Category Archives for Safety Tips

What Do Your Car Dashboard Lights Mean?

Car dashboard lights identify vehicle safety features such as air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control and tracks fluid levels for oil, water and coolant. These are distinguished by individualized symbols. Sometimes you see them light up upon start up or while driving. But what do your car dashboard lights mean?

These dashboard lights are indicators often represented as hieroglyphic-like symbols. You can consider them a diagnostic tool. They alert you that something could be wrong with your car. If unattended, the issue could pose a serious problem for your vehicle in the future. That is why they are often referred to as car warning lights.

But many car owners don’t know what these vehicle symbols mean. When people buy cars, how many will actually take the time to read the automobile manual that comes along with it? So when the dashboard indicators start blinking, they can’t make heads or tails of what the lights are trying to tell them. It certainly is not a good sign if all warning lights come on while driving.

As responsible vehicle owners, you have to know what your car dashboard lights mean so you can take the necessary action right away and avoid a potential accident or breakdown. When these dashboard lights are flashing, consider them as an alarm bell going off. You have to take action as soon as possible.

The longer you put it off, the greater the risk of getting into an accident and the higher the probability of incurring an expensive repair bill if the issue becomes worse.

Dashboard light symbols may vary from one car model or brand to another. But the differences may be slight. You should still be able to identify the dashboard light symbol and know why it is flashing.

Here are 10 common car dashboard light symbols and what they mean:

1. Brake System Warning Light

Your brakes are one of the most important components of your car. If the brake system warning light on your dashboard starts flashing it could mean there is a potential issue with your brakes or it could simply mean you need to replenish brake fluid.

The only solution is to head off to the nearest gasoline station or car repair shop and have it checked. This is one warning light that you should not procrastinate about.

2. Engine Warning Light

When your car dashboard’s engine warning light illuminates, it may be immediately followed by troubling symptoms. In some brands, the car automatically reduces its power as a contingency measure to protect itself from further damage.

You might hear a stuttering sound as you press on the accelerator which could be the result of a misfire. Another possibility could be a minor faulty electrical sensor. But never disregard that the issue could result in a larger mechanical problem.

If you see the engine warning light blinking, bring your car to the mechanic right away. Do not take chances by driving it out on the road.

3. Airbag Warning Light

The airbag is one of the automobile industry’s most innovative features. Advances in engineering have introduced better models that better ensure driver and passenger safety.

But if your dashboard airbag warning light comes on, it may not deploy when you get involved in a serious vehicular accident. You cannot predict when an accident will happen so it is always best to be prepared.

Second, a defective airbag may go off when you least expect it and put you, your passengers, pedestrians and other cars on the road at risk.

Bottom-line: Have your airbag checked by the car dealer or a mechanic before proceeding to your journey.

4. Power Steering Warning Light

Power steering makes it easier to manoeuvre the car while driving. But if the dashboard power steering warning light goes off, you may feel a sudden stiffness in its handling.

This poses a danger on the road when you have to change lanes in high speed motorways or move to avoid an obstacle in a potentially dangerous situation.

5. Coolant Warning Light

Your car’s engine needs coolant to keep from overheating. Usually when the dashboard coolant warning light comes on, it could simply mean your coolant fluid levels are down. If you are adept at troubleshooting and have a supply of coolant in your home or in the trunk, you can do the refill yourself.

Otherwise, head off to the nearest gas station and have the attendant check your coolant levels and have it refilled right away.

6. Oil Warning Light

Your car’s engine needs oil to keep it lubricated. The oil pump sprays fluid to different areas of the engine. If the dashboard oil warning light comes on, it could mean oil temperature could be too high, the level of fluid is low or oil pressure has dropped.

Under any of these 3 conditions, the quality of lubrication will be affected and could lead to engine damage that would put a hole in your wallet. Thus, when you the oil warning light blinking, bring your car to the mechanic immediately.

7. Tyre Pressure Warning Light

This dashboard light is no longer limited to high-end luxury cars. Most brands carry it as a standard safety features for all their models.

No one wants to deal with a flat tyre situation whether they are still parked in their garage or in the middle of nowhere. The dashboard tyre pressure warning light will tell you right away that one, a few or even all of your tyres are under-pressurized.

When this light comes on, have your tyres checked and fixed right away.

8. Battery Charge Warning Light

When you start your car, it is standard operation for your battery charge warning light to illuminate. However if it stays lit up for several minutes after your car has started, it could indicate a problem in your electrical system.

Possible reasons could be a weak car battery, a faulty alternator, a bad connection or damage to the cabling set up near the engine bay. If the alternator is not charging the battery efficiently, your car could suddenly come to a dead stop while driving.

Don’t take further chances when the dashboard battery charge warning light goes on. Contact a car battery dealer to test your battery and have it replaced if it is underpowered.

9. Electronic Stability or Traction Control Warning Light

This type of warning light is particularly important during inclement weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow when roads become slippery.

When this dashboard light is blinking, the first thing to do is to slow down. Second, have it checked by a trusted mechanic or car repair shop.

10. Seatbelt Warning Light

There’s a reason why cities pass laws mandating the use of seatbelts at all times. As the car owner, you should see to it that all of your passengers are strapped into their seats. This is especially true for those in the back seat.

When the dashboard seatbelt warning lights come on, exercise your right as the car owner and ask the person to belt up properly.

Conclusion

Car dashboard lights maybe small but they play a big and important role in ensuring driving safety and the proper maintenance of your vehicle. Once a symbol on the dashboard lights up, don’t assume it is “nothing” or “unimportant” that you could attend to it later.

Driving a car carries a huge responsibility because your safety, those of your passengers and others who share the road with you are literally in your own hands.

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Adventurous Off Road Driving: Avoid The Most Common Pitfalls

Off road driving has become a very popular pastime, but for many people it is just part of daily life and work. For those drivers who do not experience this on a regular basis it can be a huge challenge. It looks so simple, and you might think that because you have a truck or SUV that you’re good to go.

But reality is very different and so many people constantly get caught out. It often happens that you might be over confident in the suitability of your vehicle. Or you could underestimate the toughness of the terrain. The result is usually ending up in situations where you get stuck or you break down.

Neither of these are going to be much fun. And if you have to head off-road for work purposes, then the downtime can be a huge problem.

In this article, we will give you extensive information and tips to help you prepare for your next off-road trip. With just a bit of planning and preparation you can make sure that you don’t look foolish when you have to call for help.

What Is Off Road Driving?

As the name suggests, as soon as you leave a designated road that is either surfaced or is a dirt road that is at least maintained. Many people think that as soon as you head off a road with a hard surface that they are onto an adventure.

In some cases that may be true. And if you just have a small family car it will certainly feel that way. But off-roading is so much more than just heading onto a dirt track. It’s also not driving on nicely maintained grasslands used for cattle. Yes, you’ll slide around easily, but even in a road car you should be OK as long as there’s no mud.

So, what does that leave us with?

The way we would define it is that if you’re going to get stuck within 50 yards with a regular family car, then you’re probably off-road. Proper cross country driving requires the power of 4-wheel drive and the advantage of a lifted up and protected chassis.

Essentially, what you need is a proper SUV that has been purposely built for the job.

Even if you see some resemblance of a well-worn path, it would have to be littered with potholes and rocks that you have to get through and around. You will not be driving particularly fast for most of the time. And you will certainly be on the constant lookout for where you should actually be going.

The best cross country adventures on 4 wheels are those where you can’t see where other drivers have gone. You’re constantly checking the landscape ahead to make sure that you won’t navigate yourself into a catch 22 situation.

It is fun and hugely challenging. And in reality should not be done without at least a bit of training. And that training would pay off hugely.

What Are The Biggest Problems?

Off road driving is not something you just go and do. Actually, you can do that, and even if you have a Jeep, Hummer or Range Rover you will probably quickly end up in trouble. One of the first problems a lot of people get into is that they end up in places they shouldn’t be.

Once you leave marked roads all signage disappears. And dependent where you go you can quickly end up on private property and in all sorts of legal trouble. So, the first problem is that you have to know where you are heading.

This can be made a bit easier by using designated off-road driving trails. You’ll probably find some of these near where you live. Essentially, they are like race tracks for 4×4 vehicles.

Next up is the problem of knowing how to tack advantage of things like 4-wheel drive, diff locks and traction control. Combining these in different ways will make a huge difference. To the degree that simply turning off traction control could get you out of a lot of sticky situations.

Find out where you can set these and then try them out on a designated trail. Ideally with someone who knows what they are doing. The diff lock is a tricky one. Some situations require that you turn it on while other require it to be turned off. What this does is force all wheels to spin at the same speed which can increase and better control traction.

Finally, there is the issue of being able to analyse the path ahead. Some situations might look like they are safe to head into. But unless you know how to control different ground conditions you can quickly end up in trouble.

For example, what might look like a grassy field ahead could be hiding swampy ground. And that is a situation you never want to find yourself in. Judging the size of rocks and other obstacles is also very important. Dependent on your ground clearance, you’ll be able to take on a lot bigger objects.

But if you underestimate these things, you can end up beached with no traction.

What Are The Most Common Mistakes?

We have come across too many conversations where people have told us about the silly mistakes they have made. The majority of them could have been avoided by simply taking a few lessons in an off-road driving school. Even just one lesson will help you understand the most common mistakes. In this section, we’ll highlight some so you can try and not make them yourself.

First of all, don’t take any off-roading tips for beginners from anyone that has not spent a lot of time driving fully featured 4x4s. So, don’t let your friend who took his BMW onto a cattle field tell you what you should be doing. If they are going to give you tips then politely thank them for it and then forget them.

Secondly, never take a vehicle with 2 wheel drive off-road. It’s just asking for trouble and you’ll regret it within minutes. Chances are that any organized trails won’t even allow you to start.

Next up is not bringing some bare essential accessories. We have a section below with some tips on this. But one thing most people forget is to bring some extra fuel. When you head onto really tough conditions you will burn a huge amount of fuel. Even when you’re going at a slow speed. You’ll be regularly revving up the engine and often lose traction to see wheels spinning.

Finally, don’t rely on GPS maps. Or we should say cheap GPS maps. Most of these will show roads and everything else. But they won’t tell you about inclines and ground conditions.

What you need for this is designated topography maps with color coding for different conditions. That way you can avoid situations that could only be taken on with military or track vehicles.

How Do Terrain And Conditions Vary?

This is going to be mainly a question of time of year and the part of the country you’re in. You could be in northern states and find tough grass land conditions in the middle of summer. Then 6 months later you’ll encounter a snow-covered landscape. And both situations require completely different skills and equipment.

Off road driving in desert conditions of New Mexico and Arizona bring a whole new set of challenges. Sand, dust and heat can cause big problems for many parts of your vehicle. Not only will you need to prepare differently, you’ll also need to do very different maintenance work.

Some of the biggest challenges really come with snow and sand. If you’re new to off-roading then maybe don’t start with those conditions. They will challenge even an experienced driver. And as a newbie you could end up stranded very quickly.

Underestimating the conditions is usually the biggest mistake people make. A lot of local knowledge is required to understand things like how soft sand is and how deep some snow drifts might be. It’s always best to talk to someone more experienced than you and even use the help of an adventure driving school. The skills you learn will keep you out of most dodgy situations.

Some Essential Accessories

Most people make the huge mistake to think that just because they have a 4×4 truck they are ready to head off on an adventure. The amount of times that drivers like that get stranded is huge. Don’t make that mistake and take at least a few pieces of advice.

Spare Fuel

Never take a chance by heading into the wilderness without spare fuel. Even if you’ve only just filled your tank. You won’t believe how quickly you’ll burn through fuel in tough conditions. The trick is to also always be aware of the remaining fuel and how far you have to go to get back home. Ending up stranded because you’re out of fuel is the most embarrassing thig to happen.

Spare Wheel

Preferably two. Some problems with tires can be fixed, but it will inevitably happen that slash a wheel on a rock or something similar. You should also always check your spares before you head off. If they are even a bit flat that could be a big problem when you need them.

Off Road Lights

This is one of the most important factors to consider. You might think that they are only good for driving in the dark. But if you end up in a heavy snow or rain storm your visibility can become very compromised. That’s not a situation you want to end up in. With some simple LED light bars, you can solve that problem altogether. And night time off-roading will still be possible as well.

Two Jacks

One reason is obvious. If one fails you have another to fall back on. Bu more importantly, you could end up in a situation where you need to fix something underneath your vehicle. Just lifting one side might not do the trick. And you could end up having a big problem because you cannot get at the right place.

Some Of The Best Off Road Vehicles

This is probably one of the most heated discussions in all automotive circles. What is the best off-road vehicle of all time? While everyone has their own preferences, there are a few that have been repeatedly voted as top in their class. Chances are you are not going to be able to try every possible vehicle out there.

But generally speaking the best thing to do is take a look what various military services use the most. In the USA that is probably going to be the Hummer. But the price of them and practicality for regular day to day use is not great.

However, possibly the most popular military 4×4 is the Toyota Land Cruiser. It is exceptionally well built and very affordable. If you get stuck with this machine you probably would need a tank instead.

Another one of the best off-road 4×4 vehicles is the Jeep Wrangler. It has gone through decades of adjustments and improvements. But it still has that iconic look. Get a bit of dirt on it and some camouflage and they could still feature in WWII movies.

For a bit of comfort and some real pulling power you can also consider the Chevrolet Colorado. It is reasonably priced and will take a hell of a beating. And of course, it is made in the USA. So you know you’ll get great quality workmanship.

Conclusion

Off road driving takes skill and practice. If you have never done it before then make sure you get some lessons with someone experienced. Ideally in an adventure driving school. With some simple preparations and accessories, you can make sure that you don’t end up looking foolish.

And you’ll avoid spending a fortune to get someone to help you. Just stick with the basics and don’t step out of your comfort zone.

Safety Tips For Driving In Snow

You may face driving in snow during the winter in the United States. The thought alone may scare you if you have never done it. Luckily, you can prepare yourself.

Before your first winter on the road there are precautions you can take. Learning about what to keep in your vehicle is helpful. Having items in case of an emergency can boost your confidence.

You can also make sure your vehicle is ready for winter conditions. This does not just include making sure that your car will start. It will also allow your vehicle to properly handle the slippery roads.

Knowing what to expect while driving in poor conditions can help prepare you as well. Doing research and reading about how to drive in snow is your first step. If you understand what can happen you will know how to handle the vehicle.

After you are comfortable driving in poor conditions it will come naturally. However, it is still nice to have a refresher on how to prepare for each winter. Here is some important information and tips to get you going.

U.S. Accident Statistics

Average speeds decline on slushy or snowy roads by thirty or forty percent in the U.S. That means you may need more time to reach your destination.

As winter approaches, you should gradually start leaving for your destinations earlier. Building this extra time in your routine, you will not feel rushed to get out the door.

More than 1,300 people die in the United States while driving in winter weather. Also, 116,800 people sustain injuries due to slush, snow and ice on the roads every year.

It is very important, to take the time to prepare for the winter. Learning about driving in snow is a great place to start. It’s the best way to avoid becoming part of that statistic.

First, you should make sure your vehicle is properly prepared.

General Winter Preparation Tips

What does preparing your vehicle mean? Here is a common list of things that you or a mechanic should check:

  • Belts, assure they are not loose and check for wear.
  • Check your spark plugs.
  • Make sure your antifreeze is not diluted and is full.
  • Check your windshield wiper fluid level.
  • New windshield wipers, there are some designed for the winter weather.
  • Have your battery tested
  • Check your tire pressure and tread.
  • Also check your spare tire.
  • Make sure your jack is in working order and readily available.
  • Check and change if needed, your air and fuel filters.

You should also keep some essential items in your vehicle just for the winter seasons. Here is a list you can use to get you fully set for winter:

  • Jumper cables.
  • Tire changing tools.
  • Spare tire.
  • Flashlight.
  • First aid kit.
  • Basic tool set.
  • Roadside emergency kit.
  • A small shovel.
  • Tow and tire chains.
  • Bag of salt or kitty litter.
  • Windshield wiper fluid.
  • Antifreeze.
  • Ice scraper/brush.
  • Survival kit

A survival kit is very important if you find yourself stranded in the winter. Everyone may have their own thoughts on what they need to survive. Here is a simplified list:

  • Compass.
  • Wooden matches.
  • Nonperishable food.
  • Drinking water.
  • Cell phone charger.
  • Blankets.
  • Warm clothing.

Now if you do become stranded, the best thing you can do is stay calm. First, you should turn on emergency lights. Then set out emergency cones so people are aware you are in distress.

Then if you have a cell phone, call 911. You may not know exactly where you are, but try to remember landmarks. Tell them your origin and what your destination was so they are aware of the route.

Try to stay inside your vehicle as much as possible. As well as, stay near your vehicle so help can find you. If you can run your engine, do so for ten minutes every hour for heat. Be sure to vent a door or window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

Move around in the vehicle to keep your body warm. This will help circulate blood and oxygen throughout your body. Be sure to not over exert yourself and get sweaty.

Try to conserve your vehicle's gas and battery as much as possible. At night, turn on a small light in the vehicle so you are visible. Drink water or other fluids to avoid dehydration and eat sparingly.

Less Well-Known Hazards

Driving in the winter is tricky for anyone. However, you can better prepare yourself for hazards you may face. There are many hazards during the winter, some are obvious to you like snow and ice.

Visibility, salt, cold, tire pressure and battery pressure are prone to problems in the winter? These may be less thought of, but you can take precautions to avoid these issues.

Effects Of Salt

Salt is like an oxymoron. It is on the roads to help melt snow and ice but did you know it can harm your vehicle. Salt can eat away at the metal on your vehicle, causing rust. Eventually this creates weak spots on your car's exterior and undercarriage.

Be sure to regularly wash your vehicle in the winter. Taking proper care of your vehicle in the winter can extend the life by a huge amount.

Salt can also create mud and slush under your vehicle. This can really compound in cavities. Again, frequent car washes will stop any build up.

Build Up Of Slush

Your wheel wells can also compact slush, snow and ice around your wheels. Check around your wheel wells regularly and clear out any icy mix compacted in there. Sometimes a good kick will knock it loose. If that does not work, you can chisel it with an ice scraper.

Slush on the roads due to melting ice and snow is just as slippery as ice. Stay driving at a slow, steady pace through slush.

Freezing Temperatures

Sometimes there is not any snow or ice in the winter but it is very cold. Cold can cause some problems all by itself. You can run into problems such as low tire pressure, dead batteries and frozen fuel lines.

However, you may also get stranded and you will need to keep yourself and any passengers warm. Keep extra blankets and clothes in your car for that purpose.

During the cold temperatures, air in your tires may contract creating low tire pressure. Low tire pressure can cause low traction. Check your tire pressure weekly to make sure they are properly inflated.

During cold temperatures, your battery may also drain more quickly. Be sure to have a fully charged battery and have a mechanic check it over. If your battery is old, it is time to replace it. A new battery will hold a better charge and should be added every 6 years.

If you notice some build-up around your terminals, you will need to clean it off. Build-up causes the alternator to not properly recharge your battery.

Many places will do this free of charge when you get an oil change or maintenance work done. However, if you are comfortable, you can do it yourself. A wire brush will clean the terminals easily.

Make sure you have a good connection at your terminals. This will allow the alternator to properly do its job.

Drive With Enough Fuel

Keeping over half a tank of gas in your vehicle during the winter is a good rule of thumb. When your fuel level is low it may cause your fuel lines to freeze. Frozen fuel lines can take time to thaw out, so you would not be going anywhere for a while.

Don’t Rush

Driving in the winter is difficult until you feel comfortable. You should always allow yourself more time to reach your destination. Giving yourself more time will allow you to go slower. It will also help you feel less stress due to having a comfortable amount of time to arrive.

When warming up your vehicle, do not warm it up in an enclosed garage. This may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t think this will save time; there’s no point risking your life.

Vehicle Lights

When your lights are reflecting off the snow, you lose visibility. Drive slowly or pull over if necessary when visibility is very low.

Also, before the winter months check your vehicle lights. Make sure your headlight lenses are clean and fog free. This will increase your brightness for other drivers to see you too.

Accessories You Should Invest In

There is also special lighting you can get to help you in the winter months. An LED light bar, will not only allow other drivers to see you more clearly. It will allow you to see better and much further ahead.

These lights are definitely worth investing in if you do a lot of driving in the winter. The expanded light provides more visibility to see everything going on around you. They are very helpful on rural roads at night where it can be completely dark.

In addition to LED light bar you may invest in tires made specially for the winter. These tires are proven to give you more traction.

If you do not want to invest in winter treads, you may want to look into car chains for snow. These may only be necessary in places that receive constant heavy snow.

If you like style, you may want to look at snow socks for cars. These will give your more traction but also come in many designs.

How to Drive in Snow with Front Wheel Drive

Most vehicles are front wheel drive which are recommended in the winter. In any vehicle, slow and steady is the important thing to remember.

When driving a front wheel drive vehicle, your front wheels have two jobs. They steer and power the vehicle. Make sure your front tires are getting traction. Being aware of some tips for driving in snow, will give you courage and confidence. Knowledge is always the best preparation before driving in snow for the first time.

Everything you do while driving in the winter is safely done at a slower pace. When you turn the wheel of your car, do it at a slower speed. If you happen to skid, stay calm. Do not lock your brakes up, you will lose control of steering. Keep your wheel steady and let off the gas.

If you feel the back-end of your vehicle slide often, it is probably very light in the rear. You can always put sand bags or bags salt in the rear of your vehicle. This will add weight to help prevent sliding.

If you ever get stuck in the snow you can also use them to help get moving again. You can dump them in snow by your tires for more traction.

Take the extra time to notice your surroundings and other drivers. You will have more to think about so you can react to situations with more time to maneuver slowly.

Quick stops and turns can cause you to lose control of your vehicle. So, if you allow yourself more time to stop and turn, you are less likely to slide.

If you can avoid snow-covered roads you are less likely to get stuck. So, if you can stay home, it is always best until you see plowed roads. If you must go out stay on main roads, that way in the case you get stuck, chances are, help will come to recuse more quickly.

Obviously, you will not understand how driving in the snow feels until you actually do it. I am sure you have felt your vehicle hydroplane before though. Hydroplane is where your tires lose traction with the ground and you may feel your vehicle slide or pull.

In the snow, it is similar to constantly feeling your vehicle hydroplane. You may feel sliding and then suddenly feel your tires catch. Only to feel your tires lose traction again.

The constant loss and gain of traction can make your vehicle difficult to steer. Always keep two hands on the wheel and this will help steady the vehicle when your tires are without traction.

Prepare For Every Winter

After a full winter driving in snow and ice, you will feel ready for the next winter. However, with the first snow of every year, remember to go slow to readjust. Always remember other drivers are also adjusting to the weather.

Always make sure you prepare for winter before the first snowfall that way you have your vehicle packed for the winter. Also make sure your vehicle is mechanically ready for the winter. You can do this yourself or have a professional do it.

Courage, confidence, and being comfortable is just as important and will come with time.