Sunday, October 14, 2007

Two Reasons to Love Automotive Electronic Technology

In 16 years of automotive testing, I have often mentioned a feature in a car, for example, airbags, without ever, thank goodness, needing to use it. However, in the last few days, two car-related electronic marvels have improved the lives of me, my family, and, indirectly, the planet.

On Friday, a light lit up on the instrument panel of my 2008 Scion XD test car. It looked like the cross-section of a tire with an explanation point. I assumed it meant a loss in air pressure, so I got out and examined all four tires. They looked fine to me, so I continued on my way.

Saturday morning, when the tires were cold, I pulled out my trusty pressure gauge and discovered that all four tires had 26 psi of air in them, which seemed OK. But the light stayed on.

Well, consulting the owner’s manual, I discovered that the light meant, as I suspected, low air pressure. It made more sense when I consulted the page with recommended air pressures. It showed 33 psi. That meant that all four tires were low! I put three quarters into the air machine at my local 76 station and topped off the tires, and the light disappeared.

Proper tire inflation is more important than you might think. From a safety standpoint, it keeps the tire firmly set in the wheel, puts less stress on the tire, and promotes better handling. It also improves fuel economy, which in turn saves money at the pump and benefits air quality. Properly inflated tires last longer, which is another money saver, and sends fewer tires to landfills.

Although experts recommend checking tire pressure regularly, most of us don’t. Now, even in one of the least expensive cars on the market, you can be reminded to do what’s right. Some of the fancier models even give you pressure readings, saving you a messy time with the fuel gauge.

I am awakened on Sunday at 7:02 a.m. by a phone call from my wife, who is on a visit to Florida (where it happens to be a much more acceptable 10:02 a.m.). She has locked her car keys in the trunk of her rented Buick Lucerne. My wife can handle pretty much anything, but she was obviously upset and I knew how to help her.

She was driving a brand new GM car, an upscale one at that, so I assumed that it had OnStar. I calmly asked my wife to call the rental car company, who could then contact the OnStar folks to have them unlock the car for her remotely. Within a few minutes I got a call back. The crisis was solved and a day of sightseeing was preserved.

So, if you’re driving an old 20th-century car, maybe it’s time to upgrade. Today’s cars are cleaner, safer, and come with features you’ll be glad you have, especially when you need them.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

A Bentley and a bass. Who could ask for more? Look forward to reading more tales from your test drives. Melanie