re looking for. Attending a swap meet or local holiday celebration or parade might just turn up the connection you’re looking for – putting you on the trail of the next big find.

Sometimes it’s just serendipity. You see a farm, miles from anywhere, one with a dilapidated old barn out back – maybe they have gems they don’t realize are there. Not sure where to start, pull up Google Maps, find an out-of-the-way community, and hit the open road.

Foreign Roads

Exploring foreign roads fully changes your perspective. It’s one of the best ways to expand your understanding of the different ways things we do every day can be done. The problem is navigating the things that are not the same as at home.

Every country does it differently:

What side of the road am I supposed to be on? What condition do they keep their roads in?

I bet you didn’t even thing to ask if the other drivers passed a recognized driving license test. Some countries let you buy your license which can be a surprise if you come from one that requires a test. It’s important to look into what other documents you need by law.

It’s a good idea to review the more obvious laws of the country they are driving in.

Next you have to consider what problems may affect the environment, anything from strong weather to natural disasters. Some roads in some countries flood routinely and locals hardly think to mention it.

It’s best to check and recheck the route of the journey beforehand. It’s a good idea to use a GPS it often updates with weather conditions accidents and the like. Look out too for GPS updates. It’s important that your system reacts to changes in speed limit.

If you rent a car check out everything including the headlights, tire tread, brakes, oil, water and so on. Take note of any scratches and dents you might see.

Some emergency equipment will be highly useful – everything from jump leads, the spare tire, a hazard triangle (again depending on the country), tow rope and extinguisher as well as the all-important first aid kit. In a number of countries, you can be arrested for not having the right equipment.

It’s a good idea not to speed, especially if the roads are unreliable. It’s never advisable to drive in a tired state.

Another easy to overlook item is that not all traffic police chase you in cars, some stand at the side of the road waving at you to stop. Also, not all of them are reliable – some may place a fake ticket on you-so it’s best to check it.

Look at getting fully comprehensive insurance – it may be the costlier choice, but it will be worth it.

It may be best to stay with the rest of the traffic as other drivers tend to know what they are doing. It may be wise to make a point to review what local road signs look like and mean before you go.

It should come as little surprise that most road accidents occur in countries with the lowest incomes, so road safety is important. In conjunction with the Red Cross and Red Crescent there are a number of projects out there to reduce the deaths in developing countries, whether by education, legislating or equipment.

One such enterprise is the 7% Campaign which finances motorcycle helmets for children from Thailand; only 7% of Thai motorcyclists currently wear helmets. This project is also supported by Save The Children and works with the public authorities of Thailand.

If your business involves logistics, it’s especially hard to drive a truck on more treacherous roads. It’s a good idea to become a member of the International Road Federation, a not-for-profit company which has been in operation since 1948. They provide information on roads around the world and advocate best practices. They also run a series of webinars.

Vertical Climbing Vehicles

Can you get a car to climb a vertical face, well yes! It’s not easy, especially when you’re dealing with crumbling textures and falling rock. You’re not exactly going against physics but you’re going damned close.

Speed alone won’t get you up a vertical surface. It is important that the surface you’re climbing is completely dry. You also need to give your vehicle a thorough inspection prior to attempting the climb. There are significant pressures placed on a vehicle when it attempts to make such a climb. Additionally, you want to be sure that everything in and on the vehicle is secured, the vehicle may be able to maintain a tenuous grasp when going vertical, but the stuff in your cup holder probably won’t.

Speed isn’t the answer to the problem of a vertical climb, it’s power. Welcome to the world of rock crawler buggies where tires need to be especially low and the center of gravity for the bodywork must be low as well. The engine cannot be close to the tires so typically it requires an electronic drive.

The tires must have a strong grip in them but there’s difficulty here too. Under normal circumstances, gravity is pushing down on the car and the tires – we’re moving into aerodynamics again here by the way – but now we can’t use gravity. So how does the vehicle get grip?

The solution is a paddled tire using the vertical force itself to grip it to the wall. With the center of gravity at the front of the vehicle and also as near to the cliff as possible it ensures the car is kept as stable as possible. Were this not the case the car would flip back and fall off the cliff. The best length of car, when you calculate it, is about 11.5ft (3.5m).

Another variable is weight. The engines need to be kept as light as possible. This goes against conventional thinking associated with off-roaders. One might think of a vehicle like an SUV or Land Rover, but these are no good for scaling heights.

A climber needs to be able to reach 60mph in 1.5 seconds and can only weigh up to about 575lbs (260Kg).

How does it reach the required angle? Before the car can travel up a 90-degree surface it must first climb a 70-degree surface, an impossible angle for most cars. For this reason, you need a strong stunt driver as it’s quite a scary angle and may involve some sliding backwards before reaching the cliff itself.

This is unfortunately just speculation as no car has yet been able to scale up a 90-degree cliff, even though a Jeep was reported climbing up the Sand Hollow State cliff in Utah. It doesn’t seem to hold that much water though. For one thing, a Jeep is too heavy a vehicle to confidently climb a vertical cliff. Secondly, the Jeep seems to be at a jaunty angle as if it’s not exactly climbing. Thirdly, the car is shown at the top of a cliff (perhaps winched down from the horizontal surface?) not halfway down where the aerodynamics could be seen at the fullest effect. Don’t believe all you read on social media!

Getting Children Interested In Cars

There are hundreds of ways of getting children interested in cars. As may be understood if you regularly follow us, it leads to hundreds of careers and side projects – go karting or visiting a racetrack for instance. But it ultimately comes down to the child themselves.

We just wanted to point to some, in case you have some time off this Christmas and want to do something fun with your kids.

Lo Tech

There are many different craft videos out there, telling you how to make a car out of popsicle sticks or even matchboxes (the business Matchbox was named after the practice of homemade cars). For the more technically minded there are videos on making battery-powered toy cars and propeller cars. There are videos about general propulsion and how exactly they move designed for young minds.

Or you could choose one of the many balloon cars designs, whether out of cardboard or out of Lego. It teaches children about propulsion, as the balloon deflates the car goes faster. Or you use a zip line or rocket to propel it. Again, videos to make these items are available online with simple research.

Robot Cars:

There are several online challenges out there for those who wish to design their own. Robot cars can be customized into different designs and by following online guides, step by step instructions are needed to bring about positive results. An Arduino car for instance works through a USB and microcontroller. It creates its own path through obstacles.

An Elegoo robot car (as well as various robot tanks) can be programmed online via code. It could take some time to become an expert.

Remote Control Cars:

Remote control cars may be thought by some as yesterday’s toys by some but options include:

  • Those which can be controlled via Wifi
  • Those with a HD camera
  • Those which may be driven in all terrains

There’s even one made for the Nintendo Switch that works with VR (Virtual Reality) to impose a virtual racetrack onto your floor. You can drive the remote-control car around the virtual track and compete with virtual opponents.

There’s a range of colors too, including camouflage green and metallic blue.

Other ways to Play, er we mean Experiment…for education…

Even with regular toy cars your child can make ramps out of cardboard, wood or plastic. Sticking a block in the way in a car could teach about what forces cause a car to stop for instance. They can also alter the height and length of a ramp to see how fast a car goes when launched by gravity.

Another thing to look at is the size and weight of a car. Why do small cars start quicker but larger cars in the end go faster? They can also experiment on which surface works for the toy car.

There’s also the possibility of marking out a racetrack on the floor with colored masking tape. It comes down to how much mess you want your child to make!

Depending on the age of your child and the amount you’re able to be involved with the project the “shed projects” that involve building the car or obstacles before using them seem to fascinate more than the items you may find in the stores. However, both are useful if you want to teach about science and technology, or pass on your passion for cars to your own kids.

If your child doesn’t enjoy getting their hands dirty, there’s still encouraging your child to draw various types of cars and trucks, just whatever piques their interest. Car design is a great career and who knows where the next car startup will come from. If you get them to keep it up, you may have a genius on your hands. They’ll be working for Elon Musk – or one of his competitors – in no time. Maybe they’ll be the next Elon Musk?

Car Color Matters

When considering a new vehicle, we car guys (and gals) often consider key functionality.  Number of passengers, storage capacity, engine size and type, etc.  We do also choose color, but how much thought goes into that decision?

If you live in Arizona, for instance, a black or other deeply tinted color means that we will likely be running our air conditioners from about March through October.  We’ll have to be careful when opening the doors as the handles can reach ridiculous temperatures, and, unless we chose a light-colored interior, we’ll scald our hands on the steering wheel as well.  This is why most people in hot climates prefer lighter tones.

One must also consider their driving habits when choosing a color.  Bright, flashy colors like red, orange (okay, atomic tangerine), and bright yellow stand out and are easy targets for state troopers on the lookout to meet their citation quotas.  White, grey, and tan vehicles are much less often noticed and typically sail past a brightly colored version of the same car, idling by the road while the nice police officer writes them a $400 speeding ticket.

In some cases, insurance companies have been known to have differing rates based on the vehicle’s color.  While it is not generally a blatant question on a form, the vehicle’s color is identified by the manufacturer when it is receiving its VIN number.

So, whether you are buying a new or used vehicle, take a moment to consider the implications of the color options available.