Thu, 31 October 2013

Six car smells that could mean danger

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The best smell ever is that "new car smell," but any other odour coming from your car could be an indication of trouble. 

The Car Care Council has compiled a list of six smells that if you catch a whiff of, pay attention and take fast action. 


“Unusual smells can be the sign of serious, and potentially costly, trouble for your vehicle. By acting quickly and making necessary repairs, you’ll be able to breathe easy knowing there is no harmful damage to your car,” said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

1 - Burnt Rubber - something has come loose, and is rubbing against something it shouldn't be. Maybe a drive belt has slipped, or a hose is rubbing against a rotating drive pulley. 


2 - Hot Oil - this could indicate oil is leaking into the exhaust system, where it should never be. Look beneath the car for oil on the pavement, or smoke coming from the engine. 


3 - Gas Smell - this is likely the sign of a gas leak, maybe in the fuel injector line or the tank itself. Take this smell very seriously, as any scent of fuel can result in a possible fire hazard. 


4 - Burning Carpet - this one is a bit weird, since I'd bet most of us haven't before smelled such a thing. I'm guessing a plastic scent? Regardless, I'd also bet it's one of those smells you can immediately recognize even if its for the first time. And if you do, have your brakes checked immediately as it could be a sign of brake trouble, especially if it's occurring during normal driving conditions. 


5 - Sweet Syrup - this might be a sign the engine is leaking coolant from a cracked component that's linked to the car's cooling system.  


6 - Rotten Eggs - gross, eh? This smell could mean a problem with the car's catalytic converter, that it's overloaded and not properly converting the hydrogen sulphide to sulfur dioxide in the exhaust.


Act fast if you smell any of the above, as waiting could be expensive, or worse, dangerous. 


Wed, 30 October 2013


Oct 29, 2013 04:30 PM EDT | Jordan Ecarma

2012 Toyota

If your parents drove a Toyota, you are almost 40 percent more likely to purchase one. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Car buyers are much more inclined to purchase the same brand of car their parents recently chose, a new study says.

A group of researchers including Michigan State University economist Soren T. Anderson found that children are 39 percent more likely to choose a given brand if their parents chose the same brand, The Washington Post reports.

People tend to stick to the brands that their parents relied on, the study shows. They may also develop a nostalgic association to the car they rode in day in and day out.

"If your parents bought the Escape, you are more likely to buy the Focus. If they chose the CRV, you are more likely to buy the Civic," said The Washington Post. "It turns out that car preferences are, in some measure, a learned behavior."

The researchers relied on the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, a long-running survey that follows multiple households of the same families through the generations, to draw their conclusions, the outlet reports.

The study's findings suggest that established brands have an advantage over upstarts. If automakers can sell cars, the next generation of auto buyers will be inclined to stick to those brands. People also tend to be loyal to brands.

Examples of brand loyalty's influence on automakers include when Toyota sells compact Corollas as well as more-upscale Avalons or when newer brands in the American market, such as Hyundai, move from Accents and Sonatas to also sell the luxury Genesis and Equus models.

"The stronger are brand preferences, the more valuable it is to keep consumers within the brand as they move through their life cycle and demand different types of cars," the study said.

Fri, 25 October 2013

Resurrecting cars: Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't

2013 Volkswagen Beetle (Volkswagen) 


Risk-averse CEOs and their accounting sidekicks like nothing better than a proven franchise. That’s why there have been 23 James Bond films and five Die Hards. If business guys could figure out how to bring Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin back from the grave, they’d buy them new bell-bottoms and send them out on tour.

They don't build cars like they used to - and that's a good thing

Now let us turn our minds to the car business, where resurrection has become the order of the day. Never before have so many reincarnated models graced the showroom. The Ford Mustang Boss 302, first created 44 years ago, is back. So are the Dodge Challenger, the Mini, the Camaro, the Fiat 500 and … well, you get the picture. As Yogi Berra said: it’s déjà vu all over again.

Some see this bumper crop of tribute models as a sign that the automotive world is creatively bankrupt, unable to mint compelling new ideas. Others see it a golden age. Now you can have that Boss 302 or Z-28 you could never afford back in the days when you still had your hair. Maybe you didn’t make it to Woodstock. Never mind – you can still buy a VW Beetle (and this one won’t leak oil).

It’s not as simple as that. As a lifelong car guy, mechanic and engineering buff, I’ve watched the reborn car phenomenon with intense interest, and have driven most of the new models for comparison with the cars that inspired them. Two key facts struck me. First: all of these machines are functionally superior to the cars they’re based on. Second: functional superiority isn’t everything.

Collectively, the tribute cars showed me that the world really has moved on – you might fantasize about a Mini that’s the same size and weight as the one Sir Alex Issigonis designed back in the 1950s, but modern safety standards and consumer expectations make that impossible. (Would you buy a car with wind-up windows, no air conditioning and the crash protection of a shopping cart?)

The resurrected car must walk a fine engineering and stylistic line, meeting the rules and expectations of the present while capturing the spirit of the past and, ideally, moving it forward. It isn’t easy. Here’s my rundown on the pleasures and perils of automotive reincarnation:

Chevrolet Camaro

Making a new Camaro is not unlike creating a new Elvis Presley. Like The King, the Camaro is a legend, with a massive fan base that has never forgotten the glory days. The original Camaro hit the market in 1967, as Detroit lived through what would prove to be its last golden age: Motown was cranking out hits, America was on its way to the moon and pony cars like the Camaro embodied America’s youthful energy and raw industrial power. The first-generation Camaro was an instant classic. Then came the follow-ons, each of them worse than the previous model. Generation Two (1970-81) was a swollen version of the original, with corn-fed hips and a gaping grille that gave it the look of a whale feeding on plankton. By Generation Four (1993-2002), the Camaro had sunk to a level that could be compared to John Travolta’s before his comeback in Pulp Fiction: a legend had been converted into a joke. Mercifully, it was allowed to disappear.

The Camaro returned eight years later, in a much-hyped resurrection, as a 2010 model. The new Camaro is a far more sophisticated car than its forebear, with independent rear suspension, fuel injection and excellent build quality (unlike the storied 1967 car, the body panels on the new Camaro line up perfectly, and there isn’t a ripple or wave to be seen). And yet the Camaro left me cold. The car was too big, the interior strained too hard to capture the spirit of the 1960s, and the shape was overdone, with a bluff hood, an over-styled tail, and a chopped top that made me feel like I was driving a V-powered machine gun nest.

Ford Mustang Boss 302

The new Boss isn’t the most refined pony car on the market (unlike the Camaro, it still has a solid rear axle). Yet I loved the Boss for the way it nailed the spirit of the original. Like the first Boss, which came out in 1969, the new one is a bit rawboned, with a throbbing small-block V-8 and a blue-collar feel to the interior. The new Boss had satellite radio and Bluetooth, but if I shut my eyes, I could imagine that Neil Armstrong had just stepped on the moon and that my eight-track tape player was about to click over to that new Rolling Stones song. In the age of computerized design and robot manufacture, it’s all too easy to sand all the rough edges off a car, but Ford designers hit the sweet spot. The new Boss is smoother and better than the old one, yet like Neil Young’s guitar, it is unique and slightly imperfect. That may be by design, or by accident. Either way, the Boss is cool.

Volkswagen Beetle

This is Volkswagen’s second remake of the Beetle. The New Beetle, which hit the market in 1997, was a cartoonish reimagining of the original car, with exaggerated curves and a dash-mounted flower vase. (Unsurprisingly, the buyer profile skewed sharply female.) The current Beetle came out in 2011, and features a shape more reminiscent of the original car, with a slightly flattened roofline and toned-down curves.

Based on a Golf chassis, the newest Beetle is far superior to the car that inspired it. The original Beetle, with a design that dates back to the 1930s, had weak brakes, limited power and bad aerodynamics (the curved body developed lift at high speeds, destabilizing the car.) The new Beetle fixes all these problems with modern mechanics (unlike the original, the new car has a water-cooled, front-mounted engine and front-wheel-drive.) All this should be good, yet I found the car utterly lacking in character. Driving it felt like piloting a VW Golf, a Toyota Corolla, or a Ford Focus – fine, but about as memorable as a dentist’s waiting room.

Ford Thunderbird

The resurrected Thunderbird came out in 2002, and was designed to capitalize on nostalgia for the legendary original, which defined a new category when it was introduced in 1954: the personal luxury car. But the new car was like a bad Beach Boys cover band that arrived about three decades too late – the world had moved on. With dated, over-cautious styling and unremarkable engineering, the Thunderbird was a non-starter, and was taken off the market just four years after its introduction.

Fiat 500 Abarth

The original 500, which dates back to the 1950s, is one of the smallest four-seat cars ever built, a tiny, tootling machine that melts the hearts of all who gaze upon its Lilliputian form. The Abarth version, which added modified suspension and a high-performance motor, became a giant-killing legend. When Fiat announced that it would build a new Abarth, I wondered how they could possibly do justice to the car, given legislative and market realities. After spending two weeks with the 2013 version, I was pleasantly surprised.

Although its mechanics were completely different (the old car had a two-cylinder in the rear, the new one had a turbocharged four up front) the 2013 had the charm of the original, but with far more performance (and more room inside, too). Stylistically, the 2013 Abarth is a home run – no other car looks like it, and the Abarth grows on you. (When my wife and I took it on a trip, we found ourselves staring at it every time we parked.) Like the original, the new Abarth is quirky – the dash has limited gauge space thanks to the retro design, and the body is short and relatively tall, giving the car the curbside presence of a high-powered phone booth mounted on fat Pirelli tires. In the Abarth, it was like going back to the 1960s, but with all the technical advantages of the internet age. The car was unusual, cool, and a lot of fun. This is how you resurrect a car.

Thu, 24 October 2013

Ram comes out on top at Canadian Truck King Challenge

2014 Ram 1500 named this year's Canadian Truck King

Five judges named the 2014 Ram 1500, equipped with the 3.0 L EcoDiesel, the 2014 Canadian Truck King. The pickup also came in first in the over $45,000 class while the 3.7L V6 version won the under $45,000 category. The Ram 2500 diesel truck finished off the sweep for Chrysler by coming out on top in the heavy duty class.

The winning 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel comes equipped with an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel-drive. It produces 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque.

This year’s battle of the trucks put 16 full-sized pickups to the challenge, with more than 4,000 km of on-road testing over four days. Trucks were tested for towing capability, fuel consumption with and without payload, as well as consumption while towing, and on-road and off-road performance.

“The sweep of the 2014 awards by Ram shows just how hard this group has been working,” said event founder Howard Elmer. “While many scores this year were very, very close, Ram did edge out its competition in all three categories with quality, styling and innovative powertrain choices – like the new 3L EcoDiesel and the eight-speed transmission.”

It’s the sixth year for the Challenge, which was founded by automotive writer Elmer in 2006. The competition skipped a year in 2008 due to the automotive crisis.

Wed, 23 October 2013

Labour of love brings old police car to life again

By all accounts, Car 48 is a head turner.

With its glossy black paint and shiny chrome, vintage roof-top light and old-fashioned, fender-mounted siren, the fully restored 1957 Pontiac Laurentian is a jewel of the LaSalle Police Services.

Named Best Police Vehicle at this year’s Lights and Sirens Cruise – the kickoff to the Woodward Dream Cruise in Michigan, Car 48 beat out 44 other police vehicles. It was the first time a Canadian vehicle won the award.

And just like proud parents, the officers and civilians who put hundreds of hours of work into recreating the vintage-looking cruiser say it was all a labour of love.

The car at the time of purchase.

The car at the time of purchase.

“We didn’t look at it as work,” said Sgt. Dave Dean. “It was a stress reliever.

“Seeing it go from the way we bought it to the finished product … was very fulfilling.”

“We were hanging out with friends and the car was there,” Sr. Const. Mauro Tonin said. “I enjoyed the process. It was almost like watching your kids grow … (you ask yourself) where did the time go.”

“If you do this stuff (restoring old vehicles), it’s not a money maker,” said civilian Vito Campanaro. “You do it for the love.”

It was Dean who first proposed the idea to Tonin of finding a car to restore – one similar to the old-style LaSalle police cruisers.

Fri, 11 October 2013

Driver-less cars are coming – and they'll see cyclists coming too

Google driverless car
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, CEO Larry Page and co-founder Sergey Brin sitting inside a Toyota Prius self-driving car. Photograph: Google/EPA

Cars of the future will be fitted with "shocka seats" that give drivers a jacksie jolt every time they shout at cyclists "oi, you don't pay road tax". Actually, cars won't need to be so equipped because the most dangerous component on the car – the loose nut behind the steering wheel – could soon be eradicated. Manually driving a car may become a quaint, how-we-used-to-live museum piece, with an animatronic Jeremy Clarkson explaining what a clutch was.


When all cars are self-driving, equipped with light detecting and ranging (Lidar) and 360-degree cameras, there will be no more "sorry, mate I didn't see you". And the autonomous car will also know when it's unsafe for the "driver" to exit: so dooring of cyclists will be history.


In a world with cars that don't kill, taxis without cabbies, and HGVs driven by computers not blindspot-afflicted drivers, there will be less need for hard infrastructure. Many bicycle advocates believe we've started on a Dutch-style 40-year trajectory to getting segregated cycle paths almost everywhere, but driverless cars will be here long before that.


That's one vision of the future. A more dystopian one involves platoons of speeding robocars making roads even more deeply unpleasant and motor-centric than they are today. Pedestrians and cyclists may have to be restricted "for their own safety." After all, if you knew that the truck barrelling towards you would automatically brake if you wobbled out in front of it, you'd have little incentive to stay in the gutter and every incentive to play one-sided chicken. Claiming the lane would take on a whole new meaning as cyclists blithely blocked robovehicles. The authorities would be under immense pressure to stamp out jaywalking – and jaycycling. With cars able to speed through junctions, electronically interacting with each other, and with no need for traffic lights, it would be harder for humans outside of driverless cars to use the roads.


If you think all of this is science fiction, think again. A report from KPMG and America's Centre for Automotive Research concludes that driverless cars will be with us "sooner than you think". Google has been working on the tech for nearly five years, and its test cars have driven 500,000 miles on the public roads of California. Google co-founder Sergey Brin said last year: "You can count on one hand the number of years until ordinary people can experience [driverless cars]."


What's more, an Oxford University research team is developing retrofittable driverless car tech said to be much cheaper and simpler than Google's Lidar-based system. Nissan chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, gushed at this year's Frankfurt motor show: "In 2020 all the problems that we have in allowing autonomous driving will be solved." The talk of the show was the autonomous journey of an S-Class Mercedes which auto-drove 65 miles, from Mannheim to Pforzheim in Germany.




What will this mean for cyclists? Driverless car consultant Brad Templeton, who worked with Google on its autonomous car project for two years,



sees a future where some form of cycling prospers:



"Cycling could be great for commute times. Many commuters might be happy to get a ride to the outskirts of the [central business district], but as they enter the congested zone, have their car drop them off next to a bike for a quick ride to work."






And the promise of driverless cars probably won't cure traffic congestion. Instead, it's highly likely that more journeys will be made, quickly negating any benefit.


And more and more journeys will mean the clogged roads of today will be remembered as comparatively empty. There will be pressures to speed up the traffic using more and more tech, and perhaps pressure to restrict the freedom of cyclists and pedestrians.


Or – spinning the futurology dice again – there could be more space for cyclists because the accurately driven robocars and semi-robocars of the future will be able to stick to very narrow virtual lanes, freeing up space for cyclists and other modes of transport.


CTC's Roger Geffen told the Guardian:


"It is hard to tell what driverless car technology would do for cycling. It might lead to vast improvements in cyclists' safety, eliminating the risks from those who drive aggressively, irresponsibly or just without paying attention.

Then again, if pedestrians and cyclists can run or swerve out in front of cars knowing they will stop, some people will doubtless take advantage of this. That would infuriate drivers, leading to calls for jay-walking and on-road cycling to be banned altogether.

Cycling's very survival would then be wholly dependent on getting comprehensive, high-quality segregated cycle networks built. Either way, we need to start thinking through the implications of driverless cars."



And we'd better start thinking soon. Driverless cars will be tested on the public roads of Britain by the end of this year, says the government,



although it may take 30 to 40 years before the roads of Britain are fully populated with driverless cars. In the meantime, legislators could lean on the EU's new car assessment programme to make sure every new car is equipped with the sort of cyclist and pedestrian detection technology that Volvo has had since 2010.


If cars no longer kill us we will be able to use the roads again without fear. Bike paths? Where we're going we won't need bike paths, as Dr Emmett Brown might have said.

Thu, 10 October 2013

Can't decide on the colour of your new car?



In a throwback to the colour-changing mood rings and Hypercolour T-shirts of the 1990s, a UK bodyshop has taken it a step further by creating a colour-changing car. 

Using Reactive Paint, a video shows the Bradford-based experts from Auto Kandy pouring cold water over an orange Nissan Skyline R33. 

Wherever the water hits the car, the bodywork appears to change from orange to purple. 

Scroll down for video

A Nissan Skyline R33, pictured, was coated with heat-sensitive paint by UK bodyshop Auto Kandy.

A Nissan Skyline R33, pictured, was coated with heat-sensitive paint by UK bodyshop Auto Kandy. When cold water is poured onto it, the car changes colour. The paint is what's called thermochromatic. As the temperature goes up, the pigment in the paint becomes colourless, revealing the base coat underneath


Thermochromatic paint contains pigments that change from one colour to another as the temperature changes.

There are two types of thermochromatic pigments: liquid crystals and leuco dyes. 

Liquid crystals are more accurate in detecting temperature changes, but have a limited colour range. 

Leuco dyes come in more colours, but can only show 'hot' or 'cold'.

Pigments used in the Reactive Paint are made from leuco dyes. 

The dye isn't applied to the car directly; it is in sold in the form of microcapsules with the mixture sealed inside. 

Hypercolour tshirts, mood rings and Duracell battery state indicators all use thermochratic dyes. 

The paint is what's called thermochromatic, which means it changes from one colour to another when the temperature changes.

As the temperature goes up, the pigment in the paint becomes colourless, revealing the base coat underneath.




The reactive element is suspended in either water or solvent based-paint and must be applied in such a way to make sure the particles spread across the entire surface.

Auto Kandy applied the base coat under a layer of clear paint. Its Reactive Paint costs £199 per litre and the bodyshop used around 7.5 litres on its Nissan Skyline R33.

The base colour of the car stays hidden by the effect paint when it is cold, but is revealed when the car heats up again.

The paint comes in different colours and they can be combined with existing car colours, and top coats, to make the effect more personalised. 

Thermochromatic paint contains pigments that change from one colour to another as the temperature changes.

There are two types of thermochromic pigments: liquid crystals and leuco dyes. 

Liquid crystals are more accurate in detecting temperature changes but have a limited colour range.

Leuco dyes come in more colours, but can only show 'hot' or 'cold'. These are the pigments used in the paint.

The dye isn't applied to the car directly; it is in sold in the form of microcapsules with the mixture sealed inside.

However, because cars spend a lot of time exposed to UV light, the paint is said to only last between four and six months. Auto Kandy said a UV additive can be bought to protect the car and extend the life of the heat reactive element.

The reactive element is supplied suspended in either water or solvent base

The reactive element is supplied suspended in either a water or solvent base. Auto Kandy applied the base coat under a layer of clear paint. Its paint costs £199 per litre and the bodyshop used around 7.5 litres on the Nissan Skyline R33

Wed, 09 October 2013

Ford develops Focus cars that park by themselves and avoid crashes

8 Oct 2013 20:22

Prototypes are designed to park at the touch of a button and take over the controls to steer around or stop in front of obstacles




Car giant Ford has unveiled a new Focus that avoids crashes by steering the driver out of trouble.

The prototype being road tested in Belgium, has been designed to take over the controls to miss obstacles from the car in front suddenly stopping to a child stepping into the road.

Ford’s hi-tech motor uses three radars, ultrasonic sensors and a camera than scans the road up to 200 metres ahead to monitor conditions.

It’s Obstacle Avoidance technology warns the driver of slow moving objects, pedestrians wandering across lanes, stationary obstacles and even a car pulling out unexpectedly.

If the driver fails to react to the alerts, the car scans for gaps on either side of the hazard, takes over the steering to miss the collision or automatically brakes to avoid a crash. 


The prototype hatchback has been tested at speeds of up to 40mph and was on show at the Ford Futures event in Belgium today.

Barb Samardzich, vice president of product development at Ford of Europe, said: “The Obstacle Avoidance research project offers an exciting glimpse of a safer future where the risk of some types of accidents could be greatly reduced.”

The car maker also showcased a car that parks itself - while the driver gets out and watches.

Just press the park button, hop out and the motor will squeeze itself into a space just 20% bigger than the body.

Fri, 04 October 2013

Mercedes-Benz just had its best month of car sales in history

Luxury car maker Mercedes Benz sold over 142,000 cars in September, its biggest month ever, according to the German paper Bild (link in German). A spokeswoman for Daimler, which owns Mercedes, said the figures in the Bild report were “in the right ballpark” but that official sales figures would be released on Friday, Reuters reported.



Mercedes appears to be making headway in two of the world’s most important car markets. According to Bild, the surge in sales was driven by demand for the A, C, and CLA class cars in the US and China.



Mercedes, as well as BMW and other car brands, have been targeting less affluent US customers with cheaper luxury models. That seems to be working. The Mercedes CLA coupe, the brand’s first to be sold in the US for under $30,000, sold over 2,300 units in its first week on sale.



Getting a boost in China would be especially good news for Mercedes, which has trailed its rivals BMW and Volkswagen there for years. It would also help justify its recent plan to spend €2 billion ($2.67 billion) opening more stores in smaller and western Chinese cities.



China, the world’s largest auto market, has seen its once-explosive growth of luxury car sales flatten recently. Sales of cars costing more than 2 million renminbi ($327,000) dropped to 8,000 last year, compared to 9,000 in 2011, according to research firm A.T. Kearney.

Sat, 14 September 2013

How to tell if your car needs new shocks

2005 Buick Allure (General Motors) 

That price does not seem too far out of whack for a complete new set and attendant labour and, at that mileage, depending on the conditions the car was driven under, it may be due for a change.

Shop around at both GM dealers and recognized aftermarket shops and you may save a few hundred dollars.

To tell if the shocks are shot, push down on each corner of the car repeatedly until you get a good rocking motion going; after one hard push down, let go and watch the car. If it continues to bob up and down more than one rotation, the shocks are likely gone on that corner. If it stops instantly, the shocks may be okay and you are just more sensitive to the bumps, they have become worse or the new and different tires are less forgiving.

Tue, 10 September 2013

Calgary police to begin rolling out new black and white cruisers!

Calgary police to begin rolling out new black and white cruisers

 By Clara Ho, Calgary Herald September 10, 2013 2:00 PM

The new Ford Police Interceptor sedan is purpose-built for law enforcement to build on its leadership legacy. It has standard all-wheel-drive and offers Ford’s award-winning Ecoboost for better performance and fuel economy.

Photograph by: Ford , Wieck

The Calgary Police Service will officially start rolling out its new black and white Ford Interceptor cruisers this week.

The cars will replace the service’s current blue and white Crown Victorias, which are being phased out.

Three of the new sedans will be out on city streets, joining the eight black and white vans and five black and white SUVs that are already out, said Insp. Ken Thrower.

Thrower, who led the charge to move to the new black and white colour scheme, said he received positive feedback from both the public and from officers who test-drove the Interceptors during a recent pilot.

“With the officers, they 100 per cent loved it ... they loved the aggressive look,” Thrower said. “The public said, ‘That car is sharp, mean, what a police car should look like.’”

After a year of testing several different models, the Calgary Police Service announced in April it would be test-driving the Interceptor for a half-year pilot period.

Thrower said the Interceptor narrowly edged out the Dodge Charger because the service’s police equipment seemed to fit better in the Ford. Garage workers also preferred working on the Ford.

“It’s a purpose-built police car,” Thrower said. “The old Crown Vic was a staple for policing, but it was really just a big sedan that was added over the years to make into a police package.”

The Calgary Police Service’s vehicle standards committee had considered going back to black and white cars for the last three or four years.

Thrower said members wanted their cars to look like the ones in the old days, adding the traditional black and white colour scheme would render the vehicles more recognizable to the public.

After learning the Crown Victoria car was no longer being produced, the committee took the opportunity for an image change.

The move saves the service about $6,000 per vehicle, said Thrower, though he would not comment on the total cost of building and preparing the car.

The new car also saves the service hours in labour. The current decal method involves painstakingly sticking each number and letter to the body of the car and can take a full day, while the new cruiser can be done in a wrap, which takes two hours or less.

The Calgary Police Service currently has about 375 marked vehicles, each with a lifespan of about three to five years. None of the current cars will be done up in the new colours, so it will take about four to five years to replace the fleet, Thrower said.

He said an order of 80 new vehicles will be placed each year until all of the old marked vehicles have been replaced.

Thrower said the marked SUVs and vans will also be redone in black and white.

Thu, 05 September 2013

Tire Pressure 101


The average car weighs a few thousand pounds. This hunk of metal is held to the road surface by four engineered pieces of rubber called tires. Most of a vehicle’s mass, however, is carried not by the tire structure itself, but by the air inside of it. In fact, tire inflation carries 95 per cent of a vehicle’s weight, says Gilles Paquette of the Rubber Association of Canada.

A 2009 study done by DesRosiers Automotive Consultants for the Rubber Association of Canada found that 49 per cent of vehicles inspected had at least one tire that was either over- or under-inflated. Working with the Government of Canada, the Rubber Association raises awareness of these issues through their Be Tire Smart campaign ( A key emphasis: teaching Canadians the importance of tire pressure and how to check it.

We talked to Paquette who gave us some tips on how to care for your tires.

Why check your tire pressure?

Low pressure “is a tire’s number one enemy,” Paquette says. It is essential to optimize the contact your tires have with the road. Otherwise you risk compromising your vehicle’s handling and braking ability and ultimately could put yourself at risk for tire failure.

Furthermore, a car that is being driven on under-inflated tires uses more fuel. The Rubber Association of Canada estimates that most drivers could save the cost of two weeks’ worth of fuel just by ensuring their wheels are properly inflated. “People don’t realize that they could be putting money in their wallet simply by taking five minutes to check their tire pressure,” Paquette says.

Improperly inflated tires will also wear faster, so maintaining them regularly helps maximize a tire’s longevity. The Be Tire Smart website suggests that with proper care you can even save on buying one or two sets of new tires throughout your vehicle’s life span.

Tire pressure should be checked monthly. Changing temperatures can impact tire pressure, with cold weather leading to faster loss of air, according to the Be Tire Smart site. Therefore, it is important to check your tire pressure every month, year-round. It is easy and literally takes five minutes, Paquette says.

The dangers of under-inflated tires

Paquette describes an under-inflated tire as an “upside-down U-shape. Basically what’s happening there is the sides of the tire are touching the road surface but the middle is not.” This can lead to poorer braking and handling. The sides of under-inflated tires also bend more than they should when turning corners. This creates a build-up of heat which could eventually lead to tire failure.

The Be Tire Smart website suggests that you may know your tires are under inflated if they squeal when stopping or cornering.

The dangers of over-inflated tires

An over-inflated tire takes on a U-shape, Paquette explains, meaning only the middle of the tire is touching the ground. This, too, minimizes the contact with the road surface. According to the Be Tire Smart site, an over-inflated tire can lead to steering and stopping problems as well as increased wear on both your tire and vehicle suspension.

Start by looking in the right place

It is a common misconception that the recommended tire pressure is printed on the tire itself. Paquette warns that this number is actually the maximum pressure that tire will hold under maximum weight, not necessarily the pressure the vehicle manufacturer took into account when they designed the car, its heaviness, cargo capacity and desired handling. “If you are looking on the tire, you are more than likely overfilling the tire,” Paquette says.

Instead, look for an information label on the vehicle, usually on a sticker inside the door panel. If it is not there, the owner’s manual will tell you where the sticker is located. If that fails, contact the vehicle manufacturer or a local tire professional or retailer; they can look up the vehicle and the recommended pressure for you.

Your front and rear tires may have different pressure recommendations, so take that into account when checking for the numbers.

How to check your tire pressure

Checking your tire pressure is not difficult, expensive or scary; in fact, it is very easy, Paquette says. You can purchase a tire pressure gauge—a pen-like instrument that costs around $10—at a local hardware or automotive store.

The Be Tire Smart website warns that you should check your tire pressure only when your tires are “cold”—that is, they have not been driven for more than two kilometers or have been stationary for at least three hours. Otherwise you will not get an accurate reading. Paquette suggests doing two or three readings to ensure that they are consistent and correct.

Unscrew the tire valve, place the gauge on the valve stem and the meter will give you a reading in PSI or kilopascals. Compare that to the recommended tire pressure on the car sticker and add or remove air as necessary. Recheck your tire pressure to ensure it is now within the recommended limits.

Paquette warns that many people get nervous when they hear a hissing of air while checking their tire pressure. This is normal, he reassures, and you are not harming the tire. The real harm, he warns, is not bothering to check your tire pressure at all.

For added convenience, you can purchase a mini air compressor that plugs into the car lighter. They can be as inexpensive as $20 and allow you to check and adjust your tire pressure in the comfort of your own driveway, Paquette says.

Don’t forget the spare!

If you have a spare tire, also remember to regularly check its pressure. It may have different requirements than your other tires, so be sure to look at the sticker on your car for those recommendations. Remembering to do this will save you the aggravation of going to change a tire and discovering that the spare is also flat!


Checking your tire pressure helps ensure that you are driving more safely and at the vehicle’s optimal handling. You are also saving on fuel while getting the most out of your tires. “Once you start doing it it’s easy and you’ll actually feel better somehow,” Paquette says.

For more information about all things tires, check out the Be Tire Smart website at

Wed, 04 September 2013

8 Tips For Saving Gas While You Drive

by Dave Poore on August 1, 2013 ·

 While I am no expert in physics or chemistry I do have quite a bit of experience in driving. You see, my round-trip commute to work is a grand total of 128.6 km! Combine that with many weekend trips to the cottage, 12-hour drives to university, or visiting family and friends around the province and you’ll know that I do a LOT of driving.

Due to all of this driving, I have researched and experimented with various techniques for saving fuel while driving. Below are some of the things that I have found successful in my plight and so far my best record is almost 820 km on a single tank of gas (filled to the brim and driven ’till the light comes on) in my 2010 Dodge Avenger SXT (2.4L).

Something to note before reading the following tips: the higher your RPM (rotations per minute, or how hard you are making your car work) the more fuel your vehicle is using, therefore striving to keep your RPMs down is the overall goal in these driving techniques.

1. Stay Calm

  • This is one of the overall principles here. If you stay calm and drive calmly, you’ll be on the gas and brakes less, therefore less slowing down and speeding up, using less gas.

2. Easy On The Throttle – Accelerate Slowly

  • This is probably one of the toughest techniques to get used to. It can annoy you, your passengers and other drivers on the road, but there’s no sense in:
    • racing from one stoplight to the next. If the light ahead is red, or about to turn yellow or red, you might as well coast, or brake gently, the rest of the way.
    • Beating the guy beside you. You don’t need to be the fastest one out there, you can rest easy in the fact that you’ll be saving money by using less gas!
    • Getting to the store/work/school/playground 30 seconds faster than if you had taken it easy.

3. Slower Cruising Speed

  • If you start paying attention to your RPM’s, you may notice that when you lower your cruising speed, your RPM’s will also drop. For example, dropping down from your normal 120 km/h to 110 km/h will save you some gas, and likely won’t change your driving time all that much.

4. Cruise Control

  • This is a handy little feature that most cars these days will have. If you’re one of those people that are constantly slowing down and speeding up (every time you speed back up, you use more gas than if you had kept a constant speed), cruise control may give you a hand in this area.
  • A couple things to remember with cruise control;
    • When driving up a steep hill, it may cause the car to down shift, to accelerate, which means your RPM’s will increase.
    • When driving down a steep hill, it may cause your car to down shift, to use engine braking to slow the car.
    • Be mindful of this, and ready to hit “Cancel” to take control of your speed again.

5. Constant Speed

  • Think about this for a second, every time you slow down, you have to speed back up right? Well, every time you speed back up, you use more gas than if you had kept a constant speed that whole time.

6. Stop & Go

  • In stop and go traffic, keep a large distance between you and the car ahead of you. This way, you don’t have to hit your brake pedal every time the driver ahead of you does, you can work on keeping a constant speed.

7. Windows and Air Conditioning

  • Having your windows open at certain, higher, speeds can cause more drag to your car. Air-conditioning uses more power from your car, making it work harder thus using more gas. Ultimately, sometimes you just have to suck it up and know that you’re going to use more gas to stay comfortable.

8. Plan Ahead

  • If possible:
    • Try to run all of your errands at the same time, minimizing that amount of trips you take.
    • Drive when the roads will be the least busy.

Fri, 30 August 2013

Five Great Canadian Road Trips

by Ian Palmer on August 22, 2013

While the summer road trip season is close to winding down, you still have enough time to check out some of Canada’s best sites.

There are obviously more things to see and do nationwide than there is time to take them all in before summer gives way to fall, but the following list of five great road trip ideas will give you some destination options to consider.

1. Cabot Trail


The 298-kilometre Cabot Trail is located on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. If you’re looking for a place that is recognized as one of the globe’s most scenic areas, Cabot Trail is a must see. Check out the Cape Breton Highlands, enjoy a nature tour or head out to catch Atlantic salmon in Margaree River. If art galleries are your thing, visit La Bella Mona Lisa Gallery for contemporary and traditional art. Other places of interest include the Acadian Museum, La Pirogue Fisheries Museum and the Dr. Elizabeth Lefort Museum.

2. Icefields Parkway


Stretching 232 kilometres in length, the Icefields Parkway in Alberta is a great road trip option. The parkway connects the Banff and Jasper National Parks, and gets its name from the large glaciers on the Rocky Mountains. While travelling along the parkway, you’ll also have the chance to see the Weeping Wall, Sunwapta Falls, the Columbia Icefield and the Icefield Centre. If wildlife viewing is up your alley, be on the lookout for elk, caribou, goats, bears and moose. The Icefields Parkway is quite popular this time a year with as many as 100,000 vehicles accessing the parkway during July and August, according to some estimates.

3. Dempster Highway


Ever get the chance to see the Northern Lights? Exploring Dempster Highway, a 671-kilometre route that stretches from the Yukon Territory to the Northwest Territories, will give you the chance. If you’re in the region in late August, you’ll also have the opportunity to see lots of autumn colors during your great road trip. Enjoy the Richardson Mountains, take in fishing and camping opportunities in the Mackenzie Delta or navigate your car across the Arctic Circle. Bring your camera because wildlife sightings are likely.

4.  Algonquin Provincial Park


Algonquin Provincial Park in Central Ontario is located between the Ottawa River and Georgian Bay. Hoping to incorporate some camping into your road trip experience? A trip to Algonquin Provincial Park is a good choice. Possible activities that will help you make the most of your great road trip adventure include fishing, biking, canoeing, backpacking, swimming and wildlife watching. You can also learn about the provincial park’s history at the Algonquin Art Centre, the Algonquin Visitor Centre and the Algonquin Logging Museum. These three facilities are stationed along the Highway 60 Corridor inside the provincial park.

5. Viking Trail


If you ever want to visit UNESCO World Heritage sites at L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and Gros Morne National Park, the Viking Trail will get you there. According to the Viking Trail Tourism Association, the Viking Trail is the largest themed highway in Newfoundland and Labrador. At 487 kilometers in length, the Viking Trail isn’t something you’ll be able to fully experience in a single day. Stick around for no less than a couple of days. From whale-watching boat tours to the Red Bay National Historic Site, there’s plenty to see and do.

Tue, 27 August 2013

BMW unveils all-new 4 Series Coupé

 BMW has unveiled the latest generation of its sporty mid-sized coupe.


Tue, 06 August 2013

Top 10 Car Maintenance Mistakes

Top 10 Car Maintenance Mistakes

Some simple tips to save money and add life to your ride.

By Tom Wilson of MSN Autos

Maintenance (© Thinkstock/Jupiter images)Click to enlarge picture


Shrewdly following the maintenance schedule provided in your car's owner's manual can prevent lengthy or more expensive visits to the service shop.


Compared to the family trucksters of a generation ago, modern cars require about as much maintenance as a toaster. This is a real liberation from the oil, lube and tune merry-go-round that ruled not so long ago.

Curiously, many people haven't adjusted their thinking to keep pace with new car maintenance schedules. The preoccupied still run their daily drivers without service until the dash warning lights burn out, while over-achievers fret about running synthetic oil more than 2,500 miles without a change.

Although maintenance intervals are now more widely spaced, even the newest cars require scheduled service to live long, productive lives. Whether yours is the latest model or you paid it off years ago, the trick is giving your car the maintenance it was designed to receive.

Surprisingly, the answer to what maintenance is required is hiding no farther away than the glove box. Every car is supplied with a maintenance schedule — in the owner's manual or in a separate maintenance log book — that details that vehicle's needs. A few minutes assimilating these requirements will help you avoid the following common car-maintenance pitfalls.

Proper Tire Inflation and Rotation
Tires leak naturally and need the occasional check. Figuratively speaking, underinflated tires suck up gasoline. Under- or overinflated tires wear out sooner, and deliver the same emergency maneuver handling as marshmallows. You probably aren't going to check tire pressures monthly, but how about twice a year?

Furthermore, front and rear tires wear differently and should be rotated to even that wear. Your owner's manual will have a recommendation on both pressure and rotation periods.

What other car maintenance mistakes should be added to this list?

Wiper Tales
Here's a news flash: It's much easier to avoid hitting things you can see. Simple as it is, that's the concept behind replacing your windshield wipers before they fossilize into noisy uselessness.

Fall is the ideal wiper replacement time: after the blade-baking summer and before the fall and winter nastiness. Depending on location, wiper replacement may be an annual affair in the Southwest to a biannual chore in northern climes.

Tune-Up Anachronism
There are no more "tune-ups." Valves no longer need adjusting, ignition timing is computer controlled and there are no carburetors to fiddle with. About all that's left of the old tune-up drill are the spark plugs. These are often good for 100,000 miles, so don't change parts just to change parts. Instead, save up for those big 60,000- and 120,000-mile services when the timing belt, spark plug wires and coolant are due for replacement.

Octane Overdose
"If some is good, more is better" thinking does not apply to octane. Here the rule is to supply whatever octane the engine is rated for and call it done. Higher-than-required octane does not yield more power or mileage, only oil company profits.

Some engines are rated for premium 91 octane fuel but can burn 87 octane regular, thanks to the magic of knock sensors. In that case, run regular gas if puttering around surface streets, and premium fuel if full-throttle driving is part of your daily repertoire.

Oil Change Timing
Oil changes every 3,000 miles used to be required jobs, just like cleaning the accumulated fuzz from record player needles or defrosting freezers. Today, advances in engine design and lubricants make oil changes something to be done when the schedule calls for it, not when granddad says it's time. Some cars call for 5,000-mile change intervals, some up to 15,000-mile stints. Others have a variable timer. Follow the schedule and use the oil called for by the manufacturer.

Tired Tires
Tires wear out, but they also time out. The tire industry says tires are toast after five years, but they're selling tires. It all depends on heat, sunlight and ozone conditions. There's little argument from any pundits that after seven years those black donuts are dried and better off holding down a farmer's tarp than carrying your family around. If you're not sure how old your tires are, a tire shop can read the date code stamped into the sidewall.

Dirty Air Filter
Semi-clogged air filters hurt fuel economy for the same reason you don't like to run with a potato in your mouth. The question is, when is your filter dirty? Under a Norman Rockwell schedule of small-town errand running and church duty, an air filter might not see much grit. But grimy city surface streets or just looking at a dirt road on a map are often enough to overwhelm air filters. This one is about conditions. If you go near dirt, the air filter may need changing twice as often as the schedule calls for.

What other car maintenance mistakes should be added to this list?

Ignoring Your Brakes
Note to the Wandering Unconscious: If you notice anything different about your brakes — sound, feel or response — they are telling you to visit a mechanic. Now.

Tighten Your Gas Cap
Is the Check Engine light on? Then make sure the gas cap is on tightly before calling the dealer. No joke, this is one of the most common ways of setting off your car's diagnostic system, since a loose gas cap defeats the fuel system's venting arrangement.

The Garage Is for Parking
Let's review. Your house is your most valuable investment. Your car is likely your second most valuable investment. If you're paying all that money, then why are you storing empty cardboard boxes, broken skateboards and plastic holiday wreaths in the garage? Pitch that junk and get the car in the garage!


Mon, 29 July 2013

Importance of Following an Auto Maintenance Schedule

ollowing an auto maintenance schedule can help keep your vehicle reliable and maintain its resale value. Maintenance schedules are developed by each manufacturer to highlight the recommended minimum maintenance requirements for a particular model or trim level. In most cases, completing this minimum recommended maintenance is necessary to keep a vehicle's warranty in good standing.

If, for any reason, your maintenance history does not meet or exceed the recommended minimums, you may have warranty claims denied by the manufacturer. If this happens, you may have to pay out of pocket for costly repairs. Regularly completing scheduled maintenance items like oil changes, filter changes and tune-ups can also keep your vehicle performing smoothly and getting good fuel economy.

Perhaps the most important reason to following an auto maintenance schedule is to preserve the resale value of your vehicle. While all vehicles depreciate on an ongoing basis, completing recommended maintenance can help raise the resale value of your vehicle. Whether you foresee selling to a dealership or private party, having proof of all completed maintenance on the vehicle can increase the value of your vehicle. Some car buyers are fanatical about maintenance, and closely following an auto maintenance schedule will appease them. From the dealership's end, a vehicle with a good maintenance record is easier to make a certified pre-owned vehicle. Whether you have scheduled maintenance completed at the dealership or an independent mechanic, be sure to save all documentation relating to maintenance items and other repairs in order to keep the warranty intact and raise the resale value of the vehicle.

Automotive Maintenance Services

The good news about most maintenance work is that it can be done quite easily at home for a substantial savings compared to what a shop would charge. In most cases it doesn't even take much time.

Oil and Filter Change

Changing your oil and oil filter is one of the most common and easiest maintenance jobs you can do yourself, requiring only simple tools and about 10 to 20 minutes of your time. Regular oil changes are invaluable to the life of your engine and are quite possibly one of the most important maintenance jobs you can perform.

Ignition System Maintenance

Spark plugs are very easy to replace, requiring only a spark plug socket and ratchet, and about five minutes of your time. In older cars, maintenance of the ignition system may also include replacement of spark plug wires, distributor cap and rotor. None of these are complex, and are easy replaced in a few minutes.

Cooling System Maintenance

Most modern cooling systems and coolant only require replacement every 100,000 to 200,000 miles. When refilling however, it is important to use only distilled water with a concentrated coolant, in order to prevent corrosion and mineral blockage. Always make sure to properly bleed the system after replacing coolant, as air bubbles can dramatically reduce cooling system ability.

Air Filter Replacement

Replacing your intake system's air filter is one of the easiest maintenance jobs you can do. In most cases it requires only a screwdriver, and about two minutes to replace. The benefits can include increases in power and MPG.

Brake Rotor and Pad Replacement

Brake pads and rotors are a common wear item on most cars, and vital to safe operation of your car. Both disc and drum systems can be serviced at home with only minimal tools, but it is important to make sure to replace brake fluid and bleed air from the system after hard use or when you change your pads and shoes.

Tire Pressure Check

Keeping your tires inflated is another key part to car maintenance. This may be the easiest thing on the list to do since all you need is a pump. If you don't have one, you can head over to a gas station and they have air stations, often free. Keeping your tires to full capacity and pressure will help increase your fuel efficiency by a couple percent, and that saves money. Every little bit counts, and all these savings will add up.

Tire Rotation

Rotating your tires can help increase the life and mileage you get out of your tires by rotating the more heavily worn tires with those that are less worn. Tire rotation requires only a lug wrench, jack and stands, and can be done in only a few minutes.

Transmission Fluid Change

Transmission fluid can be changed almost as easily as your engine oil and is vital to smooth operation and reduced wear of your transmission. It is also one of the most commonly forgotten maintenance items. Clean transmission fluid can greatly improve shifting feel and precision on automatic transmission cars.

Car Wash

Another part of car maintenance is having your car washed. Clean the outside of your car, vacuum the inside, etc. Not only does this make your car look great, but it helps keep your car from wearing away its paint due to corrosion. It also will help you if you decide to sell your car and having a great paint job can increase the value.

If you are not afraid of a little dirt and are comfortable with basic tools, you can do the bulk of regular maintenance yourself for less money and time than you think.

Wed, 24 July 2013

Five car-related items you can buy at a dollar store

You get what you paid for, goes the old saying…and those words of wisdom are still generally true.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Take the neighborhood dollar store, for instance. Gone are the days when dollar store shelves were lined with junk that wasn’t worth the plastic bag the cashier placed it in. Nowadays, you’re likely to find name-brand products at prices that are far lower than those at big-box stores.

If you’re interested in picking up some useful, inexpensive car-related products, read on because there is a dizzying array of stuff available. After a recent trip to a Dollarama store in North Bay, Ont., this writer came up with a list of five car-related things that you can pick up for at most a few dollars.

1. STEERING WHEEL COVER: One of the easiest ways to personalize your ride is to add a steering wheel cover. Available for $3, the product fits most steering wheels from 14.5-15.5 inches in diameter, insulates your hands against hot and cold extremes, and spruces up the interior of your vehicle for a relative pittance. So for a quick, inexpensive way to spruce up the interior of your car, truck or van, the steering wheel cover is one way to go. You’ll get to choose from among a number of different styles.

2. ANTI-MIST SPRAY: Ever have the windows get all foggy on you while driving? Definitely not a pleasant experience. The anti-mist spray, when applied as per the instructions, creates a barrier against mist build up. This means that you can get going  sooner than if you were to activate your defogger or defroster and wait for the windows to clear up. Cost? $1.00.

3. THREE-IN-ONE CLEANING TOOL: Want the ultimate window cleaning tool? The Viper Spray It three-in-one product is the answer. Sold for $2.50, the tool has a built in spray bottle, sponge and squeegee. Once you fill up the reservoir that can hold eight fluid ounces of cleaner solution, you’ll be able to keep your windows clean and streak-free.

4. VEHICLE PROTECTION WIPES: The Auto Protectant Wipes product guards against ultra violet rays, shines and protects. Available for $1.25, this product contains 25 wipes that can rejuvenate the interior trim of your vehicle and keep your car looking like new. It’s the sort of item you’ll want to store somewhere in your car so that you can have at it as needed.

5. CAR WASH SPONGE: Keeping your ride clean on the inside is one thing. Keeping it clean on the outside is quite another. In addition to water, soap and wax, you’ll also need some heavy duty sponges. A package of three large sponges, which the manufacturer says will be gentle on your vehicle’s paintwork, goes for $2.00.

The five aforementioned products are just a sampling of what’s available. When hitting a dollar store near you, check out the wide selection of stuff and, if in doubt, stick with products from manufacturers you’re familiar with. You’re less likely to experience disappointment that way. In any event, you’re sure to find a lot of nifty car-related products that offer you more bang for your buck.

Fri, 19 July 2013

DIY Car Hacks Show the Ingenuity of Untrained Mechanics

Air conditioner in a backseat window < (via
What you lose in aerodynamics and extra gas you gain in gloriously cool air.

Skip the mechanic with these 33 DIY car hacks

18 hrs ago

There's nothing like starting your car and being greeted with a dashboard warning light. Immediately, a wave of stress and obligation washes over you, and the thought of dealing with a crooked mechanic makes abandoning the car altogether seem preferable. But fear not, because a bevy of do-it-yourselfers have already explored at-home solutions to common car problems and posted their handiwork online. And the best part: The repairs usually won't cost more than a roll of duct tape and some twine. So break out the PVC pipes and Krazy Glue and let's all cross our fingers that we'll pass inspection with this gallery of DIY car hacks. 

Trending topic: diy car hacks | Click to see more on


Fri, 19 July 2013

How to determine the right tire size for your car

My 1995 Mazda 626 DX takes tire size P195/65R14. I want new all-season tires. My usual garage, who I trust, cannot find tires in that size, and suggests I substitute P185/70R14. A tire retailer confirms this. A Mazda dealer says there are a few tire models in the original size P195/65R14. Help! Who is correct?


Are there no tires in P195/65R14, or are there? If I changed to the substitute P185/70R14, that is a narrower tire. Would that not reduce control and possibly increase braking distance? 70 is higher aspect ratio than 65, so does that higher profile therefore have less control, less lateral stability and less steering response? Is it possible instead to substitute with a wider tire with same or less aspect ratio? – Alan in Toronto.

There is indeed limited availability of tires in the 195/65/R14 size. General Altimax and Kumho are the only ones I can find.It is common to Plus Size tires when looking for replacement tires and Minus Size when switching to winter rubber that you have to change to a wider/narrower tire with a lower/taller aspect ratio – ensuring you stay within a small variance of the overall diameter of the original tire supplied by the vehicle manufacturer.


Going wider is the general practice for summer or all-season tires because the wider tread allows more contact with the road and helps with steering and braking response. But don’t put too much significance into the changes to steering and braking as they would be hardly noticeable at this size. Similarly, going to a narrower tire is common for winter as the slimmer tread allows the tire to cut through snow more readily.


In addition to width, the changes in Plus and Minus Sizing include the depth of the sidewall, the distance from the rim to the road or aspect ratio, as it is called. The wider tire will have a lower sidewall and less room for impact absorption – it will ride rougher. Conversely, a narrower tire brings a taller sidewall with more shock absorbing capability.


Generally speaking, you give up on one front and gain on another – ride versus grip. Plus Zero sizing means keeping the original wheel diameter – 14-inches in your case. Plus One would mean a 15-inch wheel with a wider tire with a lower aspect ratio. Minus One a 13-inch wheel with a narrower tire and a taller aspect ratio – unwise in this application, but applicable when preparing vehicles with 18- to 20-inch tires for winter.


In your case, if switching wheels, you could conceivably also go to a Plus Two, which would mean a 16-inch wheel.


You appear to have three choices: the General Altimax in the original size, available at Canadian Tire; a narrower and taller tire on your original wheels or change wheels to Plus One size – the ideal choice in my opinion.


There is a wide selection of 205/60/15 tires and this may mean more competitive pricing and room to buy the larger wheels, leaving the originals available for winter rubber.


Whatever your choice, it is important to maintain the same overall tire diameter as the original. This is critical for several reasons, including speedometer accuracy, driveline gearing and the proper operation of ABS, stability and traction controls systems.


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