6 Tips for Stress Free Car Hire


There’s no need for car hire to be a stressful process, here’s a few tips on how to ensure things run smoothly and avoiding nasty surprises:

  • Book Earlier – Always the best advice as this ensures the best rates and locks in the vehicle you’re after. With no Credit Card details required when booking through sites such as DriveNow.com.au and no booking or cancellation fees locking in Car Hire has never been easier.
  • Booking Optional Extras – If you need Baby or Booster Seats, Sat-Nat aids or other optional extras ensure these are requested when making your initial booking as there will be limited numbers available in each location.
  • Read the Contract – Not the most interesting of things to do, however ensure you know and understand what your obligations are and what the rental company is responsible for.
  • Check your Car – Before leaving the rental depot check the inside and out of your vehicle for any damage or markings and compare against the documentation supplied by the rental company. Take photos and/or notify a car rental representative so it can be recorded before leaving their premises.
  • Obey the Rules – Rental companies place certain restrictions on where their vehicles can be taken. Some examples of where not to drive include, beaches, off-road and on unsealed roads (house-drives excepted), through fords and above the snowline (unless snow-package taken). Driving in these areas invalidates all insurance and means you would be liable for all costs in the event of damage or an accident. If in doubt check with your rental provider when picking up the vehicle that your travel plans do not contravene their terms and conidtions.
  • Notify the Car rental Supplier – If you need to extend your rental period or change your drop-off location let the rental company know as early as possible. You will incur additional charges however the earlier you contact the rental supplier the lower the charges are likely to be.

The Team at DriveNow


5 Money saving Tips when Hiring a Car


Here’s some great tips on how to keep the cost of renting a car down to a minimum:

  • Book Earlier – Possibly the best tip. The earlier you book generally the cheaper the rental rate you will secure especially around peak times such as Christmas, Easter and School Holidays. Many rental companies have automated pricing systems that raise rates depending upon how close the pick up date is and vehicle availability. With no need to provide credit card details and no cancellation fees you’ve nothing to lose plus you secure the vehicle you’re after. This is particulary important if you’re in the market for a People-Mover (7 seater) around a peak time.
  • Compare and you will save – Make use of booking sites such as DriveNow.com.au, offering a free service with no booking or cancellation fees you can compare cars and prices from all the major rental companies. Your booking is made directly with the rental company and confirmed to you via email with no payment required until you pick up your car.
  • Fill up before you drop off  – Make sure your car has a full tank of fuel when you return it to the rental company – some rental providers charge a premium for topping up fuel tanks.
  • Insurance – All rental providers have a standard excess fee – this is the amount you are liable for in the event of an accident. This excess amount can be reduced by paying a daily excess reduction fee when picking up your rental car. However many travel insurance policies and some credit cards cover this excess. It’s worthwhile checking.
  • Notify the Car rental Supplier – If you need to extend your rental period or change your drop-off location let the rental company know as early as possible. You will incur additional charges however the earlier you contact the rental supplier the lower the charges are likely to be.

The Team at DriveNow


Noodling for opals in Lightning Ridge


IT’S off to see the natural wonder of Opals, we go. In Lightning Ridge, that is, which is about a nine hour direct drive after collecting your Sydney campervan rental if you don’t plan on having any stops.

Lightning Ridge is one of those quirky, bizarre and often downright weird places. But it’s a place you just have to visit in this lifetime, especially for a family holiday. The kids can enjoy noodling – a bizarre name for digging for Opals – above or below ground. Many people have come to Lightning Ridge and struck gold! Or perhaps I should say Opals, anyway. Black Opals.

It’s a place so arid and sparsely planted that you often think, ‘Why on earth would anyone live out here?’ But it’s exactly that very fact that attracts so many people each year. It’s an odd place, with living conditions you will only ever find the same in Coober Pedy. Mounds of dirt provide the landscape, where miners of times past have dug and dug … and dug.

Mitchell, our nephew (pictured), spent nearly four hours ‘noodling’ near the local information centre. He was not going home empty handed! So, in the end I went down the street and brought him an opal. A much quicker, easier and cleaner way of getting yourself an Opal! Funnily enough though, many tourists do actually find good size opals just noodling in and around town.

Have you ever seen a house made entirely out of glass bottles? Neither had we, but Lightning Ridge just keeps on surprising us. The locals are the most hospitable you will ever meet. Nothing is ever too much trouble and they will bend over backwards to make your stay enjoyable. My only tip is to make sure you book in early, as Lightning Ridge is popular and therefore busy all year round. One big bonus is that the roads leading into and out of Lightning are all really good. There used to be a rumour on the road that getting to Lightning was always difficult but we found the roads really good and easy.

The Great Australian Doorstep, series 3, airs on Channel 7Two in Australia. Visit www.greataustraliandoorstep.com.au


Sydney to Manning Point … and ‘neverending hamburgers’

By Australia / New South Wales /

COASTAL delights often come in small packages, and after snapping up a hot DriveNow deal on a Sydney campervan hire, we discovered our little seaside gem, Manning Point, after a four-hour drive north of Sydney hugging the east coast.

The drive itself is quite spectacular, as you begin with a 15km drive along the Pacific Hwy before launching into a 130km cruise up and down the snaking, sloping smooth road of  the Sydney Newcastle Fwy. Then it’s a quick diversion back onto the Pacific Hwy for 40km before slowing things down to absorb the countryside – and watch for occasional potholes – as you wind your way through the mid-north coastal area’s city’s cities and hamlets including Taree and Old Bar.

Roadside signs inviting you into Oyster farms and farmhouse stalls offering homemade jams and free-range eggs are the precursors to your arrival at Manning Point, a 25-minute drive east of Taree. We parked our camper at beautiful East’s Ocean Shores Holiday Park, a short walk into the village’s centre (boasting a great Bowlo and amazing general store, but more about that later).

East’s Ocean Shores Holiday Park has one of the best holiday park pools going around, with a beaut waterslide, walkover bridges and the occasional local duck popping in to say hello to visitors. The staff is friendly, the front office hires out DVDs, table tennis paddles for the games room and sells ice-creams and drinks. The beach is literally a 5 minute walk behind the luxurious cabins and powered sites, so you’re guaranteed the sounds of crashing waves at night as you slip of into slumberland and a spectacular backdrop and fresh air during your morning walks.

As for that amazing General Store? Owned and operated by lovely hosts Terry and Debbie, it acts as the one-stop shop for just about everything. It’s located on the southern bank of the north entrance of the  spectacular, fish-loaded Manning River and offers all your needs from groceries, toiletries, bread and milk through to fishing gear, bait, permits and licenses. But, the store’s big attraction is its offer of the “Neverending Hamburger” – simply spend $30 or more and go into the quarter-yearly draw of winning a golden hamburger keyring which entitles you to a free hamburger for every day of the rest of your life (while the current owners are there, anyway).

Manning Point is also the ultimate launch pad from which to explore other nearby hamlets including Old Bar, the Harrington markets and much more.



The start of a Rainbow


After leaving behind a truly awesome week in The Grampians we headed two hours north to a funky little country town called Rainbow – and, no, there weren’t any rainbows in the sky, much to our youngest son Boston’s disappointment. However, there is a big town mural of a painted rainbow! It actually got its name from a colourful patch of wildflowers that grow on the surrounding hills.

But all the same, it is a bright and cherry little town to say the least and they make the best pies this side of Africa. The local bakery in town offers a rang of delicious goodies and we nearly ate them out of house and home! Without doubt they have the best pies ever.

There isn’t a lot to see and do, but there is a wonderful local icon called Yurunga Homestead. This is an ancient homestead more than 110 years old and which has been amazingly restored. The owners’ belongings and family photographs still hold pride of place on the walls. It’s a little bit spooky, but I think that’s only because you have them all watching you as you waltz around their mansion. To visit the homestead you only need make a gold coin donation, so please give generously as they are doing a terrific job in keeping this place looking as great as it does.

Rainbow is also famously known for the town murals, which you can view while walking around at your own pace. Some of them took many months to complete by a local painter who did them all by hand and hard work. The murals depict early life in the area and illustrate what made Rainbow the town she is today. It’s definitely a place to stop at overnight for. The Rainbow caravan park is owned and run by the town, but it’s only small so you need to book. It’s also the only park we have ever come across that has a good old-fashioned “honesty box”. The prices for the sites are displayed and it’s up to you to be honest and pay. What a breath of fresh air!


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Great driving holidays – Broome


BROOME is perfectly positioned on the Indian Ocean with some of the most pristine waters we have ever seen. To get there by campervan from either Perth or Darwin is going to take about a day from either direction.

It really is where the Outback meets the ocean, with the red desert dirt continuing until it meets the white sands. This place is definitely up there on the list of things that must be done again.

This place has a great surf break, excellent estuary fishing and boating, fantastic walkways and – believe it or not – even a genuine dinosaur footprint. That’s right, take a drive or bush walk down to the lookout and wade out at low tide and see an actual dinosaur footprint! Unfortunately, when we were there, they were experiencing king tides and the tide was never low enough for us to see it for ourselves, but the lookout from the rocky headland was just magical all the same.

Broome is home to some of Australia’s best pearls. The shops there stock world famous pearls with a couple camping next to us coming all the way from Poland just to buy pearls direct from the pearl farmers in Broome. There used to be a huge Chinese settlement who ventured out from China to take their luck on pearls. And today you will find some great Chinese food available in the area. There are some fantastic restaurants and coffee shops dotted around town and along the beach.

If it’s rest and relaxation you are after, then this is definitely the spot to stay for a while. After nine weeks in the Outback this was certainly what the doctor ordered, and especially since the caravan park we stayed at is a 5 star resort! Our kids spent the entire day in the pool and hardly left the caravan park for the whole two weeks.

Unfortunately if you are travelling with pets, the town resorts & caravan park will not allow them in. However there is a free stay about 35km out of town that will take pets.



A Guide to … Vehicle Stability Control


Stability Control has been touted as the most important automotive safety device since the seatbelt.

Governments in North America, Europe and Australia have plans to make the technology compulsory on all new vehicles because studies have shown it can reduce the likelihood of single-vehicle crashes and prevent roll-overs.

It is designed to prevent cars from an unintended skid in a bend. In most cases the technology works without the driver knowing that he or she has had a brush with danger. In essence, Stability Control protects drivers from minor indiscretions, such as when suddenly finding themselves on wet or slippery pavement, or in an unexpectedly tight corner.

However, Stability Control does not (and nor does it promise to) over-rule the laws of physics. If you’re travelling way too fast for a corner or for the conditions, you may still run off the road. Stability Control is an extremely worthwhile technology, but it is important to note that some systems are more effective than others.

Car makers use different names to describe the technology; there are more than 20 acronyms across the industry. Stability Control was originally called ESP, for Electronic Stability Program, a deliberate pun on Extra Sensory Perception because the technology uses sensors to monitor driving conditions and driver behaviour.

Stability Control first appeared on a production car in 1995, on the luxury flagship sedan, the Mercedes-Benz S Class, although the technology was developed on its behalf by electronics company Bosch and appeared on other vehicles soon after. Today, the technology is most commonly called ESC, for Electronic Stability Control, although in recent times it has simply been called Stability Control.

To understand in the simplest terms how Stability Control works we need a brief history lesson. The roots of Stability Control started with anti-lock brakes, or ABS (Anti-lock Braking System). In an emergency stop, ABS systems automatically clamp and release the brakes up to 20 times per second while the driver is applying full brake pedal pressure.

Once again, this often occurs without the driver necessarily knowing that the technology is at work.

The benefit is straightforward: ABS prevents the brakes (and therefore the tyres) from ‘locking’ and gives the driver the ability to steer around an obstacle. It is especially helpful in wet weather braking.

For ABS to work, cars had to be fitted with extra sensors to monitor the speed of each of the four wheels. Engineers eventually found a new use for these sensors and created what became known as Traction Control. This is where the speed of the driven wheels is constantly compared to the speed of the other two wheels.

When one pair of wheels is travelling faster than the other, the system intervenes and applies the brakes and/or automatically cuts engine power until the vehicle’s speed is reduced, and all four wheels are again travelling at the same speed.

For example, in a rear-drive car, if the rear wheels started to spin at a faster rate than the front wheels (which indicate the real speed the vehicle is travelling), then traction control would be activated in milliseconds. The same thing happens if the front wheels spin faster than the rear wheels in a front-drive car (when equipped with Traction Control).

Traction Control is typically most useful at detecting unintended wheelspin when accelerating from a standstill, such as when trying to drive up a steep wet slope, or when accelerating aggressively out of a corner. ABS and Traction Control then became the building blocks for Stability Control. Once these sensors were in place, it was simply a matter of adding a steering wheel sensor, a throttle sensor and a sensor which detects how much pitch or lean the car is experiencing in a corner.

Engineers also found a way to apply the brakes to each individual wheel, to help bring the car under control in the safest and most effective manner possible.

Modern versions of the technology is so good, a race driver in a car without Stability Control would unlikely out-manoeuvre the same car with a well-calibrated Stability Control system, because the system can do what the driver can’t: brake individual wheels. All this requires an incredible amount of computer power.

Stability Control systems constantly monitor and process hundreds of times per second the following information:

  • Vehicle speed (wheel sensors)
  • Steering input (steering wheel sensor)
  • Acceleration (throttle sensor)
  • Braking (brake sensor)
  • Pitch or ‘lean’ of the car (yaw sensor)

Thanks to complex algorithms and thousands of hours of tests and calibrations, engineers develop Stability Control systems to suit each vehicle’s characteristics, such as weight, mass, engine power and tyre grip.

Some cars are programmed for conservative drivers and so the Stability Control system is prone to intervene at the earliest hint of a skid. Some cars, particularly performance vehicles, often have a slightly higher threshold because they have a higher level of grip. Despite the varying levels of effectiveness, Stability Control is still proven to be a life-saver.

Overseas studies of crashes involving cars equipped with Stability Control claim there have been reductions of between 35 and 50 per cent in serious injury single-vehicle collisions.

This is one of the reasons that the European New Car Assessment Program (ENCAP) and the Australian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) recently decided that only vehicles with Stability Control could be awarded a Five Star safety rating.

As with its European affiliate, ANCAP is an independent body that crash tests vehicles to higher standards than those imposed by Governments. It is intended to be a consumer guide to car safety and most top-selling models are tested.

ANCAP is supported by Australian and New Zealand automobile clubs, the State government road and transport authorities of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia, the New Zealand Government, the Victorian TAC, NRMA Insurance and the FIA Foundation.

When checking the safety rating of a new vehicle on the ANCAP website be sure to check if a vehicle has Stability Control (some older Five Star ratings didn’t require the technology).

Most importantly, though, when you’re looking to buy your next car, check with the vehicle manufacturer that the exact model you are buying has Stability Control.

If you’re in the market to rent a car in Australia or New Zealand DriveNow provides the most comprehensive breakdown of features for Car Rental fleets to ensure you have all the information required when selecting a vehicle.

Today Stability Control is rapildy becoming a standard across mid-range as well as luxury cars, but on more affordable vehicles the technology may be standard on some variants and optional or not available on others.

About NRMA Insurance
NRMA Insurance is a provider of insurance products, including car insurance and home insurance in NSW, ACT & TAS.


Keeping Kids safe in Cars – New Regulations in Australia


Australia’s states and territories have finally got their act together and established a National set of rules to govern children and how we secure them in cars.

The introduction of these new rules does vary. In Victoria they come into effect from November 9th 2009, Tasmania introduces them in December 2009 whilst the other states and territories will follow in 2010.

In a nutshell the following will apply:

  • Under 6 months – Children must be seated in an approved and properly fitted rear facing child capsule
  • 6 Months to 4 Years – Children must wear an approved and properly fitted rear or forward facing restraint with in-built harness
  • 4 – 7 Years – Children must wear an approved and properly fitted forward facing child restraint with in-built harness or an approved booster seat, correctly fitted and fastened

Whilst these rules are to be welcomed they do not take into account that all children are not alike and nor do they grow alike. In 2007 the UK introduced regulations that stipulated child restraints based on height, all the way up to 12 years. A surprisingly innovative and refreshing approach for a Government given how obvious and practical this approach is.

Working off height ensures that an adult seat belt is better used by shorter children in the 7-12 year bracket through the use of booster seats. There might be some disgruntled short 12 year olds (I would have definitely fallen into this category) but at the end of the day if the unthinkable happens and you are in an accident at least you are maximising your family’s protection.

As far as the Front Passenger Seat is concerned the safest approach is simply not to use it for any child under the age of 12. A great rule of thumb is if they are not teenagers yet then keep them behind you.

The Car rental companies that DriveNow partners with in Australia all carry a stock of booster and child seats.  These can be hired and are normally charged out on a per day basis. When booking with DriveNow you can order your child seat(s) at the same time.  It’s highly recommended to do this when making your booking rather than leaving it until the last minute. Stock will be limited and run out fast particularly at busy times such as Christmas, Easter and School Holidays.

DriveNow Partner and sometime blog contributor

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A Guide to… Petrol or Diesel?


Petrol or diesel? It’s a common question when people look to update their car.

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straightforward. It depends on individual needs – and what sort of impact you want to make on the environment and public health.

Typically, diesel engines make more sense in trucks and in vehicles used for towing, because of the pulling power of the engine at low revs. Diesel engines can also deliver better economy, especially on the open road, so they are often well suited to motorists who do a lot of country driving.

But in most cases diesel-powered cars cost more to buy than the same car with a petrol engine. On a popular European hatchback, for example, the petrol version is $30,000 and the diesel version is $33,000 – a 10 per cent premium.

Will you get that money back in fuel-cost savings? That depends on the price of the fuel and how far you drive each year. The price of unleaded fuel rises and falls more sharply – and more often – because there is more demand. More than three quarters of all vehicles on the road run on unleaded.

Diesel, meanwhile, is mostly bought by big fleet operators and mining and industry contractors, who buy in bulk. In fact, only about 25 per cent of diesel sold in Australia is pumped through retail service stations. Less demand equals less competition, and less price fluctuation. In 2008 diesel was up to 40 cents per litre dearer than petrol, which made diesel a much less attractive option for the average motorist.

However in the first half of 2009 prices of both fuels have generally been on par, which meant diesel drivers were able to drive the same dollars further, putting them well in front. But this period of uncharacteristically cheap diesel was expected to be short-lived because the Global Financial Crisis had reduced demand in the mining and industry sectors, and this led to an oversupply of diesel.

With all of the above in mind, there is yet another factor to consider in the petrol versus diesel debate: emissions. Burning a litre of diesel creates 17 per cent more CO2 than burning a litre of petrol (2.7kg versus 2.3kg). But a litre of diesel can give a 25 to 30 per cent longer driving range than a petrol-powered car. This means that, on balance, diesel engines typically produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petrol engines.

Sounds straightforward doesn’t it? Unfortunately we’re not done yet.diesel fuel cap

In recent times, we’ve been focussed on fuel economy and carbon dioxide emissions and patted ourselves on the back for knowing what the numbers mean (in both cases, low numbers are good). But this is only scratching the surface. If we dig a little deeper, there are more harmful emissions we should start to take more notice of.

Both petrol and diesel fuels produce emissions that are harmful to our health, but diesel is a more serious pollutant. Both fuels produce similar amounts of hydrocarbons, toxic air pollutants and carbon monoxide, but diesel produces significantly more oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter.

One example: the Mini Cooper diesel has a fuel economy rating of 3.9L/100km, the same as the petrol-powered Toyota Prius hybrid. But the Mini emits 56 times more oxides of nitrogen than does the Mini (0.003 versus 0.168).

The Federal Government’s Green Vehicle Guide says diesels are marked down because “their contribution to air pollution is generally higher than that of comparative petrol or LPG vehicles”. “Of most concern are particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx) which can cause a range of adverse health effects. These emissions are generally higher in diesel vehicles compared with petrol or gas vehicles.”

The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change says particulate matter can “cause or aggravate: cardiac and respiratory disease, acute bronchitis in adults and children, reduced lung function and asthma attacks”.

It can also cause premature death for people with pre-existing heart and lung conditions. Oxides of nitrogen can restrict lung function and increase the chance of respiratory infections. Basically, unleaded fuel might be worse for the planet, but diesel fuel is worse for our health.

A June 2005 report by the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics put the annual death toll from vehicle exhaust pollution at between 900 and 2000 people – more than the national road toll. “Diesel exhaust has been linked in numerous scientific studies to cancer, the exacerbation of asthma and other respiratory diseases,” the report says.

This is why the quality of diesel fuel itself has been forced to improve over the past decade and car makers have been forced to introduce particulate filters on diesel vehicles. Even more stringent restrictions are due in 2014.

Oddly, however, the next step in emissions standards, known as “Euro V” and due to come into effect in September 2009, will mean that diesel engines in passenger cars will be allowed to emit 180mg/km, while petrol-powered cars will only be allowed to emit 60mg/km.

To help meet these targets, there is a new generation of so-called “clean” diesel engines that run on a new generation of diesel fuel. The sulphur content of diesel dropped from 500 parts per million to 50ppm in 2006 and was due to fall again to 10ppm in 2009 (to bring Australia into line with European regulations), although this deadline has been extended.

Car ExhaustBut some experts are already beginning to question the effectiveness of the “cleaner” diesel, the new generation of particulate filters, and the way emissions are measured. Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs says ultra-fine particles may still be dangerous because they can dissolve in the lungs. Further, current vehicle emission and air quality measuring procedures are based on weight rather than surface area.

Ultra-fine particle emissions weigh very little but have a relatively enormous surface area when compared with larger coarse particles. A billion ultra-fine particles can weigh the same as one coarse particle, yet have 1000 times the surface area.

While this debate continues, sales of diesel cars are still growing in Australia. In the first six months of 2009, one in four of all new vehicles was powered by a diesel engine. A decade ago, diesel-powered vehicles accounted for one in 10.

But is this a good thing? Toyota, the world’s biggest car maker, believes petrol-electric hybrid power will ultimately replace diesel power because the emission restrictions on diesel vehicles will be so strict that they may be regulated and priced out of existence.

The theory is that by the time you take into account the cost of urea injection, which has to be filled up by the dealer between service intervals, the soot trap or particulate filter that has to be burned off by the dealers, as well as a NOx reduction catalyst and the cost of direct injection, a petrol-electric hybrid drivetrain would cost about the same or less than a diesel-powered car – and produce fewer emissions.

Furthermore, new technology petrol engines are starting to deliver diesel-like economy but with super-low NOx emissions. Europe’s biggest car maker Volkswagen is investing in small capacity turbocharged petrol engines, for example. Others are due to follow suit.

Other European brands, such as Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot, believe so-called “clean” diesel engines matched with hybrid electric motors are the way to go.

The final word goes to one seasoned motor industry insider: “When you have a fuel-burning car, you are always going to emit some form of poison from the tailpipe. It then becomes a case of choosing your poison”.

About NRMA Insurance
NRMA Insurance is a provider of insurance products, including car insurance and home insurance in NSW, ACT & TAS.

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They don’t build ’em like they used to… A Guide to Old Car Safety


They don’t build ’em like they used to. That’s how old cars are generally described. Tough as nails, made of steel. New cars just fall apart in a crash, so the saying goes.

But contrary to perception, there is a very good reason new cars deform more readily in a crash: it can save your life.

Consider this: when an old car has a front end crash, the structure won’t be crushed as much as a modern car’s would, which means the occupants experience a more sudden rate of deceleration, and potentially more life threatening injuries.

The front end of a modern car is designed to collapse in a crash, to help absorb some of the impact. This slows the rate of deceleration on the occupants inside the car and, hopefully, helps prevent life threatening injuries.

The dramatic improvement in the crash safety of cars over the past 30 years or more is just one of the reasons young novice drivers are over-represented in fatal crashes. Our most inexperienced drivers are often in the oldest and less safe cars on the road, which lack the latest safety aids such as seatbelt pre-tensioners, airbags, anti-lock brakes and stability control.

Crash statistics show that you are up to 10 times more likely to die if you are in a 1970s car than a modern vehicle.

Of course, not everyone can afford a new car with the latest safety features. But there are steps you
can take to make your older car as safe as possible
. A lot of the following will sound like common sense, but it’s surprising how many of the basics are forgotten or overlooked.

  • Tyres are more important than most people give them credit for. We tend to buy tyres on price but given that they are the only point of contact between you and the road they deserve more attention. When replacing tyres, try to get the best you can afford, and avoid retreads if at all possible. Don’t drive on tyres with an illegal tread depth, not just because your car could be defected by police, but because you could crash and kill or injure yourself or someone else. Wet weather grip is severely diminished when tyres are going bald because the tread can’t “pump” the water between tyre and the road. Regularly check that your tyres are correctly inflated.
  • Good maintenance is also key, and you want to ensure the brake pad material is no more than half worn. If so, prepare to replace them, as the second half of the pad wears faster than the first half.
  • If the car bounces over potholes or takes a while to recover after driving over speed humps, chances are the shock absorbers need replacing. Worn shock absorbers can cause wheel bounce (which means the tyre can lose contact with the road) and increase emergency braking distances.
  • In old cars in particular, check the seatbelts are not frayed or faded, as they may tear in a severe impact.
  • Also get a mechanic to check under the car for structural rust, which can make the car less safe in a crash.
  • Perhaps most important of all is to adjust your driving style so that you reduce the risk of crashing in the first place. Allow for greater distances between you and the car in front, and take corners more slowly than you would in a modern car.

Ideally, you don’t want to crash in an old car because there is less to protect you. There is a hard plastic horn pad in the middle of the steering wheel where an airbag ought to be. And solid roof pillars where side airbags ought to be.

It’s often said in jest but, really, you should drive as if there is a steel spike in the steering wheel. That ought to help you concentrate.

About NRMA Insurance

NRMA Insurance is a provider of insurance products, including car insurance and home insurance in NSW, ACT & TAS.

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What makes a Hybrid tick and where do we go from here?


A Guide to … Hybrid Cars… what makes a Hybrid tick and where do we go from here? NRMA offer some insight on this and what we can expect

We are witnessing what the industry calls the gradual electrification of the motor car.

That is, petrol engines are going to get smaller and electric motors will get bigger as battery technology and public recharge points improve … Until, eventually, the petrol engine can disappear from some city cars altogether.

The first stepping stone on this path is the hybrid car. For those who aren’t familiar with how they work it’s simpler than all the tech talk makes it out to be.

For starters they don’t need to be plugged in to electricity and, for the time being at least, they are fueled and serviced just like a normal car.  If you opened the bonnet on today’s hybrid car you’d see a petrol engine under the bonnet and an electric motor next to it.

In essence they are called hybrids because they merge two sources of power: petrol and electricity.

toyota-priusIn the most popular example of the technology, the Toyota Prius, the electric motor can move the car from rest up to, say, about 40km/h and then the petrol engine automatically cuts in and takes over at cruising speeds.

The electric motor is powered by an onboard battery pack which is automatically recharged when the car coasts downhill or when the brakes are applied. No external electricity necessary. Pretty clever.

Typically you can get up to 800km or even 900km between refills. But there are as many critics of hybrid cars as there are fans. The downsides are that, for now, they’re relatively expensive to buy.

And on a dollar per kilometre basis they don’t make purely financial sense once you take into account the significant price premium for the car.

But, without the lessons learned from hybrid cars – and the people prepared to pay a premium for them – we wouldn’t be as advanced on battery and electric motor technology as we are today.

The Toyota Prius passed the 1 million milestone in 2008 after 10 years of sales – and the efficiency of the electric motor and battery technology has improved with each new model.

We will continue to see hybrid versions of more cars, including in two years, the humble Camry.

This will occur as we inch towards the next stepping stone: plug-in hybrids. Plug-in hybrids are the same as regular hybrids but they have the ability to be recharged for a few hours to provide a longer petrol-free driving range.

For example, if you drove a standard Prius in Eco mode and turned the air-conditioning off and the road was flat and you had no traffic lights, you may get one or two kilometres before the petrol engine would kick in.

However, when driving normally, you typically get a few hundred metres of petrol free driving depending on how hard you push the accelerator.

But, with a plug-in hybrid, you could get, say, up to 20km of petrol-free driving.

For a lot of people this is enough to get them to work and back without using a drop of petrol.

Plug-in hybrids are still a few years away from showrooms, but the technology is relatively straightforward as it effectively relies on larger battery capacity.

When full electric vehicles go on sale in the next few years, this will focus the emissions debate on how electricity is created.

Contrary to perception, cars are not the biggest polluters. According to data compiled by the Federal Government, the national fleet of passenger cars emits about 8 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions, coal fired power stations account for 50 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.