Street Smart Ideas for Trick or Treat

Trick or Treat night is such a fun time in my neighborhood! We always have lots of takers and weather-permitting, the neighbors all  sit outside to watch the parade of giddy kiddies. It probably will not surprise you to learn that I always give EXTRA candy to the kids that come to my door in auto-themed costumes! Lightning McQueen  has been a very popular choice in recent years.

If you are still working on costume ideas and are a do-it-yourself type, here are some clever ideas to help you along:








Many of the components of this cute car costume can be found around your home.

This costume just requires a little dressing up of ordinary clothing items, and has the added benefit of being warm!

Coolest Homemade Costumes has an entire page full of high speed costumes like this fresh idea!

Looking for a family costume? This one covers the entire crew!

And this amazing transformer concept just has to be seen. Here are two awesome examples:

If you don’t have the creative skills to make your own car themed costume, there’s a wide variety ready-made options to choose from.

Have a fun and safe Trick or Treat night!

Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems

Dear Tracy,

My friend just purchased a new car and one of its features is an internal system that monitors tire pressure. Can you tell me how this system works?

-Becca G.

Dear Becca,

A tire pressure monitoring system, also referred to as a TPMS, is an electronic system that continuously monitors the air pressure of all four tires. The TPMS alerts the driver when tire pressure falls below a preset limit by illuminating a warning light on the dashboard.

As of 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has required that all passenger cars, light trucks and vans (Gross weight less than 10,000 pounds) be equipped with a TPMS. Earlier model vehicles can be retro-fitted with a tire pressure monitoring system installed by a qualified service professional.

Tire pressure monitoring systems come in two designs –  direct and indirect. A direct monitoring system places a pressure sensor on each tire, usually on the valve stem or band mounted. The sensors used in direct systems are powered by separate lithium batteries, which ultimately need replacement. This means that direct tire pressure monitoring systems need to be serviced regularly and should be part of scheduled maintenance.

The technology used in indirect tire pressure monitoring systems is based on the calculation of factors, including tire size. The diameter of a tire is smaller when it is not properly inflated, and when one tire is smaller than the other three, it will have to spin faster to keep up. Speed sensors applied at each wheel position identify an underinflated tire by comparing the rotational speed of each wheel with the average speed of all four wheels.  This calculation is used to determine if one is spinning significantly faster than the others, and therefore underinflated. While the indirect system does not require servicing, the design does have some issues, such as the problem that if all four tires are underinflated, the system may not detect an abnormality.

All tire pressure monitoring systems installed on 2008 vehicles and later are required to detect and warn the driver when the system is not functioning properly through a malfunction indicator. For some systems, a malfunction is indicated by a flashing of the low tire pressure warning light for a period 60 to 90 seconds with the warning lamp remaining illuminated following the flash sequence. The flash and illumination sequence will repeat at each subsequent vehicle start-up until the problem is addressed. If your vehicle has a TPMS, be sure that you are familiar with the malfunction warning for your specific system.

Rolling Resistance – What Does it Mean for Tires

Dear Tracy,

I have heard the term “rolling resistance” used in describing tire features. Can you tell me what rolling resistance means and why it is important?

Amber M.

Dear Amber,

Rolling resistance is a term that describes the force resisting motion as a tire moves along the surface of the road. Most vehicle manufacturers install original equipment tires with low rolling resistance to optimize performance for government Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate testing. Tires developed for lower weight and rolling resistance are often constructed with thinner sidewalls and shallower tread depths. The materials that go into tires can also have an impact on rolling resistance. While tires with low rolling resistance are good for fuel economy, these tires may not have all the features you need for your replacement tires.

The kind of tire you put on your car should offer both performance and safety for your particular model, as well as the kind of driving you do on a day to day basis. Weather factors may also be a consideration if you happen to live in a climate that experiences extreme conditions on a regular basis.

In today’s market, most tire manufacturers offering fuel-saving, low-rolling-resistance tires. Make sure you work with your tire dealer to find a quality tire that offers the right features for your needs, vehicle, and budget.

While we are on the subject fuel economy, remember that proper tire maintenance is essential in getting the best fuel economy, and maximizing the life of your tires. Check tire pressure at least once a month, and keep the pressure at the level recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. Scheduled maintenance checks on balance and alignment will also help you get the best mileage and optimum performance life from your tires.

Steering Problems – Front End Alignment Can Set You Straight

Dear Tracy,

I have recently been having problems with my car’s steering pulling to the left.  As I am driving, in order to keep the care straight, I have to pull the wheel to the right. Is it normal for a car to do this as it gets older? Is it something I should have checked out?

Jeremy B.

Dear Jeremy,

If your car is pulling to one side, that is definitely a sign of trouble. Mostly likely your car is in need of a front end alignment. Misalignment is usually not the result of normal driving wear, but instead the result of a collision, driving over an obstruction, or some other type of impact.

It is important to get your car in for front end alignment service as soon as you can. Not only is it unsafe to drive a vehicle that does not steer or handle well, your tires will be subject to improper wear. When tires do not wear evenly, as they were designed to do, they wear out much faster in certain areas than they should.

When you bring in your car for a front end alignment, your auto technician will adjust the angle of the wheels to be in accordance with the recommendations of the vehicle manufacturer. They will use precision equipment to set the proper front end alignment, making sure that all the necessary adjustments are made. Depending on how long your car has been out of alignment, you should ask your technician to also inspect your tires to make sure your tire tread is still in good condition.

Get Ready For Winter Driving: Keep The Pressure On

Dear Tracy,

I always dread winter driving season. Now that fall is here, I am beginning to worry about the ice and snow that is around the corner. A friend told me that if you reduce the pressure in your tires you will have better traction on snow and ice. Is that good idea?

Annie T.

Dear Annie,

Trying to improve your traction by decreasing the air pressure in your tires is definitely not a good idea. Not only does it not work, underinflated tires actually cause the engine to work harder, due to increased rolling resistance. Under inflated tires also affect your car’s steering and handling. Under inflation is the most common cause of tire failure because it promotes excessive tire stress, irregular wear, and poor handling.

It is, however, a very good idea to prepare for the winter driving season, and there are plenty of things you can do to drive safely.  The best way to avoid dangerous situations is to maintain control and remain safe on the road. Being ready for winter driving will help you do just that. Here are a few safe winter driving tips:

  • Install a set of quality snow tires, and be sure to install four of them to achieve the best handling and tracking.
  • Always drive a little slower during winter conditions.
  • Double your anticipated stopping distance when braking in bad weather because it always takes longer to stop a vehicle on ice and snow.
  • Keep in mind that a four-wheel drive SUV does not have better braking ability than a two-wheel drive car.

The changing of seasons is also a good time to make sure you are up-to-date on your required routine tire and auto maintenance. Driving a car that is equipped and ready to go is always the best way to avoid any problems on the road.