Race Car Driving Techniques

Leather Clad RacerWhat differentiates a real driver from the rest is not what super car he or she drives, or what aftermarket parts they have to spruce it up a notch.

It seems to us that there are many race car enthusiast and well, there might be a local track day that could be of particular interest to you.  You may want to pay the $399 and do 8 laps on the MRS Speedway with a BMW M3. If you fall into this category and would be interested in learning tricks from the pros, well, it is a good thing you came across this article.

There are tricks of the trade when it comes to driving on a race track or like a race car driver. There are also rules and regulations and like anything else, when you have too much new information you may get overwhelmed and then when on the track you may go blank and remember only that the right pedal is the gas and the left the brake. What is recommended is to focus each time you go out on the track or on the road one or two of the new techniques shared, this way you can dominate them and really get good at them before embarking on something new.

The truth is that most of us men and women alike think that we are good drivers, but no matter how many dirt roads you have traveled, there is a difference when on a hot asphalt track or road. Good drivers are born with it, they have an ability, although it is true some drivers can be made, by years and years of training which also helps but there is a je nai se quoi that needs to be accounted for a God given gift. However, no matter how good you are you will never be the best unless you practice, practice, practice.

Ask any professional at any sport, they will all say the same thing.  In order to be the best you have to eat, breath and sleep what you love most.  In these articles we will be sharing driving techniques that help you be a better street driver and a better circuit driver.  The key to perfection when it comes to driving is repetition, if you do enough push ups enough days, consistently, you will see how much easier it gets and how great your form is and how effortless it becomes.  Your driving can be like that, effortless, almost like your vehicle is an extension of you.

Lets talk about seating positions:

You may have noticed that some drivers push their seat WAY UP to the steering wheel while others sit WAAAAAY BACK and even lower the backrest to make it even less practical.  If the steering wheel is too close, one of three things might happen.  You will not have enough space for the seat belt to help stop you from smashing into it, also, if you are so close to the steering wheel the airbag might deploy and burn you.

When it comes to race car driving you will notice that it appears that the drivers are almost laying down – this would be formula 1 or Open Wheel CART cars.  Also, NASCAR type of cars the driver is crammed near the steering wheel, which as we stated previously is dangerous as well.  Neither one of these are ideal for street cars. For everyday street driving like most of us do here in Houston, it is recommended to be at 90 degree angles.

Some cars have better steering than others, especially race cars have amazing steering, they have to because there is very little room for arm movement. Also, the gas and brake pedals are extremely close together.

The ideal sitting position for street cars is having your back flat against the back of the seat, you want your buttocks squarely up against the backrest. Your hamstrings should be touching the seat bottom, the importance of this position is to give you as much surface area. Safety first. The arm position is also important, the steering should be 10 and 2 and both arms when outstretched should have your wrists reach the steering wheel. It gives you the optimum control of the vehicle.

Lastly the foot position, your chair should be far away enough that you can reach the pedals comfortably, your knees should be comfortably bent. You do not want to be too close to the pedals because being so close to the steering wheel is dangerous.  You also don’t want to be far away enough that you cannot reach them.

Helping The Elderly Drive

Senior man holding up keys to his new car

Getting older has different meaning to different people, some look forward to it and other avoid it all together there is something that we cannot simply wish away, that is that as we age our body functions at a slower pace and therefore it affects all we do. In this article we want to touch upon a very important concept and that is our aging populations.  The baby boomers from WWII are right around the corner to becoming part of this growing demographic.

There are signs that we can look out for in ourselves and in our loved ones. The goal here is to provide some very needed understanding of a possible situation and the best way to prepare for aging.  Like the tick tock of time, time passing is the only inevitable thing we have to look forward. The only thing we can count on, so lets make it as graceful and as safe as possible.

Most states do not require you to stop driving at a specific age as everyone is different and totally unique, thus individual aging must be unique as well. In Texas if you are 101 and can function at average response times can see sufficiently well and are of able mind and body, then by all means drive away.

We will list the signs to look out for to see if you or someone you love might be a danger or to others behind the wheel. When we age what happens is that we lose strength, flexibility and coordination.

If you have any sharp pains in your legs can cause you to slam on the gas or the brakes unwillingly. Your reaction time diminishes, if you have a stick neck or back it could make it hard to look around and be fully aware of what is going on. There is a lot going on when one drives, signs, lights, pedestrians, other cars, motorcycles, bicycles, trains, busses, not to mention where we are going that can be overwhelming.

When we drive we do so consciously obeying all of the traffic laws and norms, however as we age some factors are merely out of our control and therefore we might need to be flexible as to our way of doing things.

If you are part of this demographic or know someone who is, we suggest the following preventative steps to ensure that everything is I’m order and anything that might need to be fixed such as updating a prescription for glasses is done.

Getting enough sleep believe it or not can be a huge factor in how well you drive.  A driver young or old who is tired has slower reaction time if any at all.  All of their energy is going to staying awake, not seeing what is going on around them. This is not much different than driving impaired. Get your eyes and ears checked, make sure that you can get the most out of these important sense.

Also talk to your doctor, let them know if you are feeling less confident when behind the wheel, all of these things will ensure not only your safety but those who are sharing the road with you. In subsequent articles we will detail this issue of aging and driving a little more in depth.

Engine Cylinders and What they do

Engine cylinder . real used opened motor.

Engine cylinder . real used opened motor.

Most people who enjoy the benefits of cars might not necessarily know how they work or what each part does.  What we want to do is share with you some car basics, things that you might not know but may want to.  We will be discussing engine cylinders, what they are and how they assist in making your car produce power.

There are a wide range of cylinders, from one to 12 – the difference between these is the amount of combustible liquid that is allowed to pass through, so a good rule of thumb is the more cylinders the faster the car is.  The more cylinders, the more combustible liquid is necessary and therefore it will be less cost efficient when at the pump. The advantage to having a car with more cylinders is that it goes faster, increases horsepower because in essence it allows more surface area for combustion to happen. Cylinders are usually made of aluminum or cast iron which is great for combustion. Most cylinders are arranged side by side in the engine block itself, although this depends on the type of motor.

The cylinder is one of the most important parts of your car’s engine, when pistons move up and down what happens is that they create friction and pressure. When the pistons move up and down in the cylinder they force the liquid in this case petrol, gas or diesel to move at rapid rates creating combustion since this liquid is very flammable.  The cylinders are found in the engine block and are made of metal, the pistons are made of metal and they move in rapid succession forcing very flammable liquid to react – hence that propulsion that allows our cars to move forward.

It is important that the liquid can move without leaking, therefore the pistons and cylinders are made to fit seamlessly with one another.  Ok, is this making sense so far?  I hope so.  It is important that if you are what is commonly referred to as a gearhead that you understand what the primordial function of your engine is, what it does. So, how do we get the pistons to move up and down? Combustion, forces the piston up and down and this transfers energy through the crankshaft.

What does this mean in layman’s terms: if you place combustible liquid in a small space and ignite?  Energy is created, this is the power that you enjoy when you press on the gas. Therefore there is a direct correlation between cylinders and the power your car will have.  This will give you the first understanding of cars and will allow you to be just a little more informed.  There are several other factors that can determine how powerful a car can be such as: torque, the weight of the vehicle itself, superchargers and turbos, etc.

Have you ever been told that your new car needs to be broken in? This means that the engine components will eventually wear and tear and this can overtime become problematic. The reason for this is because small pockets of air and irregularities occur in the engine over time. The mechanical wear will hopefully be gradual allowing you to enjoy your car problem free for years to come.  When these imperfections occur and the cylinder and pistons lose their ability to efficiently force the combustion then it directly affects the power and you end up with less of it.

Hybrids The truth Behind Them

Green CarThere is no denying that there has been a shift in consciousness regarding leaving our carbon footprint on Mother Earth. This is most apparent in the automotive industry, hybrids and electric cars are being mass produced because there is a demand for them, it is as simple as that. So, let’s talk about hybrids. What are the benefits? Well, first and foremost, yes the environment and secondly your wallet. Win win. Some may say that you have to give up performance in order to get in good with mother nature. Myth? Well, that depends on the type of hybrid you want. If you want the top of the line then you will indeed not have to sacrifice horse power but will sacrifice their efficiency. When the first hybrids came out you got a great deal when it came to going to the pump and great gas mileage but now, you either get one or the other.

So who buys hybrids? Well, as most trendsetters will tell you, it starts at the top which is why most of it comes from the A-listers of Hollywood. Actors such as Cameron Diaz have been seen rocking the hybrid. Taking care of the environment is not only necessary but very cool.

There are also those who say that hybrids, let’s say the Toyota Prius for example are not all they are cracked up to be. When it comes to the carbon footprint that this car leaves it begs to reason that this refers to the car as a whole. It is common belief that when a car is considered to be environmentally friendly it is from the point you purchase it forward. This however is not the case, it has been discovered that the Prius for example requires a lot more energy to construct the parts needed to make it an environmentally friendly. This car model has nickel- metal hydride batteries and it consumes so much energy to produce that the carbon footprint it leaves is substantial even before you own it. The manufacturing phase of these hybrids is not something that most people take into consideration but it is an important fact to consider. Now lets consider what more upscale hybrids offer and if the environmental impact and the impact to your wallet are worth the investment.

Confusing? Yes it is, because some cars that tend to be higher end give you great performance but their MPG is not impressive to say the least. Most hybrids on the market do just fine, but here we focus on the ones that are surprisingly non- green. According to most reports it is close to 80% of Americans who’s main concern is gas mileage, let see if these numbers are worth the hefty investment.

Hybrid cars cost more, compared to a similar model that might come in hybrid or regular manufacturing models. Most of these cars especially the higher end models in theory offer some of the advantages of a hybrid at a glance until you start to analyze the actual data. There are also some cars that are considerably cheaper with slightly lower MPG but then again at what point does it become cost efficient to pay less and receive a slightly lower MPG over time?

Hybrid cars weigh more than regular vehicles. How does this affect you in a practical manner? It means that if you are interested in performance then this here is a big red flag. Also, lets talk about battery packs and what happens when they need to be replaced? Well the truth is the first hybrids came out in the 1990’s and even though they have amazing warranties, sometimes even going so far as to extend past most common car warranties there is not enough empirical data to say with certainty just how long they will last.

Considering that the winters here in Houston are more mild then lets say Siberia, this reason is important to note regarding battery efficiency in cold weather. Batteries discharge much faster in the colder weather, why? Because when it is cold you need the heat on in the car to be comfortable and therefore it will effect your cars efficiency and fuel mileage.

The last reason for which hybrids may be more of a complication than a relief is because the recharging systems in public areas are not at full functionality. This is specifically for PHEVs or Plug in electric vehicles. Some bigger cities have them, but smaller towns do not and what do you do then? You have a car that is totally unpractical.

What is most important when considering buying a hybrid car is to do your research. You need to put into perspective what you gain for what you are paying for. If there are less and less advantages for the amount of money you will be investing in your car, then maybe it is not the best investment you can make in the moment, a hybrid might not be for you.

Driving On Wet Roads

Rain Tire

There are many articles that give drivers the tools they need to drive in extreme conditions, such a ice and snow, but what is much more common is rainy conditions. When the roads are wet, there are certain pattens that emerge. When the roads are wet your brakes can respond slower, your tires and grip less and you can hydroplane, skid and your car can lose control.  So lets take a look at what we can do to minimize the risk of accidents when the roads are wet.
Have you ever noticed that when you are driving down a high traffic road such as a highway, that there are grooves in the road where other cars have passed through? These grooves are cause by the continuous weight of vehicles that drive along the side path down the road, which created grooves.  These grooves can be a great way for you to gain additional traction when the weather conditions are less than optimal.  We suggest that when you are following another vehicle in bad driving conditions that you stay within these grooves. Driving on the non-grooved part of the road can cause the car to slide or even to hydroplane due to the difference in height.  Therefore allow the car in front of you to lead and you merely follow. Now, having said that, lets clarify that sometimes when it is pouring the car in front of you may cause the rain water to douse your windshield leaving you without the optimal visibility.  Leave a safe distance between you and the car ahead and if you are behind a large or heavy truck then even more so.
When driving conditions are questionable at best like we tend to get here in Houston from time to time you want to proceed with caution.  The best way to do so is to lower the speed of your vehicle.  Do not drive fast, do not speed because your car and its important components, like the tires, brakes and steering will be affected when the road is wet.  When you drive faster than you should, then accidents are bound to happen. When the weather is against you or if it is late, take extra precaution.  Most importantly, avoid passing other vehicles if you can avoid it.
If you want a direct correlation between the tire pressure in your cars tire and your gas mileage then go no further.  The proof is here and it also affects other aspect of the driving experience.  Each and every tire on the market are made with very specific requirements for their most efficient and safest use.  Around the face of the tire you can see what the PSI should be for your specific tire.  If you are not sure go to a tire store and ask.  You want and more importantly need your car to behave at its peak performance.  Having under inflated tires can cause a lag in your MPH rate.

If you have ever found yourself in the middle of a torrential downpour or monsoon you will know how important your windshield wipers are to your very survival.  If your blades are
old or do not work well, get rid of them.  This is not something to be taken lightly, because if you cannot see, you cannot drive.  It is as simple as that. Your windshield blades can be
changed every two winter seasons or two years of good and constant use.  It is also possible to get a product that helps defog your windshield and mirrors it is a product that also helps
the water bead off the glass. Take pride in doing what needs to done to your vehicle to ensure safety for you and everyone around you.

When braking is necessary try at all cost to slam on the breaks or to continually press on them if they do not seem to be responding . If you know the road you are traveling on and there is a light or a stop up ahead prepare for it, ensure that you give your vehicle plenty of time to respond to any conditions you may ask of it.  If you slam on the breaks when the weather is bad then you can cause your car to hydroplane and slip or skid or all three.  Most vehicles in the last 10 years have come with ABS as a standard feature.  ABS stands for anti lock brakes, which is  a technology which allows a computer in your car to assist in the breaking process under duress.

Trendy Car Technologies To Come

Future car

When we see scifi movies and see trends that will occur far into the distant future we become excited with the prospect of someday attaining that cutting edge technology.  If you were born in the last 40 years you will have experienced that yourself with the Hover Board from back to the future and the prospect of flying cars.  We are not quite there yet, but there are some amazing advances which we will be privy to within the next ten years.  Here in Houston, these trends have already started, this is what we see the trends as being.

If you have access to the internet then there is no doubt that you have heard of Google Maps and its famous self driving cars.  The driverless car is not a distant future scenario, it is a right here right now scenario.  But what does a automated car mean for the average Joe?

These cars have sensors and cameras and different radar systems and GPS location capabilities.  Nissan is said to be working on this same concept, a driverless car  – and the thought is that it will be safer than a human driven car because to err is human and there are contingency plans that arise from the human driver scenario. Today there are features like reverse assist or cruise control that make driving a little more automated and more technological. The sophistication of these sensors can even take drastic measures to avoid collision and ensuring that the car is centered when on the road in the correct lane and going in the correct direction.

Like any evolving and constantly changing technology, it takes some convincing to make it mainstream but some very progressive states have already signed up to allow these cars to be tested in their states.  California, Florida and Nevada have all agreed to allow automated cars to share the road with physical flesh and bone drivers, will Texas be next?

So, hesitations? Well, would you be surprised to know that the automated car would reduce traffic congestion and fatal car accidents. They will also allow you to increase your productivity, because you will have more time to get other things done and in a safer manner.  In the near future, you will be able to text or send an email without losing your focus and getting into a fender bender with the car in front of your when you look down to read a message.

It is believed that most of these cars will be Electrical Powered vehicles which will also reduce emissions and the impact they have on our planet. It has only been in the last 5 years that truly amazing electronic vehicles have emerged on the market.  Lexus, Tesla and Mercedez are all leading the pack with sophisticated and performance driven vehicles in the present and even more so into the near future.

EV are expensive, perhaps even more so than their gas powered counterparts but when you break down the cost of fuel for the next 5 year and what the price fluctuations might be then you might end up better off paying a little more up front and getting a car that is clean and efficient.

You might be surprised to know exactly how advance car technology has become over the last few years.  There are sensors placed in windshields that will automatically sense when rain is falling and they speed up or slow down depending on the intensity of the drops.  Crazy huh? A lot of these features come in higher end vehicles as expensive add on features but they are worth sharing.

Imagine having headlamps that turn with the curve of a road, allowing you to see what is coming down the road.  Also display systems are much more advanced, focusing on safe driving and not distracting the driver.  Well, with self driving cars, the driver becomes obsolete and it matters not whether they are focusing or not.

There are many driving conditions that make it very difficult for a human to drive in.  Some examples you say?  Heavy torrential downpours, heavy fog or that time of day usually at sunset when the sun is so blinding that you cannot see at all.

Not every person will ultimately be ok with a machine driving your car for you, making choices that directly affect you, whether you are in the car or in an incoming vehicle.

There will be advances in collective consciousness when these systems are in place.  So, a vehicle to vehicle communication system.  This is done with sensors that will track speed and direction and driving pattens.

There are also cars that are made as fleets that are designed to reduce the hectic driving realities in very urban areas, where traffic issues are common and traffic jams a reality.  These networked cars would work as taxis and public transportation solutions.  This is possible with the popularity of smart phones, there are many networks that already exist in major metropolitan cities like Toronto, and its Uber car service.

Flying cars are also high on the radar. There have been aquatic cars that work on water as much as they work in the water, now we are all just anxiously awaiting the moment when we can take flight and get to where we are going in a much faster manner.