Archive for March, 2018|Monthly archive page

How to Protect your Car in Heavy Wind

In the last several years, we’ve seen increasingly erratic weather behavior. This year’s nor’easters are the latest examples, and if you’ve ever had to drive in such intense weather conditions, you know it can be a challenge.

Keeping track of other drivers through the rain and sleet, and counter steering when big winds pick up is enough to many anyone nervous. Modern cars are relatively resilient, but there are still some things you should know to ensure your ride remains unblemished in the face of inclement weather.

Have a Safe Parking Spot

What constitutes a safe place that thieves won’t take notice doesn’t necessarily keep your windshield from being blown out. In a hurricane or cyclone, flying debris can damage your car even when it’s tucked into a discreet corner. The best place to keep it safe is inside of a garage with a weather-resistant reinforced door.

You might also hear these doors called “hurricane resistant” or “wind resistant” garage doors. Unlike your typical garage door, they’re designed to withstand winds of up to 200mph. That makes them qualified to withstand a category five hurricane.

But what if you have to go out in the wind? How can you make it safe for yourself and others on the road?

Driving in Heavy Wind

As with many weather conditions, driving safely in heavy winds is all about respecting the space of others on the road. For example, Semi trucks will effectively become enormous sails in the wind, so give them a wide berth.

Side winds are the most difficult to deal with. You will want to steer into the wind, but don’t make any sudden inputs. Be smooth and drive slower than you usually would so that you have time to react to any sudden changes in the situation.

Driving with a headwind or tailwind is less challenging than driving into a side wind. You might notice slight variations in the car’s speed, but you won’t be jockeyed left and right on the road quite as much.

In any heavy wind conditions, you will want to keep a firm grip on the wheel. A gust of wind can jerk the wheel out of your hands if you’re not paying attention and that can have negative consequences.

Other Tips for Car Safety in a Storm

Make sure your car is equipped with fresh tires and wiper blades if you live in an area that gets frequent weather. Also, if your vehicle uses slick high-performance tires, you may want to swap them out for more heavily siped all-weather tires.

If you live near the water, do not park your car on the sand! It might sound like a dumb thing to do, but for the owner of one Honda Prelude buried by hurricane Harvey, it could have made the difference in getting his car back. Instead, choose a reasonable place indoors to park, or at least move it away from the beachfront.

Do you have any stories about driving or parking in nasty weather? Let us know in the comments!

Hold Your Horses, There's Now a Kentucky Derby Edition 2019 Ram 1500

Ram pulled the wraps off its new special edition truck, the 2019 Ram 1500Kentucky Derby Edition to commemorate the world’s most famous annual horse racing event, the 144th Kentucky Derby.

The limited edition truck is based on the brand’s range-topping Limited trim, which means it boasts all the luxuries and tech features that Ram recently crammed into its new-generation truck. This includes the 12-inch Uconnect touchscreen, four-corner auto-leveling air suspension, and power-retracting running boards.

When it comes to visual opulence, the horsey Ram 1500 gets swanky with “Run for the Roses” fender graphics, genuine wood and metal trim throughout the cabin, and heated and ventilated front and rear leather seats. Along with the new special-edition truck, a brand-new body colored appearance package for the new 1500 models is also making a debut.

According to a Ram spokesperson, the new appearance package adds one of six possible paint colors to key elements of the truck. “The body-colored appearance package matches the bumpers, door handle inner covers, and fender flares,” the Ram spokesperson told The Drive.

Why a Kentucky Derby truck? For starters, Ram serves as the official truck of Churchill Downs, the venerable venue where the famous Kentucky Derby is held. In addition, if there’s one industry that relies heavily, if not entirely, on pickup trucks for transportation, it’s the equestrian industry, whether it be horse breeding, racing, or simply transporting.

“The Kentucky Derby has long been among America’s most cherished sporting events,” said Mike Manley, head of Ram brand. “The close ties between Ram trucks and the equine community have led us to the introduction of the 2019 Ram 1500 Kentucky Derby Edition. The Ram 1500 is a no-compromise truck that delivers capability, durability, technology, and safety and is well-suited to meet the needs of all kinds of owners, including those who love horses.”

The Ram 1500 Kentucky Derby Edition is on sale right now for $53,190 plus a $1,645 destination charge, and production is limited to 2,000 units.

Read more at:

Tracking Your Teen’s Driving: Playing It Safe, or Overbearing?

Being a teenager is awkward. It’s a fact we all know during our teenage years, and also one that most teens will assume Mom and Dad have forgotten.

While making life miserable for your teen may or may not be your prerogative as a parent, there’s no question that one of the most challenging things you’ll go through with your teen is learning to drive. Hitting the road is a big step — and if you’re not careful it can be dangerous.

Thanks to modern technology, you now have the option to monitor your teen’s every move on the road. GPS tracking makes it as simple as downloading an app and plugging a small device into the diagnostic port on your teen’s car. But is tracking your teen driver taking it too far?

How to Track Your Teen

Before we go down the moral rabbit hole, let’s discus the options you have for playing watchdog while your teen is out in the family wagon. Some are third-party solutions, but you might be surprised how many automakers build tracking functions right into their new cars.

Hyundai gets top marks from U.S. News for their Blue Link Remote system, but these days you can throw a stone and hit a new car that comes with some form of tracking feature. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise, since GPS has been in place for some time now as a necessary component of systems like GM’s OnStar, which allows for remote driver assistance.

Everyone from America’s big three to Toyota, Lexus and Mercedes have integrated similar options. Many marques offer the service for free on new models with the option to extend service by paying a subscription fee going forward.

Not everyone drives a new car, though. For those who can’t take advantage of integrated features, there are trackers that plug in to your car’s diagnostic port or live on your teen’s phone. These, of course, might be simpler for your teenager to defeat, but rest assured they won’t be fooling anyone when they reach for the off switch.

The More You Know

Having a tracking solution in place is one thing, but not all tracking apps are created equal. You’ll want to consider what each one does and which features are most important to you.

Any of the systems currently on the market will display your car’s location on a map. For concerned parents, the ability to keep tabs on how your teen is behaving comes from alerts that can be received via text message or email when specific conditions are met.

For example, you could define a specific speed limit and be notified each time your teen exceeds it. Additionally, you can configure the app to monitor a geographic boundary. If your teen ventures outside of it, you’ll be notified.

Some apps even allow parents to lock and unlock the car, start the ignition and set a curfew to incentivize kids to get home. As people who have been teens ourselves, we advise you that the curfew setting may backfire.

So then, it’s clear that you can track your teen and then some. Should you?

Every Teen Is Different

There’s no right answer. Whether or not you choose to monitor your teen is your choice, and how useful it is will come down to the relationship you have with your teen. Trust is a critical component of that relationship. Depending on the kind of parent you are, and your child’s demeanor, you might have no trouble asking your child to let you track them.

Parents of large families have attested that the solution for every child is different. You want to be the best parent you can and keep your child safe, but ultimately a tracking app has limitations.

A teen could still get into trouble while riding in a car with their friend. They might stay out past curfew or exceed the boundaries you set and force you to decide what to do. If you’re using one of the third-party solutions, they could just unplug it or disable the app on their phone. Teens are good at being one step ahead in the tech game.

What If They Didn’t Know?

So there’s something we haven’t told you. You can — if you have access to your teen’s phone — install tracking software that is designed to be hidden. Again, kids are sharp these days, so no guarantees.

Apps like Mamabear and Mspy will keep you posted on where your teen is and some of their activities. Not all of these are specific to driving, but if you’re hell-bent on the spying thing, they’ll get you where you want to go.

Mspy is the most popular “spying” solution available for use worldwide and it collects an impressive amount of information. More than just where your teen is at a given time, it can also tell you who they call and which websites they visit. Do you need that much information? You decide.

Here’s How We Would Do It

If you can come to an agreement with your teen about what you’ll be watching and when, it will probably make things much simpler. Trust, as we stated earlier, should be highly valued in your relationship, and if your teen learns that you’re spying on them you could break that trust.

We weren’t born yesterday. Your style of parenting or the specific child might require you to take extra steps. You have more options today than your parents ever did. But think long and hard about how it might affect your relationship, because setting expectations ahead of time might help you avoid an awkward situation when your teen finds out they’ve been spied on.

Perhaps now you’re thinking to yourself, “Why did I read this article, there’s no answer here.” But if it were possible to summarize good parenting practices in a thousand words, we wouldn’t need apps to track where our teens are.

What is true is that this tool is available right now — and if you feel it can be helpful, you should use it. Just make sure you apply it in a way that works for your relationship with your teen.

Motorcycle Safety

Motorcyclist deaths occurred 27 times more frequently than fatalities in other vehicles, based on 2014 fatal crash data. To keep motorcyclists safe, we urge everyone to share the road and be alert, and we’re reminding motorcyclists to make themselves visible, to use DOT-compliant motorcycle helmets, and to always ride sober.

Share the Road

Safe riding practices and cooperation from all road users will help reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on our nation’s highways. But it’s especially important for motorists to understand the safety challenges faced by motorcyclists such as size and visibility, and motorcycle riding practices like downshifting and weaving to know how to anticipate and respond to them. By raising motorists’ awareness, both drivers and riders will be safer sharing the road.

The Topic

Cycle Safety

If you ride a motorcycle, you already know how much fun riding can be. You understand the exhilaration of cruising the open road and the challenge of controlling a motorcycle. But motorcycling also can be dangerous. The latest vehicle mile travel data show motorcyclists are about 27 times as likely as passenger car occupants to die in a motor vehicle traffic crash and 6 times as likely to be injured. Safe motorcycling takes balance, coordination, and good judgment. Here are some ways to ensure that you’ll be around to enjoy riding your motorcycle for many years to come.

The Topic

Road Ready

Make Sure You Are Properly Licensed

Driving a car and riding a motorcycle require different skills and knowledge. Although motorcycle-licensing regulations vary, all States require a motorcycle license endorsement to supplement your automobile driver’s license. To receive the proper endorsement in most states, you’ll need to pass written and on-cycle skills tests administered by your State’s licensing agency.

Some States require you to take a State-sponsored rider education course. Others waive the on-cycle skills test if you’ve already taken and passed a State-approved course. Either way, completing a motorcycle rider education course is a good way to ensure you have the correct instruction and experience it takes to ride a motorcycle. For the motorcycle rider-training course nearest you, call the Motorcycle Safety Foundation at (800) 446-9227.

Practice Operating Your Motorcycle

Given the fact that motorcycles vary in handling and responsiveness, be sure to take the time to get accustomed to the feel of a new or unfamiliar motorcycle by riding it in a controlled area. Once you feel comfortable with your bike, you can take it into traffic. Make sure you know how to handle your motorcycle in a variety of conditions (e.g., inclement weather or encountering hazards such as slick roads, potholes, and road debris). If you plan to carry cargo or a passenger, be prepared to make adjustments to the tires, suspension, and placement of the load.

Be Sure Your Motorcycle is Safe

Before every ride, you should check the tire pressure and tread depth, hand and foot brakes, headlights and signal indicators, and fluid levels. You should also check under the motorcycle for signs of oil or gas leaks. If you’re carrying cargo, you should secure and balance the load on the cycle; and adjust the suspension and tire pressure to accommodate the extra weight.

If you’re carrying a passenger, he or she should mount the motorcycle only after the engine has started; should sit as far forward as possible, directly behind you; and should keep both feet on the foot rests at all times, even when the motorcycle is stopped. Remind your passenger to keep his or her legs and feet away from the muffler. Tell your passenger to hold on firmly to your waist, hips, or belt; keep movement to a minimum; and lean at the same time and in the same direction as you do. Do not let your passenger dismount the motorcycle until you say it is safe.

The Topic

On the Road

Wear the Proper Protection

If you’re ever in a serious motorcycle crash, the best hope you have for protecting your brain is a motorcycle helmet. Always wear a helmet meeting the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 218. Look for the DOT symbol on the outside back of the helmet. That is the manufacturer’s way of certifying the helmet meets the DOT standard. A certified helmet also will have a permanent inside label identifying the manufacturer and providing information about the care and use of the helmet. Helmets meeting FMVSS 218 weigh around three pounds; have a thick polystyrene-foam lining; and sturdy chinstraps. ANSI or Snell labels are voluntary indicators of helmet quality. Don’t leave your helmet behind on short trips because it could be a deadly mistake. Some motorcycle helmets, in addition to offering protection to your head in a crash, include plastic face shields that offer protection from wind, rain, insects, dust, and stones thrown up from cars. If your helmet doesn’t have a face shield, be sure you wear goggles because eyeglasses won’t keep your eyes from watering, and can easily fall off.

Arms and legs should be completely covered when riding a motorcycle, ideally by wearing leather or heavy denim. In addition to providing protection in a crash, protective gear also helps prevent dehydration. Boots or shoes should be high enough to cover your ankles, while gloves allow for a better grip and help protect your hands in the event of a crash. Wearing brightly colored clothing with reflective material will make you more visible to other vehicle drivers.

Ride Responsibly

Experienced riders know local traffic laws – and they don’t take risks. Obey traffic lights, signs, speed limits, and lane markings; ride with the flow of traffic and leave plenty of room between your bike and other vehicles; and always check behind you and signal before you change lanes. Remember to ride defensively. The majority of multi-vehicle motorcycle crashes generally are caused when other drivers simply didn’t see the motorcyclist. Proceed cautiously at intersections and yield to pedestrians and other vehicles as appropriate. You can increase your visibility by applying reflective materials to your motorcycle and by keeping your motorcycle’s headlights on at all times, even using high beams during the day.

Be Alcohol and Drug Free

Alcohol and drugs, including some prescribed medications, negatively affect your judgment, coordination, balance, throttle control, and ability to shift gears. These substances also impair your alertness and reduce your reaction time. Even when you’re fully alert, it’s impossible to predict what other vehicles or pedestrians are going to do. Therefore, make sure you are alcohol and drug free when you get on your motorcycle. Otherwise, you’ll be heading for trouble.

Read more at:

Add Your Vehicle to Spring Forward Safety Checklist

Spring is here and its arrival means warmer weather, more hours of daylight and spring break travel. As you set your clocks forward on March 11, and plan to check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, take a few steps to make sure your vehicle is safe and road-trip ready, says the non-profit Car Care Council.

  • Check that all interior and exterior lighting is working properly and replace worn wiper blades so you can see clearly when driving at night and during spring showers.
  • Check the tires, including tire pressure and tread. Underinflated tires reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy and uneven wear indicates a need for wheel alignment. Tires should also be checked for bulges and bald spots.
  • Check filters and fluids, including engine oil, power steering and brake and transmission, as well as windshield washer solvent and antifreeze/coolant. Dirty air filters can waste gas and cause the engine to lose power.
  • Check the hoses and belts and replace if they become loose, cracked, brittle, frayed or show signs of excessive wear as they are critical to the proper functioning of the electrical, air conditioning, power steering and cooling systems.
  • Check the brake system and make sure the battery connection is clean, tight and corrosion-free.
  • Check if there is a defect in your vehicle on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website at by using the VIN look-up too. Watch a step-by-step video on how to locate your VIN and find out more about how recalls work.

“Checking your vehicle thoroughly and taking steps to have auto repairs performed before the spring and summer driving season will not only give you peace of mind, but will also help avoid the inconvenience and potential safety hazards of breaking down when you’re miles from home,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

The Car Care Council is the source of information for the “Be Car Care Aware” consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. To order a free copy of the popular Car Care Guide, visit the council’s consumer education website at

Read more at:

2018 Widebody Challenger, Trackhawk production details clarified

After numerous reports from prospective buyers being told that the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk would be available in limited numbers for one year only, we reached out to FCA for clarification. As we expected, we were able to confirm that at no point has FCA stated that the Widebody Hellcat or the Trackhawk be restricted to one model year – nor has the company ever stated and production volume limit for either 707-horsepower machine.

The 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and the 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk both hit the market late last year. As dealerships have gotten these new 707-horsepower Mopar muscle machines in stock, salespeople have gotten to work on moving these high-priced performance models. In some cases, those salespeople are telling potential buyers that the Widebody Hellcat Challenger and the Jeep Trackhawk are only going to be offered for 2018. Also, some salespeople are telling customers that the Widebody Hellcat and Trackhawk are being built in limited numbers for this one model year.

FCA: Not True

We didn’t think that this was true, so we spoke with some of our friends at FCA about the future of the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk.

As is almost always the case, our contacts couldn’t talk about future production plans at this point, but they did confirm that at no point has the company stated either of those rumored production limitations on the Widebody Hellcat Challenger or the Trackhawk. FCA has never said that they would be 2018-only, nor has there ever been any official production volume limit announced for either of those two vehicles.

In fact, multiple members of the Jeep team have stated that they will build as many Trackhawks as they could sell. That exact comment hasn’t been made about the Widebody Hellcat Challenger, but the company did state that they planned to build as many of the original Hellcat cars as they could sell.

Our contacts did point out that the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon will only be offered for 2018 and that only 3,300 units will be built for that one model year (3,000 for the US, 300 for Canada), but they have made no such limitations on the Widebody Hellcat Challenger or the supercharged Jeep Trackhawk.

No Guarantees for 2019

Just to be clear, in stating that the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody and Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk have not been announced as 2018-only-models, that does not guarantee that these models will be offered for 2019. The reception for both models seems to be strong enough that these packages should carry on into the next model year, but while the company has not said that the Widebody and Trackhawk are 2018-only, they also have not and will not say whether they will be offered for 2019.

That being said, my safe money says that both the Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk and the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Widebody will be offered for the 2019 model year, but with new generations of the Grand Cherokee and Challenger expected in the coming years – we don’t know how long these high performance models will exist.

Winter Storm Driving Safety

Driving safety is of the utmost importance when a winter storm rolls in. Various types of weather events can significantly affect how you drive, and different situations call for very specific steps to stay safe. These tips can help you stay in control of your vehicle as you navigate the roadways.

Remember: Before you attempt to navigate the roads, clear all snow, ice or dirt from your windows, grill, headlights, and tail lights. Never drive with snow or ice piled on top of your vehicle as it can fly off and hit another vehicle or pedestrian or cause a dangerous road obstruction.

Driving in ICE

Driving in icy conditions can be treacherous, and sometimes clear “black” ice will form on the roads. The prime times for black ice to occur are at dawn and late evening when temperatures are coolest. Black ice can form when the air is at 32 degrees or below at the surface and rain is falling; the low temperature causes the precipitation to freeze upon impact, thus creating ice. Sleet and the refreezing of snow or water can also generate black ice.

Tip 1 – Keep a close eye on the road surface

Black ice is notoriously difficult to detect when driving. Pay close attention to the road surface when driving in potentially icy conditions, and watch out for pavement that looks dark, wet, or like new asphalt. If an area has seen very low temperatures, recent precipitation, or has a history of icing, black ice could very well be present on the roadways. Additionally, bridges or elevated roadways are more likely to form ice.

illustrated car slowing down over icy bridge
Tip 2 – Know how your vehicle behaves on ice

If you drive on black ice, your vehicle will not respond as well to driver inputs and may behave unpredictably. Avoid over-correcting with the steering wheel or panic braking. Before you get on the road, ensure that large or dangerous objects (whether inside, outside, or on top of the vehicle) are secure. Unsecured loads could result in serious injury should you hit a patch of ice (and can also result in you being pulled over and ticketed). If you are sliding on black ice and unable to stay in control, follow these steps:

  • Don’t panic.
  • Don’t slam on the brakes.
  • Take your foot off the gas.
  • Steer your car in the direction you want to go.
  • Wait for the car to slow down and the wheels to catch so you can regain control.

Tip 3 – Pay attention to other drivers

If you are in an area where road icing is not common, other drivers may have a difficult time spotting and adapting to icing conditions. Make sure that you give other drivers plenty of space in case they cannot come to a controlled stop. Leave a full 8 seconds or more of driving time in between you and the car in front of you.

Driving in SNOW

Snow can come in many different forms, and different types of snow present different dangers. Large, wet snowflakes can pile up quickly and cause slippery road surfaces. Small, light snowflakes can obscure visibility and build ice on windshields and other surfaces.

Tip 1 – Slow down

Snow on roadways can be just as slippery as ice. If you see a buildup of snow on the road in front of you or even just a dusting, understand that you may not have the same level of control that you are used to when turning and braking. Always slow your vehicle speed so you have more time to react to unexpected situations.

Tip 2 – Increase following distance

Even in light snow, braking ability can be severely impaired. Your vehicle can take up to double the distance to stop in snow compared to dry conditions. Ensure that there is at least 8-10 seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you, so you have time to react if the driver ahead loses control or starts to rapidly slow down.

illustrated car increasing following distance in snow
Tip 3 – Don’t stop on hills

Snow can cause tires to spin and lose traction, especially on inclined roadways such as freeway ramps and hills. If you’re making progress up a hill, try not to stop or you risk losing traction. If you’re going down a hill, take it slowly and ensure that you have sufficient braking capability to stop safely. Leave at minimum 3-4 vehicle lengths in between you and the car in front of you to avoid a collision.


When snow gets very heavy, it can create dangerous whiteout conditions. Visibility might be limited to just a few feet in front of your windshield, and you might not be able to see the road surface or markings.

Tip 1 – Slow to a snail’s pace

The most dangerous aspect of whiteout conditions is a loss of visibility. Without the ability to see where drivers are and what they are doing, you might not have time to react if they do something unexpected. Ensure that you are driving slowly enough to have ample time to turn or brake if something happens in front of you.

Tip 2 – Make yourself as visible as possible.

Whiteout conditions often cause collisions when drivers cannot see each other. Make yourself as visible as you can to others on the road. Use all your headlights (turn on fog lights if you have them). Consider turning on your hazard lights if you drop below the speed limit to alert other drivers. Communicate your intentions (using turn signals and hand gestures if necessary) to those around you so they can adjust accordingly.

illustrated car in whiteout conditions with hazard lights
Tip 3 – Stop and wait it out

If the whiteout conditions completely obstruct your view, or you feel unable to adequately see other vehicles or control your own automobile, look for the nearest exit to wait out the storm. It’s safer if you can get to a shoulder of a road with a lower speed limit to reduce the chances of a high-speed accident where more damage/injuries could occur). If there is no other option, simply pull to the side of the road, turn on your hazard lights, and wait out the whiteout. If needed, run your motor every hour for 10 minutes at a time for heat. Crack the window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning and periodically clear snow away from the exhaust pipe if the snow is piling up significantly.