By on March 28, 2017

2008 Maxima, Image: Nissan

This week’s episode of Ask Jack is all about the magic boxes that separate today’s cars from their predecessors — and the unintended consequences of when it all goes wrong.

Reader Eiriksmal writes:

I hope I’ve startled you with this bold introduction. There’s a question I have that only you can answer … probably. It takes a sophisticated man with all sorts of worldly experience that I lack.

You see, I drive a car without antilock brakes, traction control, or stability control. I’m a whipper snapper who’s only been driving 14 years, so I never knew an era without ABS, at the very least. My beloved sixth-generation Maxima, what with the six-speed manual, has a malfunctioning ABS module, so the ABS and TC (no yaw sensor was installed on the 6MT cars — ESC was autotragic only) are kaput. I’ve driven it sans braking assistance for 2.5 years, but today was my first heart-clenching episode caused by a lack of experience with driving an ABS-less car.

I noticed when bedding in some new brakes recently that the back end tries to come around the front in a panic stop after the wheels lock. Sometimes it just squirms a little, other times it would step the back end out a solid 6-8 inches. This confuses me. When I’m pointing in a straight line, holding the steering wheel tight, and jamming the pedal to the floor, why does the lighter back end try to rotate around the heavy nose?

Today, a jerk in an Escape lumbered out in front of me …

This sounds like trouble.

(Read More…)

By on March 3, 2016

Front Pedestrian Braking, a new active safety technology available on the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu and 2016 Cadillac CT6, is one of many safety features tested at General Motors' new Active Safety Test Area at the Milford Proving Ground in Milford, Michigan. Image: Jeffrey Sauger/General Motors

Isaac writes:

Recently my family was sitting around the table discussing how my youngest sister will obtain her driving permit in a month to begin the wonderful process of becoming a licensed driver. The interesting part of this conversation, and the part I hope you can offer some advice, is when we talked about safety. Are modern cars too safe for beginner drivers?

While many publications and parents say new drivers should be placed in the safest vehicle possible, I have struggled with this concept and can only wonder how safety equipment in car affects new drivers. Comparing the two vehicles that my parents are considering giving to my youngest sister, my older sister’s 2002 Saturn SC2 or my mom’s old 2008 Ford Taurus X, there is a big difference in the safety between these cars. My sister and I were given cars that lacked ABS, side or curtain airbags, ESP, and traction control. Not having features, like AB, taught my sister to be more attentive in slippery conditions.

While I will not argue against the safety these systems provide, nor their existence, I can only wonder if we are hindering the drivers of tomorrow. I wonder how modern features like blind spot monitoring, radar based cruise control, and backup cameras will affect new drivers. Personally, I like to think I am a better driver today because of the lack of safety features I had in my first couple of cars.

Any thoughts?

(Read More…)

By on January 25, 2016

pb-110202-snow-jw.photoblog900--Courtesy franklinnow.com

Every other year or so, the same site/email/thread/rumor goes around:

“Did you know that your car’s ABS system actually makes driving in snow WORSE?! And the worser part is, you can’t even turn it off! Automakers and the government are the worstest!”

Except that’s not true.

(Read More…)

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