Please, take care of your car.

I’m sure we’ve all seen shit cars on the road. These people have their bumper duct taped haphazardly to the hood and quarter panels, and others have decided to secure various parts to their vehicle with bungee cords. It can be a bit difficult to steer if your alignment is so bad that you can’t drive in a straight line, and it’s just as difficult (and dangerous) to drive when you have a shaky steering wheel. Broken windows limit visibility, as does half an inch of dirt on all your windows.

Granted, not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to afford “unnecessary” maintenance. As long as the car runs, maybe it’s not getting any kind of investment. However, a lot of things are actually necessary for that vehicle to be safe on the road. It will be much more expensive if you end up in a crash. The following list includes some helpful hints on how to keep your car happy and healthy.

  1. Maintain your tires: Your car is connected to the road by a small contact patch on your tires. That’s it. If your tires are bald and unable to grip the road, you are fucked if you need to make any kind of quick maneuver… eventually any maneuver will become hazardous. Especially so in wet or snowy conditions. A popular way to measure your tread is the penny rule (see here). When you replace your tires, replace all four. DO NOT mix and match brands or sizes (unless you have a staggered set-up, in which case you still don’t want to mix and match brands). Replacing all four tires at the same time also guarantees that you’ll have the same tread wear all the way around, and driving will be safer.
  2. Check your brakes: You know that part of your vehicle that helps you come to a complete stop? That’s a wear part. You have to replace those at some point. Typically you’ll know when you need to replace your brakes when you hear a loud metal-on-metal scraping sound when you apply the brakes or when you have to press the brake pedal down to the floor just to get any sort of response. Getting your brakes done can be expensive (depending on the vehicle you own), but it is a must.
  3. Replace broken windows: Whether it’s a massive crack on the windshield or a shattered driver-side window, these should be replaced ASAP. You see out of your car through these windows. If your side window space is occupied by garbage bag, you can’t see out of that window, and that is dangerous. Usually your insurance company will replace your windshield for free, so call and ask if that’s something they’ll do for you.
  4. Double check loose parts: I mentioned bumpers being secured by duct tape and bungee cords earlier in this post. While you may have thought I’d be complaining about these temporary fixes, I far prefer a bumper be attached that way than blowing in the wind on the highway just waiting to fly off and potentially cause an accident.
  5. Check your oil: This isn’t entirely a safety issue, but it is a critical thing for your vehicle. If you run out of oil or leave a fill in super long, you run the risk of completely obliterating your motor. And that is really not a cheap fix. Check your oil level every other time you get gas, or make a habit of checking your oil a couple times per month. There’s a lot of debate over how long you should leave a fill of oil in your car, but that’s not really the concern here. Just pick whatever length you like and go with that—just make sure your car has oil.

It seems like people think that vehicle maintenance is a scam. To be fair, there are going to be shops that will try to overcharge you for an oil change or brake service (and some of them might do a shitty job on that service), but maintenance itself is incredibly important.  Not only will your car last longer, but your car will also be safer on the road for you and everyone else around you.


Up, up, and away!

So the other day I was driving behind a very skittish student driver,  and I noticed that he/she seemed to not quite understand the laws of gravity. To move up an inclined plane, one much exert more force on the object. Thus, to go up a hill in a vehicle, you’re going to have to press a little harder on the gas pedal. It’s kind of like when you’re walking up a hill and your arms have to swing a little farther back and forth to help propel you forward.

Now, I was gentle on the student driver. They were going 30 in a 35 most of the time, dropping down to about 20 when they got to a hill. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed this same problem when driving behind people without “STUDENT DRIVER” signs on their car. Surely, not all of those folks were new drivers… nor were they big trucks… and they definitely were not all 80 hp cars that physically cannot drag themselves up a hill.

Obviously, you should give some leeway to those big trucks and the tiny, 30-year-old European compact cars. It’s not the driver’s fault they’re slow going up hills—it’s a physical limitation.


Example of 80 hp car.


Example of big truck.

Now, if you find yourself in a functioning vehicle that is capable of carrying itself up an incline, just keep one thing in mind:  When you drive up a hill, you’re going to have to apply more pressure to the gas pedal. It’s really not that hard. Are people that clueless that they are unable to sense when their car is slowing down? Are they not paying attention to the speedometer either? Are folks just not used to driving and are afraid to press the pedal farther than normal?

First off, I think you shouldn’t be driving if you are afraid to drive correctly. Second, you should definitely be paying attention to your speedometer. It’s kind of important. Granted, the speedometer may not be super accurate, which creates it own set of problems (I’ve generally ranted about slow drivers plenty of times before). All I’m saying is that you shouldn’t be afraid to be apply more gas, raise the RPMs a little, and get yourself successfully over a hill at a reasonable speed.

I suppose that’s a sentiment you can’t take into your non-driving life as well.


1. Photo from:
2. Photo from:


Boy, it has been a while

I do apologize for disappearing. Life has a way of making things disappear. Like my tolerance for traffic! But today on my ways to and from work, I attempted a new strategy — chilling the fuck out.

Normally I like to get to where I’m going at the fastest speed possible because, well, fast is fun. It’s not that I’m running late all the time, I just like to drive quickly all the time. But in the desperate need to break speed limit laws, I tend to get stuck falling down an endless pit of anger, frustration, profanity, hatred (and of course, despair). It’s probably bad for my overall well-being that I get trapped in a cycle of questioning the meaning of life every time I venture onto the roads. Thus, I attempted to chill the fuck out… and you know what… it actually worked. I’d be stuck in a line of people at a light, and where I would have angrily cut into the other lane to pass them all, I would just say to myself “that’s fine, no need to be anywhere this very second.” To my own amazement it worked, and my commute went relatively pain-free today.

So, I’ve decided to return to my blog with suggestions on how to remain calm in the face of terrifying, terrible, treacherous, and torpid traffic.

1.) Listen to music. It’s a lot nicer to sit at a light or be stuck behind a giant line of people for whatever reason when a good song is playing. Whether it’s music you bring yourself or something’s that playing on the radio, turn that shit up and calm the fuck down. Sing along if you want. Dance in your car if you want. Whatever takes you to a happy place, get on it.

2.) Affirmations. Just repeat to yourself “There is no reason I need to be at my destination this very minute” or “calm down, you’ll get to your destination eventually” or “this isn’t the Oregon Trail, you don’t have to rest for three days until conditions improve.” Of course, this only works if you’re legitimately not running late for anything. If you are running late for something incredibly important, then you’re s.o.l.

3.) Take in the sights. You’re probably not looking around much on your daily commute, so take those times when you’re stuck in traffic to look around you. You might find some cool things, like a pretty tree you never noticed before or a hole-in-the-wall shop that you might want to check out some time. Granted, not all commutes are pretty, but do your best.

4.) Meditate. If you’re into that kind of thing. Just don’t close your eyes for too long…

5.) Think about stuff. Happy or productive stuff, though. Things like what groceries you need to get, ideas for a project at work or school, clever ways to ask out that guy or girl you’ve been eyeing for a while, what to have to dinner, and where you’d want to go for vacation. Avoid things like how your life is being wasted away sitting in traffic or how you could have avoided being stuck behind that accident had you taken a different route home after work.

Try some of these techniques while out on the road… maybe it’ll make your drive a little less stressful.

Also, now that’s nice out, I need to try and not swear aloud so much while I drive because people might hear me when I have the windows down.

Also also:

How to turn on the turn signal

Since it appears that a vast majority of drivers fail to use their turn signals, I figured I would take this time to help those drivers find the mechanism which turns the turn signal on and off.

The turn signal indicator stalk is always, and I mean ALWAYS, on the left side of the steering column, just behind the steering wheel.  This even holds true in right-hand drive cars! If you have more than one stick protruding from your steering column, the one that turns on your signal often has the controls for the windshield wiper on it as well. Just in case you are having difficulty locating the lever in your car, refer to the following pictures:


How to use this excellent piece of engineering genius is very simple.  If you wish to go to the right, you simply push the stick upwards.  If you wish to go to the left, you simply push the stick downwards.  If you are having a hard time remembering which is which, just think of this neat little trick:  If you hold a finger out and turn the wheel to the right, your finger will hit the turn signal indicator from underneath, pushing it upwards.  Likewise, if you hold a finger out and turn the wheel to the left, your finger will hit the turn signal indicator from above, pushing it downwards.  You don’t even have to move it very far!  You only need to push the stalk up maybe an inch (possibly 2 at the most), which isn’t much trouble at all.

Turning off your signal, which is just as important, is done by returning the stalk to its original position.  Most cars automatically turn off the signal when you return the wheel to “straight” if you move the wheel far enough in the direction you have indicated you will turn.  However, when changing lanes, the signal does not automatically turn off, so it is your responsibility to return the stalk to where it started.

Lastly, the turn signal indicator is not very far away from your hands if you drive with a “9 and 3” hand position.  It is also not very far away in a “10 and 2” or an “8 and 4” hand position.  And, really, it’s not very difficult to reach even if you’re one of those idiots that drives with your wrist at the 12:00 position.  While the actual distance between the wheel and the far end of the turn signal indicator varies by make and model, it is usually within a finger’s length of the steering wheel (see below) so that you can keep your hand on the steering wheel at all times.


If you are still having problems figuring out how to turn on your signals, go out to your car and play around until you have figured it out.  And once you know how to turn on your signals, APPLY THIS KNOWLEDGE IN REAL LIFE!

Make sure you look before backing up. Anywhere. Anytime.

So, yesterday I went to Einstein Bagels, looking to indulge in a delicious breakfast sandwich.  I was behind this god awful Camry with chrome 22’s and super low profile tires.  As we were moseying through the parking lot, the woman driving the Camry decided she wanted a parking space that happened to be behind her–where I was.  So, the woman proceeded to back up.  Quickly.  I honked my horn.  She did not brake.  I slammed the horn, for about 5 to 6 seconds, and about 6″ away from my car, she finally realized I was there and stopped.  How one doesn’t stop immediately at the sound of a car horn so close him/her is beyond me.  But the lesson learned from this is do not back up without looking behind you!  Better yet, don’t back up in areas where this can cause an accident, e.g., at a stop light.  If you’re too far out in the intersection, that’s just too damn bad.

This really should be common sense…

Here’s an idea

There should be a national mandate that the written driver’s test in every state must contain questions regarding vehicle maintenance.  Vehicle maintenance questions should comprise 15-20% of the test questions.  Part of road safety is driving a safe vehicle.  If someone has no idea how to tell if they need to change their brake pads, he or she may have significantly decreased their stopping power and therefore produced a much longer stopping distance for their car. This is obviously a danger to all the other drivers on the road.  If everyone had to know this kind of information in order to get their licenses, the dangers that unkempt cars cause could be greatly reduced (these dangers will be discussed in a future post).

Is it a turn lane?

The shoulder/bike lane is not a turn lane.  You can actually be ticketed for driving in a bike lane and/or on the shoulder.  Turn lanes are almost always signaled by a dashed line and often labeled with arrows painted on the pavement.  This may be one of those “patience is a virtue” situations. Don’t just go driving down the side of the road because you need to make a right turn but there are a lot of people in the way. Just chill. You’ll get there eventually.