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Our Top 10 Car Advice articles of 2016

We’re not just about news and car reviews – we offer plenty of great car advice too. Here are the pieces that appealed to the most number of people in 2016.

HERE AT Practical Motoring we pride ourselves on our advice articles, be they myth-busting pieces, answering reader questions, or just good old-fashioned car advice that we think Australian car buyers want to read about.

The following 10 articles are the ones that caught the eye of the most number of readers in 2016, some were penned in 2015 but continued to resonate this year and will likely continue to resonate next year too. Remember, if there’s something you want to know, or something you want explained then, get in touch at readerhelp@practicalmotoring.com.au.

  1. Daytime running lights and the law

Since 2011 all passenger cars and small delivery vans sold in Europe have been required to have daytime running lights (DRL) fitted as standard, this is the same in Canada and many other countries. But there’s no such requirement in Australia, yet, due to the cost of offering cars with daytime running lights in one market and then not offering them in a market where their fitment isn’t mandated, most makers offer cars here with them, citing the safety benefits.

But, do daytime running lights offer any real safety benefit? Yes, and no. Well, that’s the rather confusing black and white answer, anyway. See, it all depends on what time of day you’re driving around…

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. How to run in a new car

A car is a collection of various components bolted or otherwise connected, particularly the engine. When anything is connected to anything else there will be a tiny mismatch here and there, and this is known as a tolerance. The parts need to settle into through the tolerances into their best working positions, gently, and this is what running in is all about.

The piston rings need be bedded in to the cylinder walls. The process for running in will be described in your owner’s manual. Typically it involves driving gently for around the first 1600km without exceeding an RPM limit, but there’s a bit more to it than that. The trick with running in a new car is varied engine loads, not just racking up the kays.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. All you need to know about towing heavy trailers

This is a long and detailed one that literally explains with words and pictures, everything you need to know about towing a heavy trailer and how to determine if your trailer is too heavy for your vehicle. See, owning a big, heavy trailer is not just a matter of hooking up and hoping for the best. Here we look at towing in detail.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. Where can you legally mount an LED light bar?

The first principle of vehicle modifications in Australia is that the answer is always state-specific.  Sadly, each part of Australia has its own road authority, which has a slightly different set of rules so what’s legal in one state may not be legal in another.  Because, well, who knows.  We just have to live with the pain.

LED lights are popular because they’re relatively cheap, provide a nice, white light, are small and easy to mount relative to conventional driving lights.  And they look cool.   LED bars are not a subsitute for spotlights because there’s just not enough room to design a reflector which can throw light a reasonable distance, so instead they’re best used as short-range fill lights for manouvering, low-range driving, recovery or working.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. How does Mitsubishi’s Super-Select system work?

The Super-Select system has been around for quite a while now on Pajeros of different types, as well as some Challengers and Tritons.  There are four modes: 2H –  4H –  4H LC –  4L LC. 2H is two-wheel drive, specifically the rears only.  4H is 4X4, driving all four wheels, but in an all-wheel-drive mode that is safe to use on high-traction surfaces like bitumen.  4H LC is the same, but locks the “centre differential” (LC = Locked Centre) for better traction offroad.  Don’t use this on high-traction surfaces like bitumen.  4L LC is the same as 4H LC except the crawler gears are engaged.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. What is a CVT and how does it work?

In a nutshell, a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, doesn’t offer fixed gear ratios like a either a manual gearbox, automatic transmission or a DSG (Direct Sequential Gearbox, a newer type of auto). Rather, the CVT allows the vehicle’s engine to run at its most efficient revolutions per minute (RPM) for a range of vehicle speeds. The most obvious application for a CVT is when you’re trying to ensure maximum fuel efficiency, hence why Subaru has paired Boxer engines and all-wheel drive (all-wheel drive adds weight and can affect fuel consumption driving up the relative fuel consumption of a Subaru when compared with a non-AWD SUV in the same segment) with a CVT.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. Country road overtaking is a safety issue

This year we described something called the Australian Overtake – you know, where you attempt to overtake a car on the freeway and it takes forever as you’re doing 99.9km/h and they’re doing 99.1. That struck a chord with people, and sparked other writers to vent about keeping left on freeways. But confected outrage doesn’t help win the argument. Cold hard logic does, so let’s see why legal overtaking often isn’t safe. The law says you must not exceed the speed limit when overtaking. It also sets a speed limit for each road. So let’s set the scene; we have a country road with a limit of 100km/h, along which there is a car travelling at 90km/h. We are travelling at 100km/h, and eventually catch the car in front.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. Suspension modification laws explained

There are so many versions of what’s a legal modification. Ask any ten people in the trade what sort of lift or larger tyres you can fit to your 4×4 and you’ll get 10 different answers; “50mm lift is ok”, “33 inch tyres are fine” and so on. Yet the simple fact is that the current laws are written down by each state’s road authority and easily available on their websites; for example in the case of Victoria it’s all available here. Unfortunately, as usual, each state has its own laws for the same thing and they’re all slightly different.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. Towing and why 3500kg doesn’t always mean 3500kg

The short explanation is that most vehicles, particularly utes, can only tow their maximum braked trailer weight with a light load otherwise they exceed their design limits for weight.  And that is the asterisk which usually sits behind those bold 3500kg claims.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

  1. Explaining the Australian Overtake

So, there you are, cruising at 100km/h exactly on the freeway, in the middle of three lanes. Ahead is another driver doing 98km/h, and eventually you draw close enough for an overtake.

To pass you might pull out when you’re say five car lengths behind, and maybe pull in when you’re five ahead. Call it 10 all up, or about 50m. That overtake at a speed difference of 2km/h means you’ll need 90 seconds to get past, over which you’ll travel 2.5km. And that’s assuming you maintain an even 2km/h overtake rate. The car being overtaken might speed up just a fraction, or you may slow down a touch. Then you’re in overtaking limbo… unable to complete the overtake, but unwilling to drop back and start again. You certainly don’t want to increase speed to say 103km/h as you run the risk of a fine. Instead, you’re side-by-side with the other car for the rest of eternity, a dual-lane rolling blockage.

Top 10 Car Advice articles on Practical Motoring

Do you have a question for Practical Motoring? Leave a comment below, or write to us at readerhelp@practicalmotoring.com.au


1 Comment

  1. January 3, 2017 at 10:01 am — Reply

    Hi Booker… Here’s the two sentences you’re referring to, but you only chose to use one of the sentences… “Typically it involves driving gently for around the first 1600km without exceeding an RPM limit, but there’s a bit more to it than that. The trick with running in a new car is varied engine loads, not just racking up the kays”. So, as you can see, we did suggest there was more to running in a new car… “varied engine loads”. Cheers Isaac

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Isaac Bober

Isaac Bober