Washing a car at home uses five to 20 times more water than a professional car wash. You also aren’t doing your car any favors: A recent study at the University of Texas proved that a single DIY wash can leave scratches as deep as a tenth of the paint’s total thickness.
Drivers who sit higher feel as if they’re driving slower. Thus, SUV drivers, who are already piloting the vehicles most prone to roll, drive faster because they feel like they’re creeping along. So lower your seat to get the sensation of more speed.
Smaller blind spots mean you’ll crane your neck less. Try this mirror adjustment method from Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of NPR’s Car Talk: Set your rearview mirror as you normally would, then tilt it upward so you sit up straight. Lean your head against the driver’s window, then set your left mirror so you can see the back corner of your car. Lean right to do the right mirror.
Your seat is positioned properly when you can hang your wrists over the top of the steering wheel. And remember not to grip the wheel as you would a tennis racket, with your thumbs wrapped around so that they connect in back with your fingers. Instead, leave your thumbs on top of the wheel. Otherwise, in a collision, the wheel can whip back around and snap your thumbs.
Forty percent of car crashes occur at intersections, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, as do 22 percent of all fatal crashes. HOW TO…HANDLE ANY DRIVING SCENARIO
Try the heel-toe shift, recommends driver Robby Gordon, winner of three Baja 1000s. “Use your foot to apply the accelerator and brake at the same time,” he says. “As you apply the brake, keep your right foot on the right side of the pedal so you can rock your foot over and use your heel to blip the throttle, which raises the rpms and allows the car to drop into gear more easily.”
Going sideways is the quickest way through a corner on dirt, driver Rhys Millen, who was the General Lee’s main stunt driver in Dukes of Hazzard. “To do it well,” he says, “initiate the slide through input to the steering wheel—you oversteer into the turn. Flick the wheel in the opposite direction of the curve to break traction, then whip it back the other way to initiate a slide in the direction you want to go. Once the car starts to slide, you can ‘steer’ by adjusting the throttle. More or less throttle will make the car slide at a wider or tighter arc, respectively. More gas makes for a more sideways slide. If you lift off the throttle, the car will still go sideways, but it will start to reduce speed and straighten out again.”
First, pull your seatbelt taut. Next, release your foot from the brake and put the car in neutral. This will help distribute the force and may prevent you from being rear-ended twice, which can happen if you’re applying the brakes after being hit and the car behind you is still moving forward.
Almost all cars have electronic windows that short out when they come in contact with water. So invest in a center punch, a device shaped like a screwdriver but with a sharp center point. It makes breaking a window a cinch. Store it in your center console or glove box—not your trunk.
At the BMW Performance Driving School, instructor Jim Clark says these four words over and over: “Slow in, fast out.” When taking a corner, you need to scrub as much of that speed as you can while the car is braking in a straight line, then you can accelerate out of the curve. The converse is “Fast in, maybe no out.”20. Add Trees to Your Commute
Even if it takes you out of your way, trees may make your ride less stressful. An Ohio State University study found that scenic drives were more calming than those involving strip malls and endless asphalt.
If your lease is in its final six months, you can sometimes buy the car outright at a huge discount—below wholesale in some cases. Otherwise, a company such as Swapalease can help you pawn your lease off on someone who is willing to take on the payments. For more info, go to: swapalease.com.
The folks at DriveCam analyze driver behavior using video recorders installed on vehicles. (See highlights at drivecam.com.) Safety specialist Julie Stevens recommends sticking to the center lane on freeways. Rear-end crashes happen less there than in adjacent lanes. “Every time you change lanes you add risk,” she says, “and the slow lane always has the most action.” Other research has shown that the “chronic lane changer” saves a mere four minutes out of an 80-minute drive.
If your battery terminals are corroded, crack open a can of cola and pour it directly onto the battery terminals. The acid in the cola will bubble away the corrosion, improving both your connection and the odds of a successful jump-start. Once you’re home, run water over the battery to remove the cola residue and dry it with an old rag.
If you want to customize a new car without making it look like something out of Pimp My Ride, start with the wheels. A rim upgrade can be inexpensive ($1,500 or so) and quick (your car won’t be laid up for a week). If you have a higher-end car, you don’t even need custom rims—just get the wheels powder coated in a new color.
Research your dream vehicle online and you’ll spend 1 hour and 20 minutes less time at the dealership, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research. Build the exact car you want at a site like Edmunds.com, and then use the site to request quotes from at least three dealers.
Sellers are desperate to hit sales quotas at the end of the month, so pounce then. And shop early: Sales managers sometimes offer a bonus to the staff member who closes the first deal on a Saturday, according to a former salesman Michael Royce, founder of BeatTheCarSalesman.com.
“Buy now and save $12,000!” It sounds tempting, but you’d better really like the car (read: want to keep it for at least 5 years). Steep discounts now create horrible resale values later. The same applies to discontinued models.
Dealers use credit to pay for their inventory, especially cars that are on their lots for 3 months or more. This motivates dealers to sell their own stock first.
Learn your car’s value at kbb.com. Sell it online if the dealer’s offer isn’t within $500 of the private-party price.
The average guy spends 67 minutes each day behind the wheel. A thick wallet in your back pocket raises one hip above the other, twisting your spine and straining your lower back. Plus it can put pressure on your sciatic nerve, a common source of lower-back pain, says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., of the University of Waterloo, in Ontario.
On your next date night, leave your cars in the garage for a change and hire a car service instead. You’ll ride in style to and from a restaurant, enjoy a night of carefree drinking and dancing, and you won’t need to worry about staying sober for the drive home.
A bad driving habit is focusing on the road in front of you or at the bumper of the car ahead. Practice looking farther ahead. By the time you’re in the turn, for instance, you should be looking ahead at your exit. It may feel like this will cause you to run off the road, but it won’t. Your peripheral vision will keep you in line.
The Blade is an aftermarket device that attaches to your car’s tailpipe and reduces CO2 emissions by up to 12 percent. It also improves fuel economy by up to 12 percent by shortening the duration of your car’s wasteful cold-start period, when fuel burn and particulate emissions are both at their worst. Go to: bladeyourride.com.
Most old wax leaves a car on its own—in fact, three-quarters disappears after 2 months. But you’ll want to apply an ordinary car cleaner prior to waxing to remove the rest. Anal-retentive pros also use a Silly Putty-like material called paint clay to remove any remaining residue. Find it at meguiars.com or griotsgarage.com.
If your car doesn’t have adjustable lumbar supports, buy your own backrest—or simply roll up a towel and place it behind you to fill in the small curve between your waist and hips. The more you support your spine, the less your back will ache. 50. Forget Your Schedule
Trips usually take 10 to 15 percent longer than planned, says Leon James, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Hawaii and the author of Road Rage and Aggressive Driving. Accept this before you travel.
Keep your blood-sugar levels under control by eating fiber-rich apples and pears and drinking water, says Monique Ryan, R.D., author of Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes.
Go to speedtrap.org to find lists of speed traps, submitted by users all over the country.
Less air means more contact and friction between the tire and road, which wears the rubber faster, makes the engine work harder, and uses more gas, says Chris Johanson, author of Auto Diagnosis, Service and Repair. Just don’t overinflate: The harder the tires, the less grip they’ll have.
If you’re feeling sleepy behind the wheel, ask your copilot to play Alex Trebek. An Israeli study showed that trivia games, not music, made drivers more alert. Try the electronic handheld Buzztime Trivia Sports Edition.
If a passenger is prone to motion sickness or turns pale during a road trip, have him or her eat gingersnap cookies. Hunger worsens carsickness, but research has shown that ginger root can help alleviate and prevent it.
Getting the engine up to 70 mph for 10 miles once a month (on an open freeway) evaporates any water and gas buildup in the engine and exhaust system, says Chris Johanson, author of Auto Diagnosis, Service and Repair.
Tailgating destabilizes traffic flow, says Tom Vanderbilt, author of the bestseller Traffic. “People brake more than they have to when they follow too closely, so the drivers behind them do as well,” says Vanderbilt. “This creates ‘shock waves,’ which lead to stop-and-go traffic.” Aim for a 4-second cushion between vehicles. Drivers with less than a 2-second cushion are almost three times more likely to cause collisions, according to data from DriveCam, a driving safety service.
A heavy beat might get your blood pumping, but it can also lead to unsafe speeds and accidents—particularly when you crank up the volume. Loud or up-tempo music slows your reaction time. Britain’s Royal Automobile Club Foundation recently named Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” the most dangerous piece to play while driving.