Random 'Car Stuff'
know all about checking the air pressure of your cars tires
to make sure its up to spec columns like that are as
inescapable as news stories about the Kardashians. So
I thought it might be good to mention five things about cars you
may not have heard about:
and some new cars may not be compatible
because a growing number of new cars radiate their own radar (and
laser) signatures, which can trigger false alerts. A radar detector
is a receiver; it detects the signals emanating from a cops
radar gun. But it will also detect signals emanating from your cars
radar (or laser) assisted cruise control or similar in-car technology.
I use a Valentine 1 considered to be one of the best radar
detectors available and in certain new cars Ive test-driven,
the device was rendered effectively useless by the vehicles
factory electronics. Each time the cars active cruise
control (as an example) sent out a pulse, it triggered a V1
false alert lights flashing, warnings beeping. I could not
filter out the noise coming from the car, perhaps because
in most cases there is no way to fully disable or turn off the systems
that emit the signals that cause the noise and cause the
detector to false-alert.
It is also
possible that the use of a radar detector in a car that emits a
radar (or laser) signal could cause a problem with the cars
systems. Ive noticed stern warning labels affixed to the windshield
of some new cars Ive test driven recently specifically warning
against the use of radar detectors and that any problems
resulting from their use will void your warranty coverage.
So, be advised
before you spend $400 for a high-end detector or $40,000
for a high-end car with radar (or laser) based technology.
cars dont have dipsticks
In some late
model (circa 2006 and newer) BMWs also Audis, Porsches and
Mercedes Benzes the only way to check the oil level is by
consulting (cue Dr. Strangelove voice) a computer. The physical
dipstick under the hood has been eliminated. Instead, there are
sensors built into the oil sump tied into the cars computer/driver
information center. The owner surfs through a menu to check the
oil level without ever having to raise the hood. On the upside,
you never have to get your hands dirty. On the downside, this way
of checking the oil level adds a layer of arguably unnecessary technology
replacing a simple, virtually foolproof way of doing the
job with one that depends on electronics (and software) that by
its nature is both more likely to eventually experience bugs
(for example, the in-sump oil level sensor getting covered with
varnish over time) and cost you money when those bugs crop up.
the cars that tend not to have dipsticks anymore BMWs, especially
are also among the most (supposedly) enthusiast-oriented
cars on the market. Youd think enthusiasts gearhead
types who like to do things themselves would want to check
their oil themselves, too.
not so much!
air bags can be fooled
Most new cars
have smart air bags meaning, there are weight
sensors embedded in the seats that tell the system whether theres
a person sitting there and also how big a person is
sitting there. The air bag is then either turned off or on
and its potential rate (and force) of deployment adjusted
to accommodate a small or large adult. Or a child.
Usually, the system is also tied into the seat belt warning system.
If theres no one in the seat, theres no seat belt chime
if the belts not buckled. Thats the theory. In practice,
these smart air bags can be pretty dumb, too.
In at least
a half-dozen different make/model new cars Ive tested recently,
all it took was a duffel bag or a bag of groceries
to convince the system that a person was sitting in the passenger
seat. In one case, it only took the weight of a Mile High
turkey breast sub to do the job. The passenger air bag on
light illuminated and the annoying buckle-up buzzer commenced
Ive yet to find an off button for either the buzzer
or the air bags.
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columnist and author of Automotive
Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his
© 2012 Eric Peters
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