Various Obstacles On The Road

It would be perfect if there was nothing encroaching on your driving, but the real world doesn’t work like that. You must navigate some problems out there–including slow moving vehicles, pets, bridges, barriers, and traffic cones.

Slow Moving Vehicles

Slow moving vehicles could be anything from horse drawn vehicles, tractors and ride on mowers even. If you are driving on an interstate highway you shouldn’t encounter them, it’s the little roads when they become an issue. If possible, you should look for a safe place to pass. Watch out for a long single line of traffic with no obvious explanation. Don’t just fly past everyone as there may be a horse drawn vehicle or a bicycle up ahead. If other vehicles seem reluctant to pass, there’s the flimsiest chance they are right?

Pet’s

Pets are a problem in more suburban areas, cats are especially likely to run into the road. It is always best to maintain a slower speed in order to watch out for animals crossing. If you hit an animal you must make contact with the owners. With farm animals and wild animals you should alert the authorities. It’s a rigmarole but it helps to obey the law in these matters.

Bridges

Virginia’s Oldest Covered Bridge

Hump bank bridges, draw bridges, or swing span bridges should be approached with caution as the road gets narrower. As you pass the top of the bridge the car has less traction and so becomes harder to brake and steer. Another reason to slow down is that your suspension can be damaged if you hit a bridge element at speed.

You should be prepared to stop as there tends to be one line of traffic or there may be pedestrians or cyclists on the bridge blocking your passage. You must check your mirrors to see if the way is clear. Move slowly until you’re completely satisfied.

There are additional problems if you are driving a long vehicle. If there is a curved approach you need to exercise caution and skill, you need to be sure how your vehicle turns. If at all possible, you should attempt to avoid the bridge altogether, try another route.

The sickness in the stomach which comes from crossing this type of bridge is due to it being linked to acceleration followed by deceleration.

If you keep going over humped bridges or road humps your tires will become distorted and the suspension will be affected. But it’s a little-known fact that cars going over bumps can cause damage to the roads, sidewalks and even nearby buildings. It may cause damage to your body – around the neck and lumbar (back) region.

Barriers

Barriers are meant to stop you from colliding with things such as rocks, buildings and so on as well as keeping you away from pedestrian areas. They may well harm your car more than whatever they’re keeping you from hitting.

Traffic cones date back to the 1940s – another obstacle to watch – they replaced wooden structures which indicated the road was being worked on, which sounds as if it created more accidents than it solved! A later innovation was to make traffic pillars, which aren’t as popular. Traffic cones are inexpensive, remarkably easy to see and can be used to close down lanes or guide drivers around obstacles in the road.

Here’s to an obstacle-free journey and the lure of the open road.

Rattles and Bumps – What’s The Problem?

Rattles and bumps can be highly annoying. What’s worse part not knowing what’s wrong or that it’s announcing to passengers that your car has an issue. The worst is needing to put it off and not being sure if it’s something that can wait or if you’re just making the problem more expensive by not prioritizing it. You need to know what’s causing the problem A.S.A.P.

So, here’s some common sense for you. (It goes without saying that we can’t diagnose your issue without seeing it, so use this advice at your own risk.)

You don’t expect a car to rattle when it is standing still. It may be something like the compressor clutch. The car also will make more noise moving than you’d expect too. A rattle or ticking noise may be due to low oil-it’s best to check your instruments.

If the rattle is under the car and sounds like shaking stones it’s possibly the exhaust system. If it rattles traveling over bumps in the road it indicates bad suspension. If the rattling disappears when you increase speed, for example go up a gear it may be linked to the engine being too warm.

The muffler rattling means that something is touching the exhaust pipe, possibly some corroded metal. This can also sound like a rumble. It should be dealt with as soon as possible and it will increase in severity over time. It might be something like the catalytic converter.

A gear rattle comes from the transmission and depends on the driving conditions. Sometimes the gear rattle may be confused with diesel knock. What is diesel knock? It’s given the less prosaic name of combustion roughness. The problem is linked to the high pressure of the combustion engine and is only to be found in combustion engines.

A lubricant will fix the problem. It’s possible that it will squirt out the fuel line so be careful.

A rod knock is caused by worn bearings – the crankshaft and the pistons rub together. Sadly your car will need a serious overhaul to fix the problem, the pistons and crankshaft may even need to be replaced. Many mechanics are confused by diesel knock, so it’s not good news at all.

Bumps

Nor are bumps good news. The usual suspect tends to be the tires – it may be that the tires aren’t secured properly or that they are losing air pressure. Check the air pressure if you are unsure–they bear the brunt of rough roads and can be damaged enough to develop a slow leak. If there are stones stuck in the tire it will also feel bumpy, so inspect your tread carefully.

If it is more like vibrating than a general bump it could be a damaged CV joint; the only way to solve it is to replace the part. It is especially noticeable when you are accelerating. CV stands for constant velocity and the CV joint connects the drive shaft with the rest of the controls. It is not safe to drive the car if this part is damaged as it may turn into violent shakes if it is left alone.

A jerking movement may be a range of things so it will be hard to diagnose, you could have to check the spark plugs, the fuel injector or possibly the accelerator cable. If you can’t work it out it’s best to just take it to the mechanic. That could be said for any rattle or bump but now you know what you might be in for.

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 First Time Driver’s Problems

A first-time driver should look to own a car that is both inexpensive and easy to maneuver. Although no safe car is truly inexpensive, when you are young it’s still important to get something reasonable.

When to Start Driving

Is 18 the best age to start driving? The most common answer is that it depends on how responsible you are. Not on is operating the vehicle a big responsibility but so is where and when you choose to drive. There’s also the matter of affording it. Gas prices are high, but for your drivers the insurance is the big expense.

Many people don’t have much choice, they land a job and need the transportation. Others might need to drop a younger sibling off at school for a parent that works odd hours.

Again, the insurance is the big cost for young drivers, so maybe you should only start driving when you can afford to do so?

On the Topic of Insurance

It’s always a good idea to have one of your parent’s names on the insurance even if they don’t drive it just to keep the premiums down. Many states require all licenced drivers who live in the same home to be insured on all the vehicles registered to that address. It must be nice to be in an industry where you get to assume things about your client’s behaviour and charge accordingly.

Black Box Insurance

You see insurance companies advertise how you can get a great rate by letting them plug a device into your car that monitors your driving. You may be inclined to try it out, but is “black box” insurance worth it? It depends on how good a driver you are and what time you drive. If you are a bad driver, it can give you feedback on your driving but also penalize you with high premiums. It will give your insurance company information on whether you drive late at night and will penalize you for it. Most students have work nights after school so it doesn’t work out as a good idea.

There are problems too if you exceed your stated mileage for a year this will also mean your premiums increase. Other information gathered by the “black box” is how well or how badly you accelerate, your braking skills and the errors you perform while attempting to park. Skills a young driver may be yet to acquire. It also knows when you speed so to sum up it’s not a good idea for most young drivers.

Taking your Car to College

When you take a car to college it’s so much easier to run errands like filling up the fridge but then again you are spending a sizable amount on gas and maintaining the vehicle. There’s the dilemma over where you park it too. If you are parking on campus, there will almost certainly be a charge.

SmartCar

Finally, onto Types of Cars.

Smart ForFour has the advantage of a turbocharged engine located in the trunk. Another plus point is its turning ability, helpful if attempting this maneuver has ever caused you to stall.

The Mini Hatchback may not be ideal for the first-time driver’s budget unless you are a late starter or have rich parents. Still there are a huge number of customizing options – just more a second or third car really.

Fiat 500

The Fiat 500 has rather a vintage feel, though your fellow students may not like sitting in the back-it feels more like a family car in this respect. There’s a range of pastel hues to choose from, though a student might be interested in red.

When you buy the first car look into such items as emergency braking and how reliable it is. Do you have the option of low-rate finance? As with any car it’s always best to take it for a test drive before you commit, and get it examined by a car inspection service like Tire Kickers.

Why Semi-Truck Turning Is So Hard

For trucks, turning can be one of the hardest things you can do. Why? Read on and find out.

If a truck wants to u-turn (180 degrees) for example, a truck park must allow for a minimum turn path, a truck of 18 wheels needs about 20’ to turn, the rear wheels follow a shorter path than the front wheels.

Because a truck cannot make a turn in a small radius, they need to swing wide, meaning they must start the turn in the second lane to the left. There is an increased risk of a tip over or roll over if a truck tries to turn in too small a radius.

During any turn there is an increased risk of accident, and if there are only two lanes, trucks should avoid turning left. A truck may collide with a vehicle heading toward it from the front or there may be a right turn squeeze play accident from a vehicle trying to turn alongside it.

Squeeze-play Accidents

Squeeze-play accidents can happen in two ways. First because the trailer turns tighter than the cab and cars tend to assume they are safe if the cab isn’t going to hit them. However, the rear tires on the trailer can strike and even climb over a small car that is overtaken on the inside of a turn. It’s never a good idea to attempt a turn at the same time as a truck even when there are two turn lanes.

The second type of squeeze-play happens when drivers are lured into it. Because trucks need to swing right in order to turn left the truck gives the illusion it is turning right. Car drivers see the left blinker on, but assume the driver really meant to go right.

Trucks also have a larger blind spot than cars which means if they put their left turn signal on a car may feel safe pulling up next to it on the right. When the truck driver turns right to begin his left turn any cars in the way would be crushed, generally at the roof but it can be squeezed against a barrier.

How to Turn a Truck:

If you’re driving the truck, it is important to use signals when turning. It’s important to use windows and mirrors to check what is happening and do not move too quickly. It’s vital that you not put yourself in a position to have to back up the vehicle in the middle of an intersection.

To enter into a right turn, ensure that you have enough space from the curb and do not swing into the far-right lane. Conversely, if a truck makes a left turn it needs to first move right.

Different truck turns can be performed in different gears, right turns should be done in third gear, while left can be done in fourth gear. If it is a big right-hand corner with a turning lane (also known as a slip lane) it may be done in fifth gear. A slower vehicle turns more sharply.

Turn signals need to be up-to-date, mirrors should be correct for the size of the vehicle. The driver needs an adequate level of experience, qualifications and training. Unfamiliarity, such as a new route and different conditions may change things. Or the driver could be distracted which includes being tired.

This is just a simple guide, and it should be noted that you need a considerable amount of training to drive a truck, fortunately for other users of the road!

Avoiding Accidents:

It is vital not to overtake a turning truck.

If you’re driving a vehicle near a truck, to prevent accidents always stay away from a truck’s blind spots, especially if it is an 18-wheel truck. Only pass one when there is a great deal of room and do not pass on the right. Should a truck be indicating, give it a wide berth.

Car drivers shouldn’t think of a truck operating like a regular vehicle and just be more patient.

11% of all crash deaths in 2019 involved trucks but 74% of them involved a large trailer, while 24% involved single unit trucks. It is vital as a car driver to stay a safe distance and only pass when there is a great deal of room, especially if it is indicating.

Altering the Car’s Interior

What can be altered about a car’s interior? Is it even worth it?

People do want their to personalize their car and to express their creativity but there are consequences if you go too far.

1st Reselling

Obviously if they car’s interior is in bad shape then there is nowhere to go but up, however it depends on how you intend to sell your car—should you be thinking of eventually doing so. In the second-hand market, yes, a consumer who looks at a nicely redone interior will prefer it to seeing an original interior with scuffs or holes, even if it’s not a factory color. You would need to do some research to find out what’s desirable based on your make and model.

If you try and sell the car in a mainstream way you may have difficulty selling the vehicle. A car lot will be able to spot customized interiors no matter how well it is done.

Other Factors

The layout of some interiors could mean that the comfort of passengers have been compromised and some changes may even be illegal – please don’t overdo your alterations!

It could make your insurance invalid depending on the changes made. You call it custom, your insurance calls it vandalism. That’s assuming you’ve done it well, which frankly a lot of people don’t. It is hard to do well and highly difficult to change back.

Ways to Customize.

Carpets

One place to start is the car’s carpets as most of them have a dull black or gray pattern and a bit of pattern might make a change.

An alternative is to buy some mats, the more expensive the better value it will give the car. If you bought your car used you might start by having the carpets shampooed. Don’t replace them if they’re simply dulled by soil.

PS grime ads wear to carpets so keeping them clean radically extends their life.

Seats

Moving on to the seats, you can buy what are known as aftermarket seats for instance bucket seats as replacement for the originals. As hinted to above, it is vital that you do this properly which means getting a professional in. You’ll need to inform your insurer in any case.

Alternately you can have the old seats reupholstered in leather or leatherette or just buy some seat covers. Look to see which fabrics you like. Maybe looking at massage seats, especially if you have back problems.

Steering Wheel & Dash

Back in the day one could unbolt a steering wheel from the column and replace it for a unique look that fit the owner…now there are air bags…

When it comes to altering the steering wheel and the dashboard the prices will escalate very quickly. But there are ways to do it without breaking the bank and also not damaging your insurance.

A simple way of improving the dashboard region is to look at under dash lighting using LED lights or to add vinyl to the steering wheel or dashboard or perhaps a colorful steering wheel cover. A dash kit will change the finish and is relatively easy to install.

Perhaps the most common car customization involves the dash and is the exception to the rules we’ve been talking about. You radio is virtually built to be replaced if you have the right tools and training. Many stereo stores offer instillation services, and you are wise to take advantage of them. An improved stereo won’t get you much in trade in value, but can make a big difference in the second-hand market, depending on the kind of car you are selling.

Other Changes

Another popular upgrade for young people are racing pedals instead of the regular sort. Maybe a trunk liner to make the most of this region of the car? Again, these are pretty inexpensive ways to improve your vehicle. 

For the music lover you might look into upgrading your speakers. There are car owners who alter the entire trunk by filling it with gigantic speakers, but it does render it unusable.

While you are making all these improvements you may as well add some video screens or a video game console. Depends on the amount of pressure from your children, really.

If your driving is a bit under par you may decide to invest in a collision avoidance kit, particularly if you drive at night. Even if you do drive well, it’s good for your piece of mind and helps your insurance premiums.

Your car is likely the second most costly thing you own after your house. Don’t take chances on totalling your car in the name of self-expression. Or do, the choice is yours.

Buying Convertibles

Spring is in the air and what better way to celebrate than buying a convertible? If you have never owned a convertible before you need to know a couple things first. On the bright side, you have the joy of the open road on a sunny day, but they cost a bit more than an equivalent car and space is a problem.

Wait, they charge more for Convertibles?

Yes, and not just because they can (although they’re desirable and that comes at a premium). Added to that, you must factor in the cost of manufacturing a converting roof and the complex engineering involved.

What do you mean less space?

As with price, they aren’t just being mean, there are legit reasons. You lose space in the trunk due to stowing away the canvas or hard top roof. when you lower the canvas roof it needs to be stowed somewhere.

Okay, so What Else?

Convertibles don’t have as good a visibility as standard cars when the roof is up, which is most of the time. Having a built-in parking or driver assist is a game changer when parking a convertible.

It also takes longer to warm up than a regular car due to less insulation roof.

The roof is easier to damaged and if the roof does break, you’re talking about a huge payout needed to repair it, given the parts involved.

You are also best advised keeping the car somewhere secure as a canvas roof is not the best protection in the world, even if you invest in a steering lock. When not parked at home or at work, lock any valuables in the trunk as thieves will simply cut their way in and take items off the seat.

Enough of the doom mongering, what about the cars themselves?

The Mini Cooper Convertible combines style with build quality. There have been five generations of Mini Convertible to date. They have gas and diesel variants of their convertible with black trim around the wheels. There is a horizontal bar under the licence plate, despite not being needed for the US market. To access the rear seats, the front seats need to be both tilted and slid forwards which seems a bit of a pain.

The Audi A5 comes in a convertible and has two turbocharged engines to pick from. It comes with Apple Car-Play as well as All-wheel handling. Critics may point out the smallness of the trunk and the general lack of legroom in the back seat, but the latter could very well be expected by purchasing a compact.

(Please note the Audi A5 also comes in coupe and sportback versions. Just to be clear; a sportback is a four-door hatchback with a sloping roof, in other words a hatchback that looks like a coupe.)

The Mazda MX-5 Miata has a smallish interior and storage space, but plus points include user friendly safety tech. The suspension is similar to what you’d find in a sports care. It also has rear wheel drive, allowing you to reach 34 MPG on the highway.

Possibly you consider a Ford Mustang as a sports car, but the convertible version is known for having a decent trunk (unusual in a compact car) and the handling is sure-footed. There are powerful engine choices – between 310 and 480 hp. The CoPilot 360 helps with driver assist. It is a pity that the rear seats appear so cramped. The front seats seem worthy of note – they are bucket seats that have an actual curve to them (not all “buckets” do). No doubt this gives them an improved level of comfort.

You really need to live somewhere warm enough and have enough in the bank to take on a convertible. So…

…Now that you know the potential drawbacks to a convertible have you changed your mind about owning one? No, we didn’t think you would.

Car Explosions – Fact & Fiction

Op-Ed from Editors (Wimsett & Bunch)

I think my mom watched too many episodes of chips in the 80’s. She’s pretty sure that if you hit a curb at 25 MPH the car will flip into the air, roll three times and land on its top, only to explode instantly. Try as I might, nothing seems to change her beliefs around cars and explosions. (The following post contains references to some of the ways in which journalists have reported car explosions, which have mislead the public into believing they’re driving about in a bomb.)

The Truth

When a car explodes, something is definitely wrong. It’s reassuring that a car can’t simply blow up, something needs to happen first.

Cars do catch fire, in fact, they’re quite flammable and they burn quickly. But an explosion tends to be a slow process which always starts with a fire. Even when the flames hit the gas tank it doesn’t always explode. As long as you attempt to remove yourself from the car as quickly as possible before calling 911 you should be fine.

But they can explode, right?

Okay, so cars are rarely explosive, but it does happen, only not like it happens in movies. A car hit by bullets for instance wouldn’t necessarily explode.

When the battery blows up it looks like the car explodes. An oil leak can cause fires, as can faulty wiring in items like car stereos. It’s important that a mechanic deals with all of these as well as making sure any seals are secure. Shoddy work is more likely to lead to a fire.

The problem is that journalists aren’t explosive experts or mechanics, they don’t always come up with the real reason a car explodes.

This explains reports in the media of items like car fresheners causing explosions, when in fact only the front window was blown out (which may have had more to do with the heat). Whatever the real cause a blown-out window is not an “explosion.”

Can a car explode by hitting a lamp post? Reports seem to suggest so, but it may well have had more to do with the gas leak.

A car may also explode if it should crash through a house and hit the natural gas line. Sometimes explosions are a complete mystery, or at least according to the reporter.

Obviously, cars can be exploded.

Some cars are the victims of controlled explosions if they are in the wrong place or believed to have something explosive in it.

It is possible to trigger an explosion by attempting to unlock a door by laser if there is an acetylene tank in the car. Fortunately, not many people carry acetylene tanks in their car.

So, what does it take for a car to explode on it’s own?

A build-up of pressure inside a gas cylinder leads to a gas explosion. It may shatter nearby windows.

Sometimes the car explodes from the gas in gas stations. But the flames around petrol do not always lead to an explosion. The fumes from gas are more explosive than the liquid gas, however the pressure needs to reach a certain point.

It’s more dangerous when an electric car catches fire. So, it’s especially important to keep away from these types of fires.

On screen Explosions

It should come as no surprise that when a car explodes on-screen things aren’t always as they seem. Sometimes it’s only a plastic shell with nothing inside it. Or it may be swapped for a much older model just before the explosion.

Alternatively, a car could look pristine outside but suffer from some kind of damage inside (water damage, no seating and so on).

There are some explosions which aren’t explosions at all – it’s pure CGI (computer generated imagery), allowing the car to look as photogenic as possible despite exploding into bits.

This goes to show that what films well in the movies isn’t really like real life, but at least in this instance it should put our minds at ease.

The Various Types of Carports

We think that a carport is a fairly recent invention, but the first carport was built for Sloane House in Illinois by Walter Burley in 1909. It wasn’t technically called a carport by name, instead Burley called it an auto-space.

The first carport to be known by that name was created in Madison, Wisconsin by the architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Draw a picture in your mind of a Model T and it makes sense to keep these early cars undercover—not exactly water-tight. What you may not know is that they could also be damaged by the cold or even by too much heat.

Types of Carports

This is by no means an encyclopaedia of carports and their designers (and who wants to read that anyway) but this short guide focuses on different types of carport on the market.

If you live in cold, even snowy, areas it makes sense to have a full garage where the space is closed off.

Wood carports are less expensive than steel or aluminium but it can be affected by the elements. Steel and aluminium carports do have the disadvantage that they take longer to install, but they are worth it if you can handle the hassle.

One way to keep the costs down is to look for a self-assembly carport. To ensure that the carport is at the right level having a carport with adjustable height is a must.

You need to make sure the site is level before you can build a carport.

Roof Options

In sunny climates it’s not unusual to see flat roof carports to keep the sun from damaging paint and interior, and also to keep the car from being too hot when you go to start it up.

Some carports have a diagonal roof which is much better in snow and rain, and can allow you to place a number of cars underneath.

Expenses

The biggest expense in a carport is the steel understructure, some businesses offer a galvanised steel choice—a worthwhile upgrade when available.

Other expenses involve the site excavation, installation, electricity and painting. Electricity is optional, but again, its wise to do. Paint is not optional on wood structures as it protects the structure.

As you may guess, the expenses soon add up so coming up with a budget is vital.

You may have restrictions on carport building in a specific area. If you don’t have a concrete base already, it will cost more, and likely more to maintain as they need to hold up against the strengths of the storms and it is rust free.

What style of frame do you require?

A cantilever relies on a curved frame system which touches the ground only on one side (but may be supported by something like an out-building) and then there’s post and purlin which is a single slope design.

Canopies

It is vital that the canopy is load bearing. Some are made of metal, others are shingled wood. The idea is usually to match a nearby house, but often apartment complexes will do something entirely different for carports than they do for the buildings. It may come down to how close the carport is to your other structures.

You may need to consider rubber sealing for the roof and some form of drainage, otherwise the canopy will not protect the car for that long.

A solar carport has a solar canopy over the car. The canopy has a surface from where solar energy is derived. The plus point is that you may not need to run house power out to your car port in order to have lights or even a charging station for your EV. Solar canopies can produce more energy than a rooftop solar panel. Massachusetts and various other states provide a cash incentive for buying a solar panel. You will also receive a reduction in your electricity bills.

In Conclusion

If the job is done well, it will protect your pride and joy for several years and may mean you don’t need to spend as much time waxing and polishing your car. Though having said that, all cars benefit from some attention now and again.

Wheel Balance and Alignment

Wheel balance is how the weight is distributed around the wheel. This can be rather fiddly to achieve; it is done by adding weights to the rims of the tires. In order for it to be balanced, you will need to add a number of weights to the other side. If you leave it unbalanced the tire will lean to one side. You can only achieve a comfortable ride in a car with balanced wheels. There may also be a feeling of nausea if you travel at high speeds in an unbalanced car.

Types of Alignment

There are a number of alignments to consider when you balance your tires – sorry but it now becomes rather complicated! – the front caster, the front and rear camber, the front and rear toe and finally the thrust angle. How these relate to each other is the amount of balance a vehicle has as a whole.

The Front Caster – is all about the stability of the front tire vertically; this should be as straight as possible; the front camber is how vertically upright the front wheel stands; surprisingly this is a negative number as the top of the wheel is meant to lean in rather than out, towards the center of the vehicle.

The Front Toe – The final variable of the front wheel is called the front toe which determines how straight your wheel is when it pulls forwards. (Think pigeon toe.)

The Rear Camber – Now to the back wheels…the rear camber is similar to the front camber, but in order to keep the vehicle stable the camber at the back should be greater (It’s in order to keep the car’s center of gravity).

The Rear Toe – is how much the back wheels point forward; unlike the front toe this doesn’t alter that much during driving.

The Thrust Angle – describes the angle of the rear axle to the vehicle. If this is off you may have to oversteer or understeer in order to achieve the desired effect.

This type of thing is also known as breaking and tracking and the idea is to keep the wheel as “straight and true” as possible. In adjusting the tire’s angle you are affecting how the wheel makes contact to the ground. It’s important to get the wheels back to factory settings, but also to make sure that they are aligned with each other.

What a Layman Needs to Know!

It’s complex for a layman but like so many things it’s not that bad if you do it every day. What you need to know is this:

  • You will damage your tires if you don’t regularly add air or rotate your tires. If your suspension has been changed or parts have been replaced it may affect the state of the tires.
  • If the suspension is damaged or you constantly hit potholes you should have your alignment looked at.
  • With the wrong alignment the fuel consumption is worse, thanks to drag or the rolling resistance. It will mean you will probably have to fork out for new tires, and you will take longer to brake.

Okay, there has been a great deal of jargon here but it does go to show how so many variables keep a car operating to the best of its ability and how much balance and alignment play a part.