Best of the Web: Sherp Mini-Monster

Here’s a bit of fun we ran into on our journeys around the interwebs. This little creature is a cross between an ATV and a monster truck. It seems to go where it wants to go. Enjoy the video.

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Dealing Responsibly with A Car and Trailer

How well can you handle a car with a trailer? Here are a few things that operators should keep in mind.

First:

Check to make sure that your vehicle is rated for the size of trailer you intend to tow.

What people don’t do that maybe they should do is test (or retest) their reversing ability before they go on the main roads or, in the case of a RV, vacation.

Check the Coupling:

Some models come with hitches, or mounts, as well as safety chains in a few models. Make sure they are not too loose or too tight – in the latter case the tension may cause the trailer to break. When chains are too long, they drag and spark, which can ignite roadside brush fires.

Safety chains need to be as secure as possible with any damaged chains being removed. It is important to stop them dragging along the ground. If in doubt with the chains, please refer to the manual.

Check the Trailer Brakes:

Many trailers on the road have severe defects, the most common is the brakes failing so it is important to watch out for this.

Proper Equipment:

As well as having approved towing bars you will also need to fit towing mirrors. Failure to do so may lead to three penalty points. Does your trailer have a stabiliser? This will make it easier to handle. You also need to look at the chassis, the lighting (which also means the electricity is working okay if it is an RV) and the wheels.

Check the Load:

Make sure the trailer is not overloaded or the weight makes the trailer unstable. The camber – where it leans to one side – is also important. Most of the weight needs to be at the front when loading.

If it is something like a boat trailer you should check that the tie-downs are all strapped down, and they are all undamaged. It is important that everything is fully secure, and no dirt or similar items can enter the trailer or escape.

Check the Tags and Paperwork:

Before you set out with a trailer or RV it is vital to have the right license. You should stay within the speed limit as you are more vulnerable to accidents.

Trailers should give way to other vehicles-especially smaller vehicles such as cycles and motorcycles. Most people don’t know that a trailer will affect the aerodynamics of a car, including the acceleration and braking. Speaking of brakes, a trailer which weighs over 750 Kg must have working brakes, though brakes are a plus point on any trailer.

Dealing with Trailer Sway:

If you do have to slow down, say you have to deal with strong winds, try to do it gently without applying the brake, which probably means taking your foot off the gas. Also speed up again slowly.

The trailer swaying is a problem in certain types of weather and the driver should attempt to correct it. It is vital you don’t start swerving as it causes accidents with other road users.

Wet roads can also cause a problem because the trailer will have less traction than the car on its own. Again, it’s important to be aware of your environment and be prepared to slow down. Know your limits and the limits of your vehicle and trailer.

The Latest In Car Gadgets

There are a myriad of new car gadgets to improve your journey and make it safer. The coolness factor in these items should not be ruled out. In an ideal world, a device will save you money too- one example would be preventing you forking out after an accident. For some additional advice check out our last article on Car Must Haves.

Tips on Choosing your New Gadget

It is not always the best idea in the world to take the manufacturers marketing content as gospel. Reading a few reviews is a good start. We recommend reading at least one of the 5-star reviews and then reading at least one of the lowest star reviews.

Even relying on on-line reviews isn’t enough. An improved plan of attack is ask your friends and relatives which devices they swear by. Beware of anything too gimmicky, work out if you will still want to use this product in twelve months’ time.

Brand names may be important – have you heard of them? It’s nice to know that the company has been around awhile so they may care enough to fix any issues you encounter, or at least produce a good enough product hoping to avoid having to fix fewer issues. Sometimes buying a brand means that you are paying too much–so use your best judgment.

Head-up Displays

HUDs are a technology inspired by jet fighters, where it’s important to have the most crucial information closest to your view so you don’t have to look away to find it. It broadcasts a see-through picture of vital details over the view of your surroundings.

In 2021 many new cars come fitted with HUD as a standard feature but for those that don’t there are aftermarket models which can be affixed to the dashboard. It can tell you when your car gets too hot or if you seriously need a recharge. Some also come with a warning light.

When buying a HUD check whether it is compatible with Apple or Android. Being able to read clearly is a plus. With some HUDs you have to pay for the accompanying app so it is always best to check. If one with the free app has all the functions you require why pay.

Some gadgets designed to make your drive safer by removing blind spots or monitor tire pressure will work with your smart phone via blue tooth, but these can drain your battery.

Less Vital Gadgets

There are other devices out there and a few seem a bit wacky. Why for instance would you need to buy a step to reach the roof of your vehicle? If you are extremely short perhaps, or if you install a roof storage system. It’s plausible but think twice before adding this to the long list of things you drive around with in your trunk.

Do you really need a dashcam with a front and rear facing camera? Many suppliers believe so. Rideshare drivers love these because you want proof of what passengers do or say in your car in case, they complain about you. However, most people won’t need this…unless you get rear ended. It really comes in handy when you get hit from behind.

There are also devices which can inform you where the speed cameras are in your neighbourhood. Some people use an app on their smart phone. Either way, they rely on someone in your community has taken the time to update the location of the traps. Many people find it distracting though.

Alternately, you can buy a radar detection device so you can be told whether there is a speed trap up ahead. Which again will save you money if you often explore roads you have no prior knowledge of. A cheap one of these will run you under $100 dollars and will go off any time you pass a grocery store with automatic doors. The result is usually paranoia which causes you to stop speeding.

Strip lighting can be controlled via your mobile phone, possibly only useful if you happen to travel at night. It can be synced to your music device.

A subwoofer can be fitted underneath your seats if you are a music fan. A subwoofer is a speaker which produces frequencies at low bass.

Opinion is divided on whether an in-car fridge is a bit too decadent, though if you are going on a long road trip it could well be a necessity; how else will you store the ice cream and cold drinks?

Car Must Haves and Wants

These are merely a few ideas found online of what drivers seem to think important in their vehicle. You may have a different opinion on the subject, but online survey respondents found these items useful.

Heated Seats

Heated car seats are useful on a cold day. You can fit heated seats on cloth seats or leather seats, but it can dry out the leather. It creates what is known as toasted skin syndrome, a type of rash which occurs on the thighs when you have this addition.

Entertainment

When it comes to music it’s important to be able to download the latest tracks. You can have several car music mixes but the real enjoyment comes from making your own. As well as MP3 players and Apple CarPlayer products, there’s also USB thumb drives which allow not just listening to downloaded music but also you can watch cartoons or movies on a video screen. They can only be used when the car is not moving. Presumably back seat passengers can use their own audio or video system.

Passive Entry

You may not have heard it being called passive entry. It’s just being able to enter the car without keys. It’s also known as Remote Keyless Entry or Keyless Enter ‘n’ Go. It uses a key fob which acts as a low-frequency transmitter which saves you from you looking for the keys.

Keyless entry tends to be combined with push button start, which is understandable as it is a keyless operating system. In order to convert to a keyless entry the hot wires need to be replaced by a professional.

Emergency Braking/Collision Warning

Automated emergency braking is a system which allows the braking to happen without placing force on the brake. Should braking prove impossible it reduces the force of the impact, though this shouldn’t be confused with a forward collision warning which provides a visual or audible cue but it’s up to the driver to brake.

Storage

It’s useful to have things to help organize your car such as a mobile phone holder or an organizer for the trunk – the most useful of which have Velcro at the bottom to allow you to keep it from shifting in transit.

Other storage space can be obtained by having a cargo box on the roof, but it always feels like you have to open it from the side of the car you aren’t on. Recently some units allow you to open it up from either side of the car, which is really handy and in some cases safer. Be sure the latch system is in good condition if buying a used cargo box because opening spontaneously in transit is a bad thing.

Car Offices

If you have to eat or drink at the wheel or even use a computer (it should go without saying when the car is not moving) you could always invest in a “wheel desk” – the double-sided ones have a cup holder on one side and on the other side a flat plane to write on. You laugh when we suggest no using these while driving but one early maker of these devices used computer graphics to put a driving scene in the window of their add which sponsored a ton of hilarious comments in their product review section. Things like “I’m so much more productive, how did I live without…ah…ohh lord…ouch.”

Windscreen Covers

If you don’t wish to spend time scraping ice off the window, try a windscreen cover. The best ones only take a few moments to attach.

Cup Holders

Okay, it’s been a few years since anyone touted the cupholders as a feature of a car, but hey, it’s a classic.

If you have a cup holder, why not go the whole hog and get yourself a coffee maker that runs off your cigarette lighter (such as the Handpresso Auto)? Well, for one thing they offer only a tiny shot of coffee so they aren’t that practical. For another, you could just stop for a drink at a cafe with the added bonus that it also breaks up your journey. But who are we to judge?

Hopefully you found the above list useful whether you purchase something new for your car or not.

A Look Into The Headlights (and Sidelights)

Not literally! Okay, it’s just a title pun. The primary function of headlights when they decided to put them on cars, was to allow you to operate your vehicle at night, however they’ve become almost as well known for their unintended side effect—they make you more visible.

Headlights typically have two light levels, bright and dim. Because it’s difficult to see on rural roads without streetlights overhead, your car should come equipped with “brights.” Because driving in crowded roads with “brights” on can make it difficult for other drivers to see, you’ll spend most of your time driving with your “dims” on. For many years, the dimmer switch (controller) was available on the floor, though now it’s more commonly found on the steering column.

Signalling with Headlights

Headlights may be used to warn other road users of upcoming hazards including speed traps. Some manuals even describe the headlamps as an “optical horn” which seems a novel way of putting it but there you go.

So, lights on a car have become primarily used for signalling.

  • It can let you know of another car’s presence especially in the fog or on a dark night
  • That you are aware of another car’s action
  • That a car is indicating right of way
  • That a car has a certain problem, though it might be clear exactly what the problem is
  • To say thank you
  • Or most often to let you know your brights are on and they can’t see

Do you have a right to use the headlight to signal people? Opinions vary. For example, we mentioned warning other drivers of a speed trap, it’s not legal in some states. Some states say this is covered by the First Amendment or freedom to speech. This is evidently open to some interpretation.

Hidden Headlights

Hidden headlights are also known as pop-up headlights or flip-eye headlamps. Whenever they aren’t in use they are hidden, though the hiding place used varies. Some are mounted in a housing, while others retract into the hood or the fender. Sometimes they may be concealed behind a grille panel feature. The Buick Rivera introduced this feature to the public.

Mazda Pop-up Headlights

The first pop-up headlight to be “seen” was created by General Motors in 1939.

But the feature came and went as a “fashion statement”-possibly it’ll come back in the future. It’s biggest point of popularity was during the 1960s. This was the point where the lights couldn’t be aerodynamically designed. Although the Lotus Espirit and CS Spirit both date from 2004 it’s the last time these types of headlights were on a mass-produced vehicle. For some reason it became dated.

Unique Headlights

Tucker Torpedo

Mazda Furari created headlights which resemble a smile of blue neon.

Directional lighting of a sort was available for one year (1935) on a car called the Tatra, which simply allowed the driver to flip a switch and electromagnetically shift a reflector to illuminate the curb side only.

The Cizeta V16T has two pairs of pop-up headlights.

The Opel GT rolls over from the side rather than popping up. The 1948 Tucker Torpedo has a middle light which must have been slightly off-putting.

Types of Headlights

LED Headlights

Most headlights are halogen, LED, Xenon/HID, and Laser.

Good old halogen have been around since 1962 (the H1) and has been vastly improved since by tungsten filaments and pressurized iodine or bromine gas to increase illumination and lifespan. Not only did these improvements make the bulbs not burn themselves out so quickly, they also made them tougher. On the bright side (pun intended) they’re cost effective, but on the downside they’re only so bright. (Halogen cast a slight yellow tint that never gets as white as daylight). Also, they don’t last too long and some models are difficult to replace.

Laser headlamps have the best illumination but also cost the most to repair, which seems to happen to anyone who owns them as they need to be repaired after the slightest bit of damage.

Xenon Headlight

The DAF LED headlamp uses (as the name suggests) a low beam of LEDs. This means that the heat isn’t focused on one place. It also lasts a long time and is able to cope with a strong amount of vibration through use. LEDs can be fit in tight spaces, and they are energy efficient.

High end vehicles often come equipped with Xenon/HID headlamps because the mix of Xenon and Argon gasses create a very bright light at a long range. The downside is that they take a few seconds to reach their full brightness and they can be too bright. If you don’t enjoy having oncoming traffic flash their brights at you, it’s probably not worth getting a conversion kit to install this type of light. It’s also a very focused light so you see well what these lights hit and see very little of what they don’t hit, which impedes parking or lane changes. One final positive is that these lights can last for years without being changed.

From headlights to sidelights.

Although they are contained in the same unit as headlights, sidelights are used for slightly different purposes. The front ones give off a white light and the corresponding tail-lights give off a red light which will also light up your registration plate.

The sidelights are dimmer than the other lights on the car. They’re not there to keep the way ahead lit but instead to ensure you are visible and that other road users are able to pass you.

You shouldn’t use your headlights if parked as they affect other road users too much.

So that’s the end of a short look at headlights and sidelights, hopefully it was illuminating.

The Squeeze – How to Get The Most of Car Space

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You may not be aware of the term “cargo space,” though it’s just a more complicated way of saying trunk space. A similar term used in the motor trade is “cargo capacity” which means the same thing.

Looking at the objects that people put it trunks in the movies it tends to be suitcases, cooler boxes, items like that. Everything you might need for a week or a fortnight away, though the items we’ll need to place in our trunks could be yard trash, a table, chairs… Well, you get the idea.

A way to increase the space is to have storage in the front of the vehicle, as Tesla does. This wouldn’t be possible in a conventional vehicle but because the Tesla is electric the engine doesn’t take up that much space. They nickname this new space as the “frunk,” a portmanteau of “front trunk”.

trunk-1478832_1920As well as the front space, you might look at the under-trunk space, although in most cars this is where the spare tire is stored. Minivans, however, often only use part of the underfloor to store the tire leaving part for additional storage.

Minivans aren’t alone in touting their ample surplus of space. The makers of the Pontiac boast that you could fit a whole mattress in the trunk of their car. This might be too much space for most people, how often do you wish to transport a mattress? But if you require space this is probably the ideal car to get.

When you have space you might like to utilize it in bizarre new ways.

Are you unhappy with the car’s current speakers? No problem, get yourself a huge pair of subwoofers and stick them in your trunk. Okay, you no longer have half your trunk space, but it does improve your listening pleasure.

Got a couple bikes to transport? You have two basic choices—inside or out. You can install a bike rack on the roof or the trunk, depending on your car’s body type. For those who have yet to purchase a bike rack or wish to carry more than one the bicycle can be a tricky thing to transport. One idea is to use a foldaway bike which not only allows you to store the bike but also, depending on the size of the vehicle, allows room for rucksacks and other items needed for your travels.

If you are someone who needs to look immaculate all the time as you travel around the country you might like to transform your trunk into a walk-in closet complete with space for jackets to be hung up, shoes and ties.

If you are worried about items being broken in the trunk, obtaining a trunk shelf might be the answer, allowing items like eggs and so on to remain in one place and not get crushed by other items. For minivans, a cargo net can be a lifesaver.

A number of the items above may seem like late April Fools but they are available on the internet. Anywhere there is empty space, someone’s going to have an idea of how to fill it.

The Future of Keys and Fobs

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In recent years, the idea of using a mechanical key to open or start your car has changed. You might have a chipped key, for example, which ties that key exactly to your car. Or, you might have a key fob which allows you to open your car at the press of a button, and without which, your car won’t start or drive. Most recently cars have begun using virtual keys, in other words, a way to open or start your car using your mobile phone.

Chipped Keys:

Chipped keys are technically known as “transponder keys”, short for “transmitter and responder”. The difference between a chipped key and a normal key is that if you try to use a chipped key for a car not designed for it (the serial number /code doesn’t fit) the car will become immobilized.

Car thieves often employed hot-wiring techniques which could be tot to teenagers, so if they were caught “booting” a car they could claim they were just joyriding and get off with little punishment. Chipped keys require a more technically savvy thief. While a teenager could still do it, it’s harder to play dumb when you’re bringing equipment with you and using advanced techniques. The drop in car theft may be linked to this–in 1990 when chipped keys became widely used there were roughly 660 car thefts per 100,000 vehicles which has dropped to 239.6 thefts per 100,000 vehicles so it does seem to make a difference.

The problem with chipped keys is the expense of replacing them. Most of us grew up running down the local hardware store and running off a copy of our car keys in case of emergency. Those days are gone. If you do lose your keys, and it’s not hard to do, it means ordering one from the factory or authorized key outlet. A replacement for a chipped key runs about $200 more than a mechanical key.

Key Fobs:

Some cars have a special fob designed, usually with the brand of car on them. The term “fob” dates back to days of pocket watches. First, the fob referred to the pocket, then the watch and then to items hanging from a chain. It now refers to items on key rings such as small toys, devices and so on. The fob is usually individual to special makes of car. Most fobs offer the choice of opening the car door, opening the trunk and raising an alarm.

Key fobs aren’t cheap either but ironically they can be cheaper than a chipped key, and it’s just easier on the brain to pay a bunch of money for an electronic device than what looks like a normal key.

Virtual Keys:

This leads us to virtual keys which allow you to open your car using your mobile phone. The general idea allows someone else to use your vehicle without handing over a physical key-ideal for rental companies.phone-690091_1920

The first drawback here is obvious. Someone has to gain access to your pocket to get your key or fob, whereas a cell phone can get hacked. The latest way to use the technology requires platforms such as Bluetooth technology, WiFi or Cellular Network, using the latest in secure chip technology.

To make it worse, there isn’t one standard phone-based system. One example of the system not quite working at the moment is the Ericcson Digital Car Key. It may unlock the car, but instead of using something like Bluetooth it works on the cloud. Unless you subscribe to the specific cloud you can’t access the key. Rival schemes like “Bosch Perfectly keyless” also have their problems. It is too confusing at the moment with so many different apps and designs.

A group of companies (including technology and car companies) called the Car Connectivity Consortium are attempting to create a universal standard. Though there are a number of businesses involved it still has not spread across all makes of car or mobile networks. Clearly, one issue is proprietary technology at car companies or mobile companies.

It would be a shame if the link between the key and the car totally disappears, but security and convenience should come first.

Garage Floor Coatings

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Garage floors are unfortunately overlooked and ill-maintained. It is one of the few spots in your home (or mechanical garage) where problems are not noticed until they get out of hand. Check out your garage floor, and you will likely be surprised by how stained, dirty and perhaps even cracked it may be. Garages have a big job, including holding up against the weight of vehicles and recreational equipment. It is no easy task to hold the weight of your SUV, commuter car, barbeque and ATV year-round. Garage floors need some upkeep, and one of the quickest and most affordable solutions is with a garage floor coating.

There are some garage floor systems that can instantly transform your garage floor into a veritable work of art. You personalize the color, pattern and look of your garage floor based on your tastes and needs. Any garage can become a showroom that showcases your rides, all while increasing the strength and durability of this critical flooring. By utilizing epoxies that are solid and specifically engineered to be tough enough to stand up against anything you can throw at it (or drip on it), the value of your home or business automatically increases.

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Your Latest Car Accessory

Lab-engineered products like Elite Crete Systems products feature polyurethane and polyaspartic resins that are just as good looking as they are durable. Your imagination is the only limit when it comes to designing your new garage. Add in a logo, choose a wild design, keep it subtle and classy or make an enormous chessboard in your garage—the Elite Crete Systems products can do anything your heart desires. This is not a paint or stain that will fade or chip over time. The system becomes part of your existing garage floor, strengthening it and beautifying it.

Your entire project will be customized to perfectly suit your needs and ideas. Plus, the end result is a floor that is incredibly resistant to salts, oils and heavy weights, which are all common occurrences in garages. Depending on the size of the garage, most installations are complete within one or two days, and can be applied during the construction of a garage or afterward.

These products are a fantastic addition when repairing a garage, ensuring this critical part of the home is as durable as necessary. Give your garage the added protection it needs, and never worry about stains or spills again. With this system, your garage flooring can be just as gorgeous as the rest of your home.

 

Mustang Monday: High Performance Tires

tire-416189_1920As winter approaches its time to think about winter tire solutions. We’ll post a special report on the topic soon but first, we wanted to remind you that tires expire even when they’re sitting on a shelf. Rubber simply degrades so consider this, if you still have the spare tire that came with your car, and your car is more than six years old, you will want to get a newer spare or your back up tire might not back you up very well.

Now, please enjoy a look into high-performance tires as an accessory.

High-Performance Tires

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Although now a mainstay of racing culture, high-performance tires weren’t actually introduced by Goodyear until 1980 for the Corvette. That’s right, it was only thirty years ago before “regular” passenger cars could have race car inspired wheels. The original Gatorback tire had big tread blocks to better grip the roads and hard and low side walls in order to make a machine that was built for speed perform even better.

A new rating system was in order and the Gatorback got a “V” which meant it had been safely tested in a laboratory to perform at speeds up to 149 mph. Quickly, other speed ratings (which are now called “performance ratings”) were created including “S (112 mph)”, “H (up to 130 mph), and “Z (unlimited).” Instantly, horsepower enthusiasts were hooked.

What Hasn’t ChangedMehta_Tire

Unsurprisingly, high-performance tires have always been costly – much like other parts necessary for a “modded” ride. Original high-performance tires cost around $200 each and not much has changed over the years. Today’s price of high-performance tires varies, but drivers interested in these accessories should expect to spend a few thousand dollars.

Types of Performance Tires

“Performance” no longer means solely racing tires. There are performance tires for all seasons, for all weather conditions, and of course still for speed. There are many different tire makers touting an abundance of options. It’s important to consider what your particular car is used for. Touring tires are a popular option for luxury cars and provide a very high-quality tire to ensure comfort and great handling – this is the option for daily commuters.

Performance, and even ultra-performance tires, are the go-to for racers. Of course, there is never a “perfect” tire and if you opt for these tires there will be a decline in comfort. However, the way the machine handles and grips the road can be vastly improved.

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Do I Really Need to Upgrade?

The good news is that manufacturers of sport and muscle cars quickly realized the benefit of high-performance tires. Many companies include quality performance tires with every new vehicle. After all, what better way to add even more of a boost to a car’s performance than with tires that provide better grip and handling? If you have factory tires already, there’s a good chance that they provide more than enough for the average driver.

There is also a downside. Some people don’t realize, until it comes time to replace the tires, just how much they cost. If you’re at the point where you need to replace factory tires, it can be a tough decision. You can go with similar tires, or the same, as you had before, opt to improve them, or settle for something more affordable (just don’t expect your car to perform quite the same way).

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Who Really Needs It?

“But I’m not a performance driver!” is a common complaint when drivers realize they’ve been taking advantage of these prime factory tires. It’s true, most people don’t (or at least shouldn’t) be going over the lowest performance rating of “S.” That doesn’t mean they aren’t performance drivers. Everyone wants and deserves the best from their machine. A good grip on the roads, tight turns, and the ability to withstand a summer road trip all require quality tires – so look around. Choose a median performance and price, unless of course, you are a racer.