Autotragic: making creepers outta everyone.
Traditional automatic transmissions have a “feature” called “creeping” which allows the engine to propel the vehicle at idle. Creeping allows the vehicle to move at very slow speeds allowing finer control. Continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) and dual-clutch transmissions (DCT) have artificial creep added to them because normal people are used to the creep of a traditional automatic and are actually weirded out by the fact that cars with CVTs or DCTs don’t creep naturally.
Everybody seems to creep at a stop. I even did it when I drove automatics so call me a hypocrite if you want. But there are interesting cases where people will leave a full car-length gap and slowly creep to fill the gap at a traffic light. I find this irritating now that I’m driving a manual as I don’t want to wear out my clutch doing this. I knew that I would have to deal with it since it was my choice to drive a manual, but it was still annoying. Especially on a hill.
The best incident I had was when I was heading home one night. I stopped on an incline when a newish Mercedes stopped behind me. I’ve done a hill start on this hill plenty of times so I wasn’t too worried. This guy in the Mercedes decides to creep up on me. I’m like, whatevs, I’ve got this hill down pat. When it was time to go, I did my normal hill start and the car felt funny. It felt like the hill-hold assist froze up and didn’t release so, by instinct, I gave it more gas. Before I knew it, the tach dropped to zero and the car started rolling backwards. It seriously caught me off-guard and I scrambled to hit the brakes, but not without sliding within inches of that brash Mercedes grille!
I’m not sure how the Mercedes driver felt seeing this large sedan roll backwards immediately when it should be going forward! I didn’t stick around to find out either. I instinctively did my restart procedure and took off like a bat outta hell! Seriously, people, stop creeping up to the bumper of the car in front of you. It’s not going to make traffic move any sooner.
That moment when you lapse judgement.
Normal routine approaching a stop sign: brake smoothly in gear, punch clutch, pop shifter into neutral. When switching to an automatic, I end up punching the clutch before moving my arm. If the brake pedal is wide enough (on most American cars), I end up punching the brake pedal with my left foot and the car comes to a sudden stop. FML.
It’s half past four and I’m shifting gear.
I wrote a post a while ago about hill start assist. I still stand by the fact that it’s nice, but not really all that useful for an automatic transmission. I now have a car with hill start assist, but it’s a stick-shift, and I have mixed feelings about it.
The hill start assist function is engaged if the car’s computer detects that it is on a hill and the brake pedal is pressed. As soon as I lift my foot off the brake, the computer will hold the brakes for up to two seconds or until I press on the accelerator. It is basically an electronic version of the old hold-the-handbrake-on-a-hill crutch.
I appreciate the feature on steep hills, but it is the most frustrating when parallel parking on a hill. Not that it happens often, but it is bothersome when it happens. Parallel parking requires slow speeds, which is only possible by slipping the clutch slowly without gas. With hill start assist, it makes you either wait until it disengages or you tap the gas with your foot off the brake. In both cases you have to be quick with the clutch to make sure it’s not going to roll into the car parked extremely close to you (because you have to have your foot off the brake to disengage the feature). You also have to make sure you don’t stall and cause it to roll into the other car. Applying the brake just engages the hill start assist again so you’re back at square one. ARGH!!!
It would be nice to have a button to enable hill start assist with the feature off by default. If I was to teach someone to drive stick I would figure out how to turn off the feature or get a different car without hill start assist to teach driving stick.
Driving 5 MPH slower makes you a moron.
Chevy Cobalt in red
Add yet another Chevy to my rental car list. I recently received a bright-red Chevy Cobalt and while it was lackluster, it was better than the alternative: an Aveo and an Accent. This car was about a year old with 30,000 miles on it, but it had automatic headlights, power windows, power locks, a decent A/C, and a radio with an aux-in. Now this car had been ridden hard and put away wet long before I received it. This was a classic GM beater: a true descendant of the Cavalier. It was designed to be abused by everyone and it held up pretty well so far.
The SneezeGuard™ steering was minimal, but it was equipped with SuperSqueeker™ tires. Squealing around corners always makes any car feel like a race car. It actually handled well for a small, crappy car meaning it didn’t feel like a brick on Jello. The acceleration, however, was lacking. It was adequate when empty, but when loaded with three other people of normal size, the car had half the power. When floored, it felt like a turtle pulling a wagon full of bricks. All my moves had to planned in advance, just like the U-Haul.
Braking was average. It had a firmer brake pedal feel than I’m use to, but I adjusted quickly. I did not realized it did not have anti-lock brakes until it was almost too late. I was in the left lane traveling at a high rate of speed behind a Corolla. To my right was a large pickup truck pulling a trailer and to my left was the Jersey barrier. The Corolla suddenly braked so I got on the brakes hard. I locked up all the wheels and the car started to fishtail causing a nice smoke show behind me. I’m pretty sure I freaked out everyone behind me. At that moment I told myself “I am not going to die in this shitty little car!” so I kept calm and miraculously I recovered without hitting anything. It was amazing!
To sum it up, this car takes abuse like none other. It’s perfect for students and people who don’t care about cars. I suppose that’s why it’s a rental car.
Coming home this afternoon I encountered some jerk in a Grand Prix. I was accelerating in the middle lane to the speed limit of 50 MPH and I guess this dude was doing the same. I planned on merging over after I overtook him, but I had to make a premature lane departure due to some idiot in a Toyota Echo who failed to understand how to make a lane change. So here I am doing 50 in the right lane and this asshole in the Grand Prix feels the need to tailgate me. I need to make a right-hand turn into my apartment complex, but there is no dedicated turn lane so I must make a right turn from the thru lane. I put on my blinker and he stays glued to my ass. I don’t bother slowing down until the last to see if he reacts. I get closer and then laid on my brakes locking up the wheels and then released the brakes to make the turn. Hmm, seems like you can stop sooner than me and can make the turn as fast as I can. Bravo. For the record, he stills tailgates my ass through the apartment parking lot, taunting me.
What is with the trend of clear taillights? I know I’m a decade late attacking this topic, but it’s still relevant. I was noticing that stock clear taillights rely on red LEDs which can be clear when off and red when on. It wouldn’t be so bad if the LED cluster wasn’t so concentrated. The Ford Edge, for example, has a single cluster of LEDs in the center of a huge housing. In the daytime, it lights up a small ring or red around the LED cluster. It’s not as noticeable compared to an all-red lens. The Prius also uses a similar setup except it uses six large, red LEDs. It’s still too sparse for aesthetic reasons, but it’s more effective than the Edge because of the LED direction (the LEDs still burns the eyes! Damn you Toyota!). The red lens doesn’t just act as a colored filter, it’s also a diffuser to soften the light and make it less harsh which will reduce retina-burning.
Another thing is the clear lens itself. Given the track record of headlights yellowing faster than the seasons changing, I can’t see these taillights standing up to the elements. It’ll turn yellow and then the light output would be reduced. I hope they added something to the plastic to make them stay clear longer. I really hope this fad passes because it was stupid when it first came out and it’s still stupid now.
Ford Freestyle SUV Is Probed by U.S. Over Unintended ‘Lunging’
There is a recall of the Ford Freestyle for a defect where it will move 10 feet if the driver doesn’t have their foot on the gas or the brake pedal. Keeping your foot on the brake pedal can prevent this from happening. Really? Have people gotten so stupid that they don’t realize what the fat, horizontal pedal on the left does?! Come on, of course the car’s going to move without a foot on the brake; cars have been doing that since they were invented! Even more so with the advent of the automatic transmission.
The term for where a car will move forward by itself at idle is called “creeping”, and it’s a byproduct of having an automatic transmission. In fact, DSGs and CVTs are not naturally designed to creep at idle. Car makers include additional programming to have artificial creep because people are put off by the car not moving forward at idle like a normal automatic! So they want a car to act like a normal car, but don’t like that it’s moving by itself? Make up your minds people!
It’s a fkn automatic transmission; hill start assist is utterly useless unless you have one leg. If it was a manual transmission I could see this being useful, but not in an automatic transmission. The reason being a manual transmission requires skill to manipulate three pedals with two feet in tandem. You must press in the clutch with your left foot, take your right foot off the brake, and move your right foot to the gas. In the time you move your foot off the brake to the gas you must also release the clutch to get the car moving. With your foot off the brake and the clutch disengaged, the car will roll back. Thus a hill-assist mechanism is useful for one inexperienced with a manual transmission*.
For an automatic, there are two pedals: a brake and gas. The number of pedals matches the number of legs a normal person has. If this person has half a brain, then this person doesn’t need hill start assist. You come to a complete stop at the top of the hill and apply the brakes with right foot. Then use left foot to hold the brake pedal while stopped and waiting. When it is time to go, apply gas slightly with right foot and gently release left foot off the brake pedal. Simple and effective. Like we need more electronic nannies in our cars for something as trivial as coming off a stop at the top of a hill. Learn to use a car people!
* There are ways to get around hill starts on a manual without hill-assist. One involves using the handbrake (if you’re not driving a car with foot-pedal parking brake): set the handbrake at the top of the hill and when it’s time to go slowly release the handbrake and manipulate the pedals like a normal start. The other method involves a trickier pedal manipulation where you slowly release the clutch to its friction point before releasing the brake and moving to the gas pedal.
Merge, stop, and turn
This morning I was behind a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a typical mommy-mobile in suburbia. I was driving in the middle lane and I see her merge into my lane from the right. She drives straight for a little bit while slowing down. The light ahead was green so the move puzzled me. Then she proceeded to get into the left-most lane (which becomes a left turn lane and also has a green light). Now, why would anyone do a move like that? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to merge left twice (or once through two lanes if you’re ballsy), then slow down (optional) instead of merge left, slow down, and merge left again? Seriously, I have to question why merging is such a task for drivers here!