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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Frost Files ... Brrrrrrr.!

After the heaviest frost of the Winter so far it’s a good time to have a look at the do’s and don’ts of handling your car in these conditions. Whether you are a relatively experienced Driver or a novice, these wintry conditions require thought and planning if you are to stay safe and look after your car.

Let’s look at the Car first:-

1. After a heavy frost you can’t just get in and drive off. Silly though this may sound, we still find drivers heading off to work, peering through a little space on the front Windscreen. This is highly dangerous.
2. The answer is to check outside when you get up in the morning , particularly after serious frost warnings, start the car and leave it to warm up for 15 or 20 minutes. This will clear the windscreens but not warm the engine up to normal working temperature. It’s my experience that a further 15 to 20 minutes of normal driving will be needed to sort this out.
3. Sometimes you will find that the frost has been so heavy that your key will not open the drivers’ door. We are talking about houses without garages here. If you normally park parallel to your house it’s a better bet to have the drivers door nearest to the house since this provides a degree or two of extra protection .Quite often the key will open the door nearest to the house but not the door furthest away.
4. Even if you manage to get in and start the car quite often, until it has warmed up it may be impossible to get out again. This has happened to me a few minutes ago and I had to extricate myself from the passenger side.
5. If the key either won’t go in to the lock or even fail to open the door don’t use boiling water to free the lock; it can freeze again and also remove the free moving aspect of the lock. What to do? I have found that a match or two will heat the key sufficiently to get it into the lock and if left in the lock barrel will release its heat fairly quickly, freeing the mechanism. You may have to do this a couple of times until the heated key does its job.
6. These simple techniques only take a few minutes and will have your car ready for the road in even artic conditions. As you can tell I am not one of the fortunate drivers with a garage but today with more cars attached to each household this will be a problem for all but the Lord and Master or Mistress.
7. Having lived in the country for twenty five years now what I have described above is something that has to be taken on board quite a few times during a hard Winter.
8. Don’t attempt to operate your Wipers until the screen is very well defrosted as the wiper blades can be torn asunder if they are still stuck to the Windscreen.
9. Of course in these conditions it will be considerably longer before your screen wash reservoir is defrosted and if the conditions prevail it may take hours before it becomes operational. A useful tip would be to clean down front and rear screens, after defrosting so that you have a good level of visibility for your early morning drive. One good thing about this type of weather is that there will be less muck and dirt being showered onto your windscreen, that is of course until the roads thaw and things return to normal.
10. At this time of year with the seasons seemingly competing with each other, it is vital to keep your screen wash reservoir topped up and with some “blue rinse” additive. With the number of trucks, building and road working vehicles everywhere it doesn’t take long for a windscreen to be well and truly obliterated. Use plenty of “squirt” for both front and rear screens since it is very easy to scratch a windscreen which then makes driving difficult, particularly at night in the glare of oncoming headlights.

Finally. A word of advice for Drivers who just simply cannot dip their lights correctly or who drive with their Rally Spec Fogs on during nighttime hours.
(1) Dipping your lights after you have blinded another Driver is the same as signalling when you are half way through a manoeuvre; in other words a waste of time. You must dip your lights well before you are in range of an approaching vehicle. Eyes take at least 7 or 8 seconds to return to normal after being blinded .At any kind of speed this creates a serious hazard for the Driver at night
(2) Fog lights are for use in …yes you’ve guessed it FOG and the use of fog lights when there is “pas de Brouillard” (that’s French for?) is illegal. More on this subject in a future post.

Drive Safely and remember your Car likes to be Warmed up just like You Do!

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Astral Driving School Blog …. “Arrive Alive”…

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Were you Born under a Bad Sign? Or just a member of Ostritchology!

Most of us can easily come up with all the excuses under the Sun as to why we are not successful and why things continually go wrong for us. But lets face it, and that’s difficult to do if you have brainwashed your self, success and achievement is down to good old You…. no one else. Yes of course there are many stumbling blocks along the way, some of which seem insurmountable at the time, but it’s your ability to pick yourself up and keep going, that makes the difference between success and oblivion. We failed the Driving Test again and this time it was the cranky Examiners fault; last time it was the fault of the Stop Sign….there wasn’t anything in sight either way for a Kilometre so why stop? The time before we got stranded on the Box junction because the Traffic didn’t move away quickly enough. Do I need to go on?

No matter what your standard of education is or lack of it , it is well known that some of the worst “Dunces” in the Universe , adjudged by the establishment, went on to remarkable achievements and so can you if you allow yourself the time to study others path to success. Inspiration from others is not now a restricted commodity with the expansion of the Internet throughout the Universe. Granted you need a P.C. and an internet connection and that’s a bit expensive to begin with but how about a second hand machine and even a small dial-up package. This is manageable on even the smallest budget. If you can afford a mobile phone, and we have probably the largest penetration of cell phones in Europe, you can afford a P.C. . . .

Now onto my favourite subject …that of Driving and preparing pupils for the Wonderful World of the Road. Passing the Driving Test is clearly an important milestone for every Driver but learning the basics and the not so basics at an early stage is essential to staying safe and avoiding accidents. Driving a car safely is not just a question of saving up a few thousand and armed with a provisional license, heading off to the beach. Practising should come after you have been taught the rudimentary skills… not before.

We are constantly reminding Pupils to “Do their Homework” which means plenty of study of articles, and resources which are freely available on the internet. Our own Web site and blogs contain numerous articles and resources for the aspiring Driver including much Driving Test detail and Tips. The Driving Test is achievable First Time if you prepare well and treat the whole situation seriously enough. The reason for failing the Driving Test is down to the individual themselves and is always the result of lack of training and lack of serious study.

“I was born under a Bad Sign; I was down before I could even Crawl,

If it wasn’t for Bad Luck, I wouldn’t have no Luck at all “

“Born under a bad Sign”…..By Albert King & Gibson Flying V.

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Fast Approaching…Baked Bean Can Exhausts and Sooty Windows Outlawed!

On the first of January next, which is fast approaching we will have two landmarks to contend with .The Fourth Anniversary of the Non- Implementation of Driving School Registration and Monitoring and the Commencement of the stricter N.C.T rules regarding sporty exhausts (you know the Catering Size Baked Bean Cans welded together!) and blackened windows.
We were fortunate to be invited to take part in a discussion live on Limerick 95 Fm earlier this month on this and other related Driving subjects. Ed Myers, who handles the Morning show with considerable dexterity and choice of subject, allows me air time several times a year to put forward my opinions on All things Auto.

There is so much going on in the World of Driving, Driving Tests, Learner Drivers and Driving Schools on a daily basis that it is quite a task to keep abreast of it all, even as a Professional Instructor.

My views on the two aforementioned subjects are fairly predictable. Exhausts with fancy notes are not dangerous per se, but more a nuisance, especially if you live next door to someone who goes off to work at 7.00am in his Honda or Mazda and needs to warm the motor up before disappearing in a puff of early morning smoke. Noise pollution it may be, but there are far more insidious aspects of motoring to be dealt with.

As for blackened windows that’s a different story. I believe it’s important to be able to see the other Driver, his actions or inactions and his or her body language .Being able to see the age and demeanour of the Driver and also the passengers is an essential safety aspect and identifying the standard of the Driver in front of you, or behind you will enable you to be ready for mistakes. If you are unable to see the Driver because of darkened windows you are at a severe disadvantage in predicting the likelihood of a particular action of a suspect Driver.

Since about 95% of Drivers do not use the correct technique when giving way to other vehicles; i.e..they wave or gesticulate or flash their lights, or sometimes all three together, you are not going to know what in Heavens name is going on if you are in this confrontational situation with vehicle with blackened windows. Being able to see the other Driver and his or her actions is essential in making the correct decisions yourself.

There was to have been some discussion on the merits of prohibiting Learner Drivers from Driving after Dark. Unfortunately the Politician who was lined up to broach this subject was unavailable. Let me give my view on this subject.

Most serious accidents involving Learner Drivers happen in the Night time or Socialising Zone, often in the early hours of the Morning. Unfortunately during these periods it is very common for Learner Drivers to be accompanied by a whole army of mates in varying states of alcoholic stupor and this invariably means greater fatalities during a serious crash. Drivers should learn to drive at night with a qualified license holder in all road and weather conditions before venturing out on their own. The autumn and Winter Months, especially on country roads, present a real challenge to a new driver and should be taken very seriously. It is not an option I think, to ban Learner Drivers after Dark but it could be part of a better training Programme to ensure that Drivers have a certain verified amount of night time Driving before sitting their Driving Test. In addition to a certain number of mandatory Lessons, this would be a move in the right direction. Mandatory tuition is common throughout Europe and would be instrumental in reducing serious accidents here on the Roads.

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