Hybrids: What makes them different and how to they work?

Many people have heard the term hybrid thrown around a lot but don’t really understand how a modern day hybrid works.  The most obvious benefit of a hybrid is the incredible gas mileage, but what is going on behind the scenes to make them sip that gas rather than guzzle it?  We’ll try to explain these very complex systems here, but in the interest of our own sanity and because of the limits of our technical knowledge, we’ll keep this on the simpler side. 

There are several different forms of hybrid drivetrains, the most common one being both an electric motor and a gas motor powering the wheels, acting in conjunction with one another, called a parallel hybrid.   This is beneficial because you have the benefit of the torque of the electric motor in addition to the added power of the gasoline engine when you need it.  In most cases, the gas engine is activated when you put your foot down to accelerate quickly. 

A second popular configuration is called the series hybrid.  What makes the layout different is that instead of having both the gas and electric motors connected to the driven wheels, the series hybrid only has the electric motors connected to the wheels while the gas engine is there only to generate power for the electric motors through a generator, converter, and battery.  This setup is popular because the gas engine can be a lot smaller and more efficient because it no longer has to do the work of helping to drive the wheels.

These are, in one form or another, the most common types of hybrid drivetrains present in vehicles today.  For example, the Toyota Prius, which is one of the best-selling hybrids on the road, utilizes a highly refined parallel drivetrain called a power-split hybrid which allows the engine to be connected to the wheels electrically or mechanically at any given point.  There are different configurations of each of these systems, differing in the way the engine is utilized and how often the electric and gas motors are used, but the basic technology remains the same across many platforms regardless of manufacturer. 

With a true hybrid, there are generally three different ways that the car can be powered.  As one would expect, there is full electric mode which means the car or truck is being driven by the electric motors alone.  There is a limited range with this mode, as with gas cars, because the battery can only last so long before it needs a recharge. 

A gas only mode is exactly what it sounds like, a mode where only the gas engine is utilized.  This is generally happening when more power is needed perhaps with more aggressive driving or when the vehicle is loaded up with passengers and gear but the driver still wants to cruise at a reasonable highway speed.

Finally, a true hybrid will have the ability to combine both power sources at any given time to complement each’s strengths and weaknesses.  For example, cars with smaller 4 cylinder engines may find themselves lacking in power in the lower RPM’s of the rev range.  An electric motor, in this case, would prove particularly useful in aiding the engine from a stand-still with a heavy load, thus reducing the strain on the engine.      

This should cover the more common, conventional hybrids on the road today.  True to their innovative nature, automotive manufacturers are constantly at work coming up with new, more efficient ways to get cars down the road so don’t be surprised if there are different options out there in short order.  However, the same basic principles will apply so if you are looking for an efficient mode of transportation without committing to going full electric just yet, a hybrid may be the car for you!    

New cars for 2017: What do we have to look forward to?

Every year seems to bring something new and exciting, and 2017 looks like it’s going to be no exception.  From the “needs no introduction” Ford GT to a Mazda Miata hardtop enthusiasts have been pining for, manufacturers are really bringing their A games in technology, style, and performance.  What we have here is a few of the vehicles we’ve been anticipating since the prototypes were released.

Mazda Miata RF:  The RF stands for retractable fastback so while it is not the stiff, rigid and reworked coupe many enthusiasts would have hoped for, one can’t deny that it looks great and will keep drivers smiling for miles even in colder temps.  It is without any major drivetrain changes, but why mess with perfection?

Bugatti Chiron:  While you won’t hear anyone say that this is a completely new beast when compared to the Veyron, you can’t argue with the fact that is does look lot less bloated and more purposeful.  While still utilizing the ground-pounding quad-turbo W16 engine from the Veyron, Bugatti says the new 1500 horsepower figure is enough to tie the 0-60 time of the Porsche 918 of 2.2 seconds.  For those of us that loved the technological breakthrough that was the Veyron but didn’t care for the looks, prepare to open your wallets to the tune of 2.6 million dollars.

Ford GT:  This re-work of the re-work of the LeMans winning vehicles of the 1960’s has probably received more press than any other vehicle being released in 2017.  With Ford dialing back the cylinder count to 6 from 8, purists haven’t been afraid to vocalize their disappointment.  But Ford is saying that this will pack over 600 horsepower and couple that with a lightweight, mostly carbon fiber chassis and you’ve got a recipe for a car that will be very happy at a track indeed.

Toyota Supra:  Few vehicles are reveled by the tuner crowd than the Toyota Supra.  From a manufacturer that produces some of the most reliable vehicles on the planet comes a car that produces reliable high power numbers.   We don’t have many details on this concept pictured above, but if it is anything close to its predecessor, it will already have a cult-like following.

Acura NSX:  You’ll be hard pressed to find a more recognizable name among JDM fans than the NSX.  Long heralded as a handling and chassis benchmark for performance, the first generations delighted drivers with impeccable handling and a driver focused experience that beat most anything else on the road.  This newest generation is staying true to its roots with V6 mounted amidships, but adds electric motors to the front wheels for a bit more kick.  We’ll see if this new kid on the super car block can live up to the hype.

Volvo S90:  The Swedes are going hunting for Germany car buyers with this all new luxury sedan dubbed the S90.  A completely new platform for Volvo has this big Scandinavian boat riding smooth but also handling well according to most reviews, with enough pickup to get you into a little trouble.  With a base price under $50k, this car could mean a big comeback for the beloved brand of safety-minded buyers.

Alfa Romeo Giulia:  For those who think that the BMW e39 M5 was the best car to come out of the doors at Dingolfing, you might want to take a glance at the new Alfa.  The Quadrifoglio model with a turbo 6 that offers up 505 horsepower going to the rear wheels via a true 6 speed manual is probably the closest thing we’ll see to a true driver’s sedan for years to come.  It certainly doesn’t hurt that this is probably one of the prettiest cars to be coming out in 2017 either.

Cadillac XT5:  A new crossover from Cadillac, how is that exciting?  Well it is not so much about the vehicle itself as much as it is about the company as a whole.  Cadillac struggles with the image that their cars are only driven by retirees and the XT5 is an attempt to shed that image.  With less-than-stellar sales across the board, the XT5 needs to be a saving grace to help bring the manufacturer back from a slow decline.

Lincoln Continental:  Lincoln finds itself in a similar situation as Cadillac in that they are trying to appeal to a different buyer, but the Continental is far from a vehicle for younger drivers.  With big aspirations to take down the well-established German competition, Lincoln has re-worked the Continental with available AWD and an optional twin-turbo V6 pushing out 400 horsepower.  Only time will tell if this all-American luxo-barge is up to the task.

Land yachting on a budget: Luxury cars for dimes on the dollar

True luxury sedans are out of the reach of many of us.  With price tags that get perilously close to, and sometimes exceed, six figures and maintenance that can empty a bank account, it just doesn’t make much sense unless you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket.  However, there are some used cars out there that have become relatively affordable relative to what they once cost so here is a list of some cars that might satisfy your need to be coddled in leather without forcing you to take out a second mortgage:

 *Disclaimer: Maintaining these vehicles gets expensive, so keep that in mind.

 1)      VW Phaeton:  This was a very limited run Volkswagen that was built to compete with the likes of Bentley (it was even called the ½ price Bentley by some).  The fit and finish are impeccable and it was available with a wonderfully excessive W12 engine with enough torque to get the behemoth moving to 60 mph in under 7 seconds.  To give you a sense of purpose behind this stealth-wealth beast, the Phaeton actually shared a platform with the Bentley Continental GT and the Flying spur!  Maintenance is going to cost you dearly, but this is one heck of a car that can often be found at under $30K used, a bargain considering how well these things hold up.


2)      Lexus LS: Now if you don’t need all of the bells and whistles associated with today’s modern cars, but still want to feel like you are the king of the road, a used Lexus LS is pretty hard to beat.  While they won’t have all of the fancy gadgetry that we have these days, a LS has one of, if not the, smoothest ride in the luxury world.  And as if that wasn’t enough, it is still a Toyota at heart so maintenance won’t cost you and arm and a leg.  Find a mid-2000’s model with low-ish mileage and the V8 and it shouldn’t cost you more than $17-$18k


3)       Mercedes S Class:  Some call this the king of luxury cars and they aren’t too far off.  The Mercedes Benz S-Class has been synonymous with luxury for decades and now you can find one for around $20K.  The fit and finish with these is still spot on even over a decade later, and while like most other higher mileage German-built sedans, it will cost more than average to own, that cost will still be a fraction of what it would cost to purchase a new one. 


4)      Hyundai Equus:  If your budget allows for some newer vehicles but you don’t like the price tag of the newer German offerings, check into the Korean automakers.  Hyundai’s Equus has been their flagship that has most everything the Germans offer at half the price. Right now there’s a 2014 listed on Ebaymotors.com for about $37k with under 40K miles on it, a lot of car for the money.  Reliability will be better than average, and maintenance will be cheaper than most, we call that a win-win.


5)      Kia K900:  Another Korean automaker making big moves in the luxury segment.  Much the same can be said of this car as can be said of the Hyunday above.  All of the modern bells and whistles but with a price tag much lower than one would expect.  Additionally, these are generally much easier on the wallet when it comes time to service, so keep that in mind next time you look at upgrading the garage.


6)      Audi A8:  This is the four-ringed auto manufacturer’s flagship sedan representing the best in all-weather luxury transportation.  With the legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive, this is one of the few luxury sedans that would be just as comfortable in a snow storm as it is storming the autobahn.  Expect to pay in the mid $20k range for a mid/late-2000’s model with some miles on it.  This is one of the more engaging large sedans to drive with more driver-tuned suspension than most of the vehicles in the segment with a price tag of around $70K when it was new.


7)      Acura RL:  While not many know of this mid-large size vehicle coming out of Acura, it is worth considering on price alone.  In 2005, these were $50,000 cars but can be had for under 15k now without a problem.  While you won’t find big V8 grunt under the hood, the smooth V6 with 300hp and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive does plenty to get this Japanese behemoth moving.  As with any Honda/Acura product, maintenance will be relatively easy and cheap on these compared to its competitors.  This is definitely worth a look if you don’t need any of the XL offerings listed above.      

Aural inspiration: 10 of the best sounding cars and why noise matters

Ask any car enthusiast to name some major factors in the appeal of a car is, and they will probably place the noise it makes near the top of the list.  But why is this?  If you could buy a car that got you from 0-60 mph in 3 seconds but sounded like nothing more than a stiff breeze, would you buy it?  It’s unusual how much of a factor a simple sound can be in how we perceive a vehicle and how much pleasure we can get from it, but there’s more to it than that. 

If you’ve ever gotten goosebumps from your favorite song, gotten immersed at a concert or even enjoyed listening to a song bird chirp away, you realize how engaging sound can be.  A good score can turn a mediocre movie into an epic, spine tingling thrill ride that you can’t take your eyes off of.  Humans can be aural creatures and being able to accentuate any experience with a well-written soundtrack, especially when it comes to cars, is a critical component to appealing to those of us with oil in our veins.     

Well for gearheads, sound is what can make a car come alive, give it a personality.  Why would we want to make our cars louder, you ask?  It’s pretty simple really, we get goosebumps from that drive through a tunnel at full throttle, that open-window concert hall that’s an assault on all the senses.  Ever notice how some of the more track-oriented cars on sale don’t come standard with radios?  Well, we’re ok with that because the only sound we need comes out the back and that gives us all the entertainment we need.

With all of that nonsense explained, here are a few cars (in no particular order) that top our list with some of the best sounds ever to exit a tailpipe. 

 1)      Ford Escort MK2 rally car:  Think a 4 cylinder can’t make a good noise?  Think again.  The sound coming out of this nimble little rally monster at full bore is nothing short of spectacular.

2)      Aston Martin V12 Vanquish: Not only are these cars stunning to look at, they also make one of the best sounds ever produced by a car.  A big, meaty V12 and a free flowing exhaust is a recipe that is hard to beat

3)      Pagani Zonda:  Another exotic, but this time the V12 (crafted by AMG) is a much higher-strung, free revving one designed to delight (and often destroy) the eardrums of passengers and drivers alike

4)      Lamborghini Aventador:  This is one of the newest offerings from the Italian manufacturer and after hearing one of these, we’re glad they’re sticking to their roots with big V12’s instead of adopting the smaller displacement turbo method like many competitors

5)      BMW e39 M5: While some may argue that you need an aftermarket exhaust to unleash the potential of this super-saloon, there’s no denying that this thing can get your hairs standing on end and put a smile on your face in short order

6)      Audi R8 V8:  This is the same basic engine as was found in the much-lauded RS4 which ended production in 2008.  No matter that the V8 was considered the base engine, it still made a sound that would put many faster cars to shame.

7)      Ferrari 355: This list wouldn’t be complete without a high-revving Ferrari crafted V8, and the 355 is possibly one of the best sounds to come out of their factory. 

8)      Porsche Carerra GT:  This is one of the few times that Porsche has strayed from its flat 6 heritage, but the V10 in this hyper car makes you wish they’d do it a few more times.  No wonder this has turned into a real collector car

9)      Porsche GT3RS: A good naturally aspirated 6 cylinder from Porsche has a very unique sound that is recognized the world over as something that means business.  No surprise then that one of the rawest variants of the 911 makes this list

10)   Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: While the ZR1 is no longer in production at this time, this Chevy V8 with a supercharger strapped to it will make Chuck Norris run for the hills.  Did you really think we would leave some proper American muscle off of this list?

Now you have to remember that something sounding “good” is all really subjective and as a result, some great sounding cars haven’t made the cut.  Some people out there may prefer the wail of a high-revving F1 car to a deep, bass-like V8 from AMG.  We are not here to pick sides, but rather point out some noteworthy cars that in our opinion produced sounds worth listening to.  If you’d like to add, comment below with a video clip and let others enjoy!


150K mile check in : Toyota Land Cruiser

These days, consumers are all about the next best thing.  The next phone, the next computer, the next car, and that means that some vehicles with plenty of life left are getting traded in for the latest and greatest.  Chief among these long lasting leviathans is the Toyota Land Cruiser, and yours truly just happens to own one with 155k miles on it, and guess what, it still runs!

Yes, you heard me right, my 155k mile, 10 year old car still runs like a top, and the world deserves to know how it is holding up because all too often, perfectly good cars are cast aside, destined for the auction block.

To be clear, is the ol’ Land Cruiser perfect?  No, but at 10 years old it’s about as close as it can be.

However, everything that’s important and crucial to the everyday function of the vehicle is working just as it should.  The engine runs like new, the suspension still feels great, the brakes (recently serviced) stop it on a dime and the transmission has no problem moving those cogs despite the hefty load of the LC.  The rattles are almost nonexistent and it still feels tight as a drum despite a decade in the world and the equivalent number of miles to circling the globe over 3 times.

The imperfections are minimal.  There are some dime sized sings here and there, a little rock chip in the glass that looks like it might spread if I cough on it hard, but aside from that and needing a vacuum, I’d personally jump in this truck and drive it to the southern tip of South America tomorrow without a moments hesitation, that’s how much confidence I have in it.

The point of this check in come rant?  No, it’s not for me to say look at how awesome my truck is (but hey..it kind of is).  It’s about getting consumers to wake up and realize that some cars will LAST if you put in the time and energy to maintain them and show them the TLC they deserve.  To be fair, there are plenty of vehicles out there that simply aren’t made to last long, but if you do your research and buy the right vehicle, you could find yourself owning a vehicle for a lot longer than the average owner, and that’s not only a point of pride, but also something that could keep a little bit more money in your pocket.

Picture of said Land Cruiser



The Underdog Cars: Vehicles that don’t always make the cut (but probably should)

There so many well-built, competitive cars rolling out of manufacturers’ doors these days that sometimes a “Top 5” list can exclude some great vehicles just by virtue of the number of cars on the list.  Popular, more established manufacturers often get on those lists for a lot of different reasons (not always on merit alone, mind you) and some strong offerings from lesser known or trusted brands get overlooked and are left collecting dust on dealership lots.  Well we are here to help you consider some of the stronger vehicle offerings in this collection of outcasts just in case you are looking for something a little different than everything else on the road. 



1)      Mazda CX-9:  The full-size offering from Mazda often gets overlooked for reasons unknown to us.  While it may not the largest in the full-size vehicle category, it still represents a strong value with a great interior and nimble handling for its size (plus a new look for 2016).  You know it will be reliable as the Mazda name is certainly a solid one, and the features list is extensive making the tech-focused buyer a happy one.  All in all, the big Mazda is definitely a strong contender for those looking for a little extra room but don’t want to sacrifice on style or driving manners. 


2)      Mazda 3:  In a world where Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas rule the compact market, the Mazda 3 offers a bit more sportiness than most.  The fun little car is a great alternative to the somewhat hum-drum options from the other Japanese automakers, offering better handling and a well-appointed interior, it is hard to see why buyers don’t grab these in the same numbers as its competitors.


3)      Kia Optima:  Korean manufacturers have been on the move these days, offering cars with great interiors, stylish exteriors, and a strong bang for your buck.  It’s safe to say that Honda and Toyota are starting to think more seriously about what to do here, but the Optima has been slowly taking sales away from the Japanese giants, and rightfully so.  Being in direct competition with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry is not an easy place to be, but we think that this Optima is one of the better offerings out there in the mid-size sedan market with its upscale interior and the 10 year 100k mile warranty.


4)      Mazda 6: If there were ever a looker in the sedan segment, the Mazda 6 would be it.  While it may be lacking a bit in power, the build quality, interior fit/finish and overall driving dynamics make the Mazda a winner in this segment.  A fun to drive, well-proportioned vehicle that offers good gas mileage, all for a very reasonable price is a tough combo, but Mazda has done just that and it is surprising that these don’t leave dealership lots all that quickly.  Be sure to opt in for the upgraded HID headlights offering great visibility at night and in inclement weather.


5)      Volvo S60:  While some might argue that The S60 is a very popular car in certain areas, the numbers don’t lie and the Swedes can’t really keep up with the Camry and Accord in sales.  The S60 is a more contemporary, minimalist approach to the sedan with chic styling and a sparsely decorated interior.  However, it is still very feature packed and comes with an available AWD making it a great choice for those in colder, snow stricken climates.  


6)      Toyota Venza:  While this slightly portly looking crossover isn’t exactly the best looking vehicle in the segment, its slightly more upscale nature makes it a strong contender.  With the right trim level selected, this can be a very relaxing, well equipped vehicle that would make most buyers looking for a little bit more space than a car (but decent gas mileage) very happy with their purchase.  Couple that with Toyota reliability, and you have a real winner on your hands.


7)      Nissan Murano:  The crossover market is a tough one, but the Murano has received good reviews all around from most major publications.  A different offering than the Subaru Forester, Toyota Rav4 and Honda CR-V that you see most everywhere, the Nissan offers a few more features and a slightly more luxurious feel that its competitors, definitely something that people don’t usually expect out of a Nissan.


8)      Lexus CT-200h:  In the hybrid department, it is hard to top the omni-present Toyota Prius.  However, Lexus’s own luxurious attempt to corner more well-heeled buyers represents a significant step up in fit/finish over the Prius.  While the price difference might be enough to scare away some potential buyers, you are getting the build quality and luxury of a Lexus at a discount on some of their larger models. The baby Lexus makes for a neat little package for those wanting the Lexus feel but in a much more tidy package. 

So next time you are thinking about buying a car, check out some of the options above.  Just because a car doesn’t sell in high numbers doesn’t mean it isn’t a good option!

Good news for car buyers, Autoist is here!

If you’ve ever spent time looking for a vehicle online, you understand the monumental undertaking of keeping tabs on ebaymotors, craigslist, autotrader, and cars.com to name a few.  The sheer number of sites listing cars for sale has quickly gone out of control and as a result, searching for a car can be a real headache as you find yourself questioning whether you’ve checked every single site for that perfect ride.

Well the good folks at www.autoist.com have come up with an ingenious (but quite simple) solution.  While we certainly won’t do it justice explaining it here, the basic principle is that you create a vehicle search on their site, and Autoist will continually search all of the major listing sites for that particular vehicle, even if you aren’t there staring at the computer screen.  You can set up your search like you would for any other vehicle by limiting your price point, location etc. and off it goes, looking through an incredible number of listings to find ones that fit your parameters.

Best of all, it’s free!  Simply set up an account and you are on your way to finding the right car for your needs.  Contact information, pictures, listing site, car details are all right in front of you in one place.

Finding a new car has gotten a lot easier thanks to Autoist, and we’re anxious to see how they will continue to improve on an already impressive, groundbreaking system.




2015 Subaru Outback: The Jack of all Trades

When driving the newly re-designed 2015 Subaru Outback, the phrase “jack of all trades” comes to mind.  One will be hard-pressed to find a serious fault anywhere in the wagon that seems to be the unofficial vehicle of the whole of New England.  There’s good reason for this as Subaru reliability is nothing to scoff at and as a result, many citizens of these slightly more snow-prone states have chosen the Outback as the go-to, daily driver/adventure vehicle.  Admittedly, in the most basic sense it hasn’t changed drastically in recent years, but all the little improvements here and there have added up to make a big difference for 2015.

On road, the Outback is very well behaved.  Predictable pedal feel for both accelerator and brakes accompany a nice steering feel and a firm but compliant ride.  Road noise is very minimal and a conversation with those who didn’t think to call “shotgun” is definitely possible without raising your voice.  It takes a minute to get used to a CVT transmission sans the traditional shifts, but you quickly realize that the additional MPG’s are completely worth it.  New for 2015 is that the CVT is now standard on all Outbacks, with MPG ratings at 25 city and 33 highway putting this big wagon at the top of its class.  The overall experience of driving the Outback on the street is that it is what some would phrase “a very nice place to be”. 

As far as the looks go, 2015 brings us some subtle but effective changes to the Outback.  The overall shape has changed very little, but a keen eye will pick up on new tail lights, head lights, and grill among other things.  While it isn’t a complete ground-up redesign, the front and back ends look, in this author’s opinion, worlds better.  That’s not to say that the old Outback was bad looking, but rather that the new looks quite a bit sleeker and more upscale.  Additionally, nicer alloys complement the overall look of this new, trimmer wagon.  This attempted move up-market seems to carry over into the interior which has received some notable improvements as well. 

Subaru, in the past, has been known as more of a utilitarian vehicle with interiors that weren’t really anything to write home about.  However, in recent years, and in particular for 2015, things have been changing for the better and I have to say that I like the direction Subaru is headed.  Inside you will find a redesigned dash with a very responsive but cleanly designed Infotainment system. The model I tested was equipped with navigation and the maps were incredibly detailed and kept up well tracking the car through the test drive.  Additionally, the new matte finish wood accents paired up with subtle strips of a brushed aluminum looking metal are reminiscent of some higher end European interiors (hats off to you Subaru).  Of particular note is the steering wheel.  It is chunky without being too big to get a hold of, sporty looking without trying too hard to please the boy-racer crowd and extremely well laid out with intuitively placed controls for everything you need.  The rear seats have quite a bit of legroom, which is something that we 6-plus footers always look for, and the cargo area looks as spacious as ever (the power liftgate does come in handy when loading and unloading too).

While I can’t say that this particular test drive involved any serious, off-the-beaten-path exploration, I can speak to the overall ability of Subarus as a Subaru owner.  This wagon will have no problem getting you to the ski mountain, the night of a blizzard in time to make those first tracks the next morning.  Some may say that is what Subarus do best, getting you to places that other wagons wouldn’t dare, in conditions that would make your less adventurous peers stay home and sip hot cocoa. 

So if you are looking for that one vehicle that can carry everything, get you anywhere, and do so in comfort and style, then look no further than the new 2015 Outback.  A big thanks to Planet Subaru for allowing me to check out the new Outback.  Be sure to check out their inventory at www.planetsubaru.com and tell them we sent you! 

Parents, pay attention!

While I will admit right up front that I do not have any experience parenting or teaching young kids how to drive, there are certain things that kids need practice at in order to become good, safe drivers.  It doesn’t take much to pass the licensing exam these days and I think there’s a need for a better young driver educational system, but that’s another story.  Here are a few ways to make sure little junior becomes a strong, confident driver.

My first and most adamant plea to parents of young drivers is to make them learn how to drive a manual car.   The reasons behind this are numerous, but the most important is that driving a manual requires the driver to have a better understanding of the vehicle that is transporting them around on a daily basis.  They will have to understand what happens I they don’t shift up, or if they downshift when going too fast.  A better understanding of your car is just one part of what makes someone a better drive.

Additionally, learning to drive a manual car requires that more time be spent on paying attention to the car, and not the texts, tweets, and instagrams their friends are sending them.  Having to shift the car from 2nd to 3rd gear means they have less time to read that text from their friend that will take their eyes off the road. Here’s the simple math: More time concentrating on operating the car = less time concentrating on everything else.  How much time have you spent trying to get them to put the phone down around the house? Well, here’s one thing that can do that for those times when they aren’t under your watchful eyes.

Of course, as is applicable with many other things, practice makes perfect.  Time spent behind the wheel is time spent learning more about how the car behaves in all situations.  Take them driving in different weather conditions so they can see what happens when it starts to rain or snow and how other drivers react to the changing conditions.  Learning to read the road and the other drivers will prove to be invaluable down the road.

Lastly, if possible, I would HIGHLY recommend sending them to a defensive driving course such as those offered by Skip Barber or other driving schools.  Now I’m not talking about a classroom where they talk and take notes about the different situations (which is helpful in some ways), I’m talking about getting them into a car to learn how to handle a panic brake situation, or how the rear of the car can break loose in slippery conditions.  These schools get them behind the wheel and teach them how the car behaves in different circumstances in controlled, safe environments with trained instructors in the passenger seats.  While these schools are not cheap, they are irreplaceable as hands-on, real life practice in situations that would otherwise be very dangerous.

It is crucial that you go above and beyond what is required of your kids to be drivers, you want them to be GREAT drivers, and that requires a little extra effort on your part.  That effort however, I promise you, will pay off when they are able to safely swerve around that deer that came out of nowhere and keep control of the car.  If you want to keep them safe, make sure you start early and get them comfortable behind the wheel, extra hours spent developing their skills early on will mean a much smarter driver years down the road.

Winter tires: why you need them

Many people out there don’t quite understand just how drastically different winter tires are from others and as a result, those same people really don’t think that winter tires are completely necessary.  “I have all wheel drive, what more do I need?” some will think, or “I have a truck, nothing can stop me” still others will say.  Well sadly, circulating the internet one will find plenty of funny Youtube videos of attempts at winter driving that prove otherwise.

Winter tires are unique in several important ways, a significant one being that they are made of a softer rubber allowing them to flex more than the standard summer (or even all-season) tire.  The flex causes the sipes to essentially grab an edge, much like a ski does, and grip the loose snow, sleet and ice.  Think of it this way, when the car turns it causes the rubber to deform (more easily than other tires thanks to the softer rubber) and instead of driving on comparatively flat surface, you are now driving on many tiny rubber edges, giving you the unparalleled ability to turn.  There is a similar reaction when you accelerate or brake, causing an incredible difference in stopping, going, and turning abilities when compared to any other tire.

Some people consider themselves good winter drivers.  Either they grew up in climates with adverse conditions or have taken a winter drivers-ed class.  However, it’s the unexpected that gets you, that point when you need to turn to avoid the piece of lumber that fell off the truck in front of you, where you really need the winter tire.  The only downside to these rubber wonders is that because of the softer compound, they won’t last quite as long as standard tires.  It is recommended that you only run them in cooler temperatures as the softer rubber will wear much more quickly on warmer days.

Admittedly, nobody likes lugging an extra set of tires to and from the local tire shop, but we promise you that when you avoid the deer that decided it REALLY wanted to give you a heart attack by standing on the other side of the blind corner, you will be thanking yourself for investing in those tires.  Do yourself, and other motorists around you, a favor and get a set of snow rated tires.

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