Monday, November 23, 2009

Tires - A Minefield of Rubber

Last weekend I had a puncture, not a big problem in itself. The vehicle was parked when my collegue (Rather Gleefully) pointed it out.

I had a spare and all the required tools and so changed the tire quite easily and was on my way.

The trouble started when I attempted to have the puncture repaired.

My local tire dealership informed me that the tire had a sidewall puncture which could not be repaired. I found that harsh especially since the tire had done less than 10 000km's and was no longer available so I would have to buy 2. So in an attempt to avoid forking out a ton of cash on new tires, I asked for alternatives. "You could always put in a tube" was the reply.

Great idea not expensive and problem solved, except on further research I learnt that "Tubeless" tires running tubes are prone to blow out's at high speed. That's something thats not in the owners manual.

So then I start looking at alternative tires, "No problem we have tires in stock, just not the same size, but if you put them in front you will be ok"

More research and I find that miss matching tyres on a 4 x 4 results in mechanical failure as the unbalanced load puts massive strain on the drive train.

The Tire market is an absolute minefield with a myraid of poducts and quality to choose from. Size,Speed,Load,Traction,Noise,Wear all play a factor in your choice of tire.

So the moral of the story is RTFM (Read The ******* Manual) and if its not in the manual ask as many questions as possible (from as many people as possible) before making any changes to your vehicle that requires a deviation from your current system.

If I hadn't I could have become another statistic or at the very worst been sitting with a very damaged vehicle for the sake of saving a few Rand.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Future is here.

Today cars, and just about everything else including cell phones have more computing power than Apollo 11 spacecraft that landed on the moon.
The question to ask though is, is this a good thing?

Sure it makes for a much better and safer ride, more comfort, less taxing physicaly and mentally on the driver, and yet what happens when it goes wrong?
With 105 fuses it seems that there is a lot that can go wrong.

Recently I took a Land Cruiser Discovery 3 for a drive, and what a drive. The vehicle is superb in everyway, the kind of comfort that would have you driving to Cape Town instead of flying.
The electronics in the vehicle are first class and make driving easy, comfortable and a pleasure.

Then the problems start, a warning appears on the dashboard indicating a Transmission Fault - Traction reduced.
You haul out the 356 page owners manual and look it up. No problem the fault is listed, but under the "Meaning" heading is a blank space and under the "What to do?" heading is another blank space. Very helpfull.
So off to Land Rover I go and they plug in the computer, no faults found, yet it still indicates a fault on the display.
"It because the battery voltage is low, drive the vehicle and the fault should clear itself." is the response I get to my query.

A week later the fault is still there. So where to go from here? Further questions and queries leads to the response that the traction control has not been activated and when it is activated the self diagnostics will reset.

It all sounds a bit like the cars technology have exceeded the ability of the mechanics to repair.

I think that some of today's cars are more intelligent than some humans.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Speed Kills (Speed + Idiots = Death)

I told a story last week about a taxi taking flight and mentioned that I would follow up more on that.

Well that taxi in question took flight as it sped past me not entirely due to speed. I witnessed a mechanical failure on the left rear wheel moments before the vehicle turned sideways and became airborne.

This is my point behind the statement Speed Kills + Idiots = Death I am not a firm believer in the "Speed Kills" school of thought. The way I see it speed is just a minor component in the catastrophe that follows.

There is a saying "Guns don't kill people, people do!" and so to use the concept in this context "Speed doesn't kill people, People kill people"

I have read and heard all the arguments and statistics about the number of road users killed by speeding. Dream on people, are we honestly trying to say that a well maintained modern car with the right tyres and a skilled driver (Having a drivers licence is no indication of skill or even competence) will result in an accident and death, because of speed. Not going to happen.

Accidents happen because some wannabe Schumacher drives his poorly maintained vehicle with a space saver tire (rated to 80km/hour) at 120km (He is not even speeding) but the results will be a possible fatal accident due to the failure of the tire running at speeds above its rating and then the driver not having the skills or knowledge to control the situation safely.

I believe that too many people driving without sufficient skills and with poorly maintained vehicles are the cause of most of our accidents.

I believe we should have two types of licences, one for the average old lady who pops down to the shops once in a while and the other for drivers with advanced training and both they and thier vehicles are tested on a regular basis

Monday, November 2, 2009

Emergency 911

I recently had an experience whereby I saw a Taxi defy the laws of physics (for a brief moment) as it took flight shortly after passing me on the freeway. The accident appeared to be mechanical failure compounded by speed. (See next weeks article)

Due to the number of injuries, the fact the I had my family on board and the poor location of the accident (from a safety perspective) I decided to contact the emergency services and not get personally involved. (A very tough decision to make)

So dialing 112 from my cellular phone I experienced 3 dropped calls while listening to an automotive voice telling me that it was an offence to report an emergency if there wasn't one. On the fourth try I got through to an operator when my call got dropped again. I then asked my wife to call them while I called the toll road operations office.

Meanwhile my wife got through on the 112 number got through to an operator, told them the details and then without letting her know what was happening she was transferred to someone else who upon hearing what the call was about started a diatribe about how this is the wrong number and we should dial 112.

I on the other hand was having a huge success as my call was answered by a person, who upon hearing my story asked several intelligent questions, thanked me for the call and said he would get on to it.

I then asked my wife to call ER24 on 084 124 where she also encountered first class professional service and was also left feeling that the incident would be resolved asap.

The bottom line is that the 112 number is about as efficient as phoning 10111 as you can't get through and when you do its normally to somebody ill equipped, and without sufficient training to deal with the problem.

The moral of the story. When chaos erupts - phone everybody, but start with the professionals first.

My compliments to the Toll operators and ER24 and thier first class personnel for thier professional service.