Monthly Archives: December 2011

Windshield Wipers, the basics

Winter has been with us awhile and you have no doubt been overwhelmed with information about winter driving. Leave an appropriate space cushion, your speed should meet conditions, make sure you have proper tire pressure, tire tread and depth, that you have all the necessary emergency gear in your trunk and that you know the route and weather conditions along route.

All of these are great guidelines to arriving safely to your destination during the winter months.

You should always properly maintain your vehicle, regardless of time of year, but it is especially important during the winter months.  Depending on what part of the country you reside, the winter months either mean snow, ice or rain, there is an important piece of equipment on your vehicle which greatly impacts your ability to see.  As DefensiveDriving.com discusses in its online driver safety course, vision is an important aspect of safe and defensive driving.  Vision, how much you can see, literally should decide the speed in which you travel as your reaction time as a driver is impacted by your field of vision.  If you are able to see potential driving hazards in front of you without obstruction, your reaction and the time your need to react are increased.  It goes without saying, if you cannot see well, you might not see a hazard or react soon enough to avoid the hazard.

The windshield wiper is a vital part of your vehicle. Your windshield wiper is part of a system when properly maintained and when properly functioning, allows you to be able to see and increases your field of vision in variable weather conditions. Have you ever tried to drive in a hard rain, or driving snow or sleet without a properly functioning windshield wiper?  It is nearly impossible in the best case, extremely dangerous in any case.

The original windshield wiper was invented in 1903 but it was not until cars started to be enclosed to protect the passengers, that a need for wipers was realized.   Initially, wipers were powered by a hand crank on the inside of the vehicle but they were replaced by the automatic windshield wiper system – which was powered by the air from the intake of the engine. The latest windshield wiper, the intermittent powered blade was patented in 1967 by Robert Kearns for Ford Motor Company. These systems have been the predominant wind shield wiper systems until very recently, with the invention of optical and rain sensing systems, which automatically turn on and adjust the speed of a windshield wiper blade, based on the presence of moisture.  One system detects the moisture itself, the other detects if its optical sensors are blocked which activates the system.

The windshield wiper system is composed of the windshield wiper arm and the windshield wiper blade. Both are essential to proper function of the system.  A very simple test will tell you when you have a problem.  If you spray your windshield wiper fluid on your windshield and the windshield wipers leave streaks, it is time to replace either the blade or arm.

Most manufacturers of windshield wipers list the life span of a wiper blade to be six to twelve months.  Over time, the blades crack and wear due to normal usage, extreme heat or cold and because they are made of rubber.  Replacing the blade is generally the most cost-effective, but you should always check to see if the arm is good working condition.

The arm essentially holds the blade on the windshield to allow it move away snow, rain and sleet.  Sometimes, snow, ice, dirt or mud become lodged in between the arms connectors causing the arm to bow or lose pressure on the windshield over time.  Usually, you can visually see this and if the arm is not applying good pressure, regardless of how new the blade is, the windshield wiper system will not work as intended.  Winter windshield wiper systems are designed with a particularly strong-arm which prevents the buildup of snow or ice within the windshield wiper arm.

Any number of auto parts stores have the parts you need, the part is typically listed by make and model and any decent auto parts store will actual replace the arm and blade as part of their service.

Remember, the majority of any driving decisions you make are based on good clear visibility.  Anything that takes away from your visibility and your decision-making ability should be fixed as soon as possible, especially something so simple but necessary as a windshield wiper!

 

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How heavy is your car?

We often don’t think about it, the actual weight of our vehicle.   You will never carry it, so it is not like a skateboard, when you can say two pounds.   You will never really push and/or carry it like a bike, so you are never really trying to get it to weigh less, like you do with a bike.  

Hopefully, you never have it run over your toe, so you know its not the 38 pound child plus the 2 pound scooter.

So what does your car weigh?  Would it surprise you to know, that one of the “lightest” cars around is the Smart Car with a weight of 1609 pounds?   You cannot lift it, you are not strong enough. 

On the other end of the spectrum, a Hummer weighs 6614 pounds.   The most popular car, the Honda Accord weighs 3175 pounds. 

Why am I talking about the weight of a vehicle?

As we discuss in our online driver safety course, physics are in play when you drive.

As Newton’s 2nd Law of Physics states, “The acceleration produced by a particular force acting on a body is directly proportional to the magnitude of the force and inversely proportional to the mass of the body.”  The key is the mass of the body and last I checked, there are not a lot of people who could exert Newton’s 3rd Law, as people do not even weigh what a smart car does.

The point is, when you are driving a car, you interacting with the forces of physics and your vehicle weighs, A LOT.   It is best to focus on the task at hand, drive and put the phone in the back seat.   Distracted Driving… is the equivalent of shooting a gun randomly into the air on New Years, you have no idea where the bullet will land.

Another sad but real story from the DOT below.   Drive safely.

Faces of Distracted Driving

‘Tis the season to be jolly…

Happy Holidays!   and all that come with them.

Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years – some of our favorite holidays.   We gather with our friends and family to give thanks, to celebrate, to reflect and to look forward.   

And with the Holiday season, winter comes as well – although a large majority of the east coast would say it came rather early this year. 

The combination of more people on the road travelling to gather with their families, the weather and its effects on the roadways and holiday parties, require us drivers to be overly diligent and responsible.  

The first snowfall usually means we need to either relearn or we forget how to drive in it, or how to handle the torrential rainfall, depending on where we reside.   This time of year it is especially important to ensure you have properly inflated tires, your battery is in good working condition and in the event you are stuck on the road, you have a fuller vs. emptier gas tank.

But even more importantly, we need to exercise good judgment over the Holiday season when it comes to the annual Christmas or New Year’s party.   December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.   In addition to the Holiday parties, law enforcement will be stepping up its efforts to curtail drinking and driving through check points, overtime and increased public education.   According to MADD, Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, every minute one person is injured in an alcohol related accident.  Instead of becoming a statistic or potentially going to jail, hand off your keys or be a designated driver and don’t drink,  it’s the best gift you can give. 

Some simple tips and/or suggestions:   1)  If you are hosting a party, have cab vouchers or drivers available to your guests if there is drinking involved.   2)  Food and coffee do not dissipate alcohol or its effects, do not be fooled into thinking they do.    3) Determine who the designated driver is and plan not to drive period.

Here’s to safe and happy holiday season!