Before logging all those miles on your family road trip this summer, remember to follow the advice found on many automotive check lists. Depending on the age a mileage on your vehicle, you might want to inspect the radiator, pressure cap, belts, and hoses to make sure they are in good shape with no signs of blisters, cracks, or cuts in the rubber. Check fluid levels: brake, automatic transmission, power steering, windshield washer and coolant. Check the air pressure in all tires, including the spare.

Make sure the wiper blades are functioning properly. Check battery life and inspect batteries and battery cables. Inspect brake pads and linings for wear. Change the oil and filter according to manufacturer’s service interval specifications. Test the headlights, brake lights, turn signals, emergency flashers and interior lights.

Prepare an emergency kit that should include jumper cables, flashlight, spare tire, gloves, blankets and towel, hazard triangle, road flares, brightly coloured distress sign, screwdrivers and wrenches, first aid kit, cell phone and charger, water for both the car radiator and your passengers.

Include a supply of non-perishable food. Pack a cooler with healthy snacks. Stop every few hours to let the kids stretch their legs. Adults should take the time to exit the vehicle and stretch, too. If you become drowsy, don’t hesitate to pull over to a safe location and rest until you feel able to continue the drive. Use electronic devices to help keep away the boredom on the long drives, as long as it’s not distracting to the driver.

Taking these precautions, should help make your summer trip safe and enjoyable.

Does switching lanes get you there faster?

When I’m caught in a traffic jam, the lane beside me always seems to move faster. I always notice more cars zooming by than those I actually pass. But how many seconds will I gain by switching back and forth between lanes? In fact, changing lanes, with all the accident risks the manoeuvre entails, almost never works out. Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), reports on a Canadian experiment conducted during traffic jams and involving two drivers: one staying put in his lane, the other switching lanes as often as he can.

Vanderbilt writes, “The chronic lane changer saved a mere four minutes out of an 80-minute ride, which hardly seems worth it. The stress involved in making all those changes probably took more than four minutes off the driver’s life.”

The author compares traffic to an accordion: “As traffic slows in a jam, it compresses; as congestion eases, the accordion opens.” But never in the same manner or at the same time in all lanes. So, if you have an itch to switch — don’t!

Does filling up in the morning cost less?

As the price of gas keeps going up we are all trying to get the most gas out of the gas station pumps. You may be thinking that filling up your car first thing in the morning when the temperature is cooler gets a better bang for your buck than filling up in the middle of a hot day. It sounds logical: The more the mercury drops, the more a liquid’s volume contracts and becomes denser. As such, you get more at 5°C than at 25°C. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Gas station fuel reservoirs are deep underground where the temperature barely fluctuates. No matter what time of day you decide to fill up the car, the density of the gas will be practically identical. “And,” says Sylvain Légaré, of CAA-Quebec’s Automotive Advisory Services, “even if external cisterns were used, you certainly wouldn’t notice a difference filling up a 60-litre tank.”

Bertha the backseat driver says

“I was walking down the street today when tow truck driver pulled up alongside me and said, “Excuse me, I’m looking for the accident site involving a van carrying a load of cutlery.” I said, “No problem. Go straight down this road for a mile, then take the first left, and when you get to the fork in the road you’re there.”

riben@videotron.ca

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