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This diary is inspired by the must read one by The Baculum King, on the recommended list.  Please put off reading this and link to that one first.

I will not go over his excellent observations and suggestions, except to reiterate that cellular telephones and black (at home we call it "glare") ice are very underestimated sources of hazard.  Pull over if you want to send or take a call, and drive very slowly on glare ice.

With that said, here are my suggestions for a safe trip.  Please add any of yours in comments.

First, make sure that your vehicle is roadworthy.  That means checking and topping off all fluids (in really bad weather country it is not a bad idea to carry extra windshield washer fluid), checking belts for tension and wear, and just doing a general, walk around visual inspection.

Look at your tires, and even better, buy a tire guage.  The are not expensive, and not only help you determine tire pressure for fuel economy, they also let you know when your tires are dangerously underinflated.  It turns out that tire pressure being low increases rolling resistance, and that, in minor cases, cuts economy, and, if major, compromises the integrity of the tire.  The last thing that you want is a blowout at 70 mph.

Check your tires for wear.  If your tread is less than 3/32 of in inch, consider replacing them.  Take a US cent and put it in the groove in the tread.  If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, they are badly worn.  Also check for bad spots.  If you see what looks like steel wool and a crack, replace your tires or do not drive.  I mention tires near the top because a catastrophic tire failure is one of the worst things that happen to you whilst driving.

To find the proper inflation pressure, open the driver's door and look for a plate or sticker.  It has the information that you need to inflate them properly.  And buy a gauge, the ones at the convenience stores are usually out of calibration because of careless use.  The better ones are the dial type, whilst the ones that push out a stick are usually not as reliable.  If this is beyond you, go to a reputable shop and have them do it.

By the way, do not fall for the nitrogen sales pitch.  It is just that.  As a professional scientist, I can assert that there is no benefit for using nitrogen rather than air, with the caveat that, in very cold climates, the moisture in regular compressed air might have a very minor effect.

OK, we are good mechanically now.  What about your cargo?  I am traveling alone, with some garden delights from the bounty of the summer.  However, many of you will have gifts, children, and pets.  Please take a minute to secure then.  Here is what I mean:

Any loose objects should be restrained to prevent them from becoming missiles in case of a collision.  A small, heavy object laying in the back seat can become an incapacitating blow to the head on a sudden stop.  Either put them in the trunk, or tie them down well.

Obviously children should be restrained in proper car seats.  I will not belabor this point, because if you are not already doing this, you are beyond any words that I can write.  However, many folks do not realize that there are pet restraints available.  I encourage their use, and not only for the sake of the pet.  Having a little pootie climb into your lap whilst you are driving is not safe.

For winter driving, more precautions are needed.  I speak from experience, because I had to abort a trip three years ago because of the four inches of ice that accumulated on Interstate 40 in central Tennessee whilst I was driving to Arkansas for Christmas.  My 10 hour drive turned into 22, not counting the overnight at a motel that I was fortunate enough to find with a room left for hire.

Take warm blankets and clothing.  If you get stranded for any reason, and it is below freezing outside, you will be glad that you did.  And keep your fuel tank over half full, since when you run out of fuel you run out of heat.  By the way, never run your engine if your vehicle is deep in snow.  That puts a block on the exhaust, and can cause carbon monoxide to infiltrate the passenger area.  Breathing that will kill you to death.  Warm textiles will go a long way towards compensating for this.

Take some nutritious food with you, again to keep up body temperature.  Nuts, chocolate, jerky, and other high nutrition (high calorie) foods are good to keep on hand, and do not forget water.  For those who need prescription medication, take that as well and keep it in easy reach.

Above all, keep attention and vigilance at hand at all times.  The old slogan, "Watch out for the other guy" is as valid as it was decades ago.  Please, all of you valued readers, do not become "the other guy".

I hope that this has been valuable.  Once again, except for moving accidents, tires are probably the most critical items, since things that are really bad can happen really fast if a tire fails.

I will close by recommending the diary, once again, by our friend The Baculum King.  Take his words seriously.

UPDATE:  I neglected to mention wiper blades.  According to Consumer Reports, they only last about six months due to sun damage and abrasion.  Now is a good time to replace them, before you travel.

Safe driving, and, as always,

Warmest regards,


Originally posted to Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 04:52 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tire pressures are also printed on the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ice Blue, Translator

    sidewall of the tires.

    I carry a couple short, fat candles and a large METAL coffee can during cold weather.  If I happen to become stranded, I can make a small space heater by burning a candle in the coffee can.  Put it on the floor away from all interior fabrics and plastics.

    "Go well through life"-Me (As far as I know)

    by MTmofo on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:20:09 PM PST

    •  What you say is correct, but the ones (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue, MTmofo, happymisanthropy, cee4

      inside the door have been evaluated by the car manufacturers to provide the best handling for the particular automobile.  They are often different.  The ones on the tire itself is the maximum recommended pressure, not the optimum pressure.

      Warmest regards,


      I could use income in exchange for value. I need work badly.

      by Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:22:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  That is correct as well. I should have gone (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        a bit further to say that when owners buy a new set of tires for their vehicle they may not be the stock variety that rolled off the assembly line.

        When I bought a new set of summer tires for my Honda I specified that they had to have a higher speed rating and added water wickability.  My tire guy informed me that they had their own optimum pressure, which differed from car maker's numbers.

        As with most equipment, know your specs.

        And while I'm yakking, do you have any insight as to the reliability of the tire gauges that use an LED read-out?

        "Go well through life"-Me (As far as I know)

        by MTmofo on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:40:59 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Second question first, and no, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I do not.  I suspect in those devices the critical piece is the sensor, not the display.  Consumer Reports, to my knowledge, has not treated them yet.

          As to the first question, I would defer to the tire company, but would want to see their data.  It is easy to make up a set of words.  Remember, the sooner that you wear then out, the more that you buy.  At least the car companies are not in the tire business, and that is a good thing.

          Thanks for reading, commenting, and questioning.

          Warmest regards,


          I could use income in exchange for value. I need work badly.

          by Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:45:18 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I don't always make my presence known, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            but I read the vast majority of your diaries.

            Keep posting.

            See sig line.

            "Go well through life"-Me (As far as I know)

            by MTmofo on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:54:16 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You are a valued reader, and please (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              know that I look at each tip and rec.  I really need folks like you, and many others, to ask hard questions.

              Never take my words at face value.  Although I always make my best efforts to be accurate, I am wrong from time to time.  Thus, I need to be corrected when readers know better.

              As you said, you have read many of my posts, and know that I readily acknowledge when I am incorrect.  Folks like you keep me not only honest ( I never am dishonest, but sometimes wrong) and accurate.

              Warmest regards,


              I could use income in exchange for value. I need work badly.

              by Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:58:53 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  The candle is a carbon (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue, MTmofo, happymisanthropy

      monoxide hazard as well, but not nearly as much as the exhaust.  One of the first symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning is headache, so if you get one, blow it out and bundle up in your textiles.

      Warmest regards,


      I could use income in exchange for value. I need work badly.

      by Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 05:32:51 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  just changed wiper blades today (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MTmofo, Translator, Clio2

    I hadn't realized it was almost 5 months since I changed the oil last so I did that too.  I don't drive that much, so that is why I didn't know how long it had been.

    •  Not driving much might make you want (0+ / 0-)

      to change your oil more often, as conterintuitive as that sounds.  To get it to work well, you need to get it hot to drive off the water and volatile acids.

      You do more damage to a engine with 1000 miles at four or five at a time than with 5000 at 100 or 200 at a time.

      Always change the filter, too.

      Warmest regards,


      I could use income in exchange for value. I need work badly.

      by Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 06:01:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I am wondering if I should get (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, 1864 House

    one of those auto-mounted devices that are supposed to make a supersonic whistling noise that repels deer? Are they any good?

    This month I was hit by a deer in a semi-urban area that is having a deer population boom. Yes, hit by. The deer jumped into heavy, speeding traffic and collided with the rear door of my car. Horrible. But thank heaven it didn't jump in front of us, we could have had a multi-car pileup.

    •  That one has been debunked. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      1864 House

      Not worth the money.  Much better that you drive more slowly and keep your eyes open wide.

      Warmest regards,


      I could use income in exchange for value. I need work badly.

      by Translator on Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 06:28:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  wow - that deer/traffic story is bizarre, for me (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Translator, Progressive Chick

      -- simply because it has never been a hazard I have had to deal with (mostly have lived in L.A. and San Francisco)

      -- Therefore, a curiosity question:

      Our country's highways are marked with all kinds of informational signage...  And I have certainly seen yellow-diamond signs warning for Deer, or Deer Crossings.

      Based on the experiences of those who drive in those kinds of areas, are those signs, in the most general sense, pretty accurate? as in -- if I see a sign like that on a road, is there a strong chnace that deer literally do cross in this area at some point most every day?

      I guess the more precise question is: what does one look for? or are you saying that the safest method to observe those warning signs is to drive slower?

  •  Nice diary, even though I don't drive n/t (4+ / 0-)
  •  Absolutely second the rec about objects (3+ / 0-)

    in the passenger compartment. I used to do solo II racing, essentially low speed on winding courses that never exceeds about 40 mph (it seems really fast when you are doing the driving). The G forces would throw anything you forgot to put into the trunk like missiles even at low speed. At higher speeds with kids and no helmet, very dangerous. I saw a wreck in San Francisco that was at relatively low speed that threw the headrests out of the car window as the car did a 180. The kinetic energy in a car traveling 40 mph is enormous.

    820 Illinois-427 Senate Sponsored-152 Senate authored. Obama record on Bills. Palin record 0-0-0. Palin Lies-1 big one and counting.

    by marketgeek on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 10:11:20 PM PST

  •  kinda late but (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Translator, Progressive Chick

    Use Rain-X on all exterior glass and mirrors. Incredible increase in visibility.
    Mobile phone in a pocket or where it can be located when dark or upside-down.

    "Never get out of the boat."

    by tlemon on Sun Nov 23, 2008 at 02:36:25 AM PST

  •  Public transport tips: NY BOS holiday time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Take it from a former driver Boston - NYC, a strategically planned bus or car/train ride is less stressful than driving and less expensive than Amtrak--which at t'giving time tends to be late late late.

    These are tips for those beyond student age who think the bus is a zoo meant only for students. It is zooish, but there are ways to make it less so or not a all. Also ways to work with Amtrak screwups.

    In addition to Greyhound/Peter Pan and Chinatown buses, there are the new buslines. The Boston Globe of June 21st? or thereabout did a consumer test of all of them. I have yet to test their testing. The new ones offer reserved seats, I am told.

    Chinatown buses: one has a bad rep for accidents and both for service, but they are the most convenient if heading to East Village and lower Manhattan neighborhoods. Otherwise, my view, fogeddaboutit.

    Making Greyhound less of a chore:

    1. Buying tickets on line is far cheaper than at the station. Look for the e-ticket button on the home page. IT IS NOT OFFERED ON THE FARES AND SCHEDULES PAGE.
    1. They offer a 5.00 reserved seating and early boarding guarantee. It can only be purchased at the bus station, and only up to 20 minutes in advance. Which can mean standing on line for upto another 20 minutes extra at the ticket counter at Port Authority, 10 at So. Station. At PA, look out for the overflow counter next to the greyhound desk in the North Building. Except, that at holiday times in NY Port authority, they will have someone selling then down at the gate--usually someone wearing a yellow safety vest with a portable table. But the 20 minute rule applies. Be ready for nasty looks as they pull you out of the long line and put you on first.
    1. Live in the Boston burbs? Get on at Riverside. You must call locally or pick up 20 min. ahead. They reserve a seat for you by phone. No e-fares. Some discount if you buy ahead and pick it up.  Drive to Riverside and park overnight for the weekend. Buy sufficient tickets for the number of day/nights to be spent, put them on the dashboard, and wait 20 min. for your bus with a seat reserved for you.


    Amtrak: IIRC senior discount starts at 62 and is better deal than AAA,15 vs. 10%. If the trains is very very late, try asking for a discount. You may have to ask 4 times and wait 4 months. It is in the form of a check to be applied to another Amtrak ride.

    Car and Train:

    If you like the flexibility of driving from Boston but don't want the car in the City (e.g. Manhattan), drive to New Haven, park the car inexpensively in the Union Station garage and take Metro North--far cheaper than Amtrak and for those staying on the Upper East or West Side, there is a stop at 125 that cuts out the hassle of Grand Central (but also the grandeur and great food market + at holiday time, craft and gift market) .

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