5 Things most people don’t understand about their cars

I recently took a drive with a good friend of mine (it was a female, which has no bearing on the story at all) and we poked fun at each other laughing all the way. Unfortunately this little back and forth soon turned ugly after I crossed a line somewhere and as a defense to this she said “Ha, I’ll push this button and turn your airbag off”

Hold up just one second.

There is a button on the dash to disable the very safety system that should be keeping my head attached to my body should you decide to rear-end a 18wheeler? No there is not.

Hence I decided to clear up the jargon and demystify some of these ejector seat buttons on your dash for you.

  • “Then I slammed on ankers and yoh china thank goodness my polo has ABS because it stopped dead” – Common misconception here. ABS does not in fact reduce stopping distance in a straight line all that much. ABS’ real strength in fact lies in the fact that car remains in control when swerving under heavy braking  For example you slam on brakes to swerve for the lifeless body in the middle of the road, but your wheels lock up as you sway the steering wheel back and forth and you skid right over the hooker. With ABS the brakes do not lock up, and give you the ability to steer the car AROUND the obstacle. Giving you directional stability while you slow down, but not necessarily the shorter stopping distance in a straight line. One thing to remember is you really need to get on those brakes to bring the ABS on. You’ll feel it pulsating through the brake pedal (easy calm down). I have found that most people don’t push the pedal hard enough, and then don’t get maximum braking force. Thankfully the manufacturers have thought of this too and given you BAS (Brake assist), giving you maximum stopping power if it realizes you’re just not getting there. Smart ne?


  • I’ve watched one too many genius tear down the road and find (As we do in good ol SA) a truck / mini-bus taxi, in your lane, doing around the speed of a one legged man. Most drivers, in their infinite wisdom just slam on the brakes and stare right into the back of the truck. Here’s a hot tip Quincy – see the truck, decide if it’s safe for you to swerve out, check your mirrors, and then LOCK YOUR EYES ONTO YOUR ESCAPE ROUTE. Don’t take them off the safe zone, and steer your car in that direction. Keep your eyes on the truck and panic and you’ll slam into it. With your eyes on your escape route your steering naturally takes that line. I learnt this whilst at BMW Advanced driving, so can’t claim this one myself


  • Back in the 70’s, when the Americans fitted airbags to their barges (read cars) they didn’t have a law to wear seatbelts, and thus found that there were quite a few people getting a little hammering from the airbag in a crash. It is no longer the 70’s people. [Ed – after much debate I’ve added this in] – In most newer models of vehicle, if you don’t wear a seatbelt and the airbag doesn’t deploy. Smart Car. It’s for your own safety, imagine lying on the steering wheel and having a mini explosion go off in your face closely followed by a flying fuck-kick to the face. That’s about the feeling of an airbag going off on you without a seatbelt on. Nowadays they have introduced measures to stop this type of thing. If there’s nobody in the seat, the passenger airbag doesn’t go off. Saving you money on the repair. Those little suckers are expensive, and so is facial reconstruction. An airbag works most effectively WITH a seatbelt, it is not a replacement for a seatbelt.


  • The one on the right

    If your car is fairly new, it should have a little scrolling dial on the right of the steering wheel down by the lights switch (I’m generalizing here but work with me). It usually dials from 0-3 and his a little light thing-a-ma-bob on it. Folks, as with some things in life, bigger / more is not better. This fancy little scrolling wheel changes the angle that your lights shine on the road. 0 is straight and far as possible, 3 aims the lights down low. Imagine you have your 3 besties (read fatties) in the back of your car. Driving at night with them would mean the lights of your car now shine higher because the car is lower at the back. This little dial allows you to angle the lights slightly down so as not to blind oncoming traffic. (Also used when towing, same theory) If you have it on 3 you’re probably limiting the visibility at night to around 10metres (if that) in front of your car. You should see around 30metres in front of your car. Leave it on 0. That all said, please note, ff a car is equipped with xenon/HID headlamps it is required to have an automatic levelling system, and thus will not feature a manual adjustment dial.


  • Press it!

    The airbag on/off indicator. Note I said indicator. You’ll see that when you open the passenger door / on the sun-visor passenger side it’ll have a sticker that should show you how to correctly put a baby seat in the front passenger seat.(Bear with me, It’ll all make sense soon) Most modern cars with dual front airbags allow the passenger airbag to be switched off, so that you can put a baby seat in the front of the vehicle, or have a child under the age of 10 ride up front. You do not in fact slam a button on the dash to do this, but rather open up the glovebox and use your car key to switch the airbag off. It’s a manual process folks, and you can’t just willy-nilly switch it off after fighting with your bestie about the latest Ke$ha song. It’s also not supposed to be off unless you have a baby seat there. That indicator on the dash should show “ON”. Not so dramatic anymore is it.


Simple as that – I do hope you found that informative and if you have any other questions I’d be happy to answer them too – just mail me / post them as a comment below.

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