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If you’ve ever experienced a car crash, you know how stressful and upsetting it can be for a driver. Even without serious injuries or worse, the situation is typically troublesome. Dealing with law enforcement, traffic court, insurance companies and collision repairers is no one’s idea of a fun time. And if you’re not at fault in causing an accident, you may still have to commit significant time and resources to dealing with its consequences.
A dash cam could help. This compact and lightweight video camera—designed specifically for documenting your drive—is a simple and affordable way to help you in the aftermath of an accident. We installed and tested a dash cam to see how it works. In the process, we discovered it could be helpful not only in the case of an accident but in everyday driving, too.
Installing the dash cam took less than five minutes. A suction cup mount secures it to the windshield and the 12-volt power adapter plugs into the vehicle’s outlet. Start the car and the dash cam powers on. We spent another five minutes setting the time and date and browsing the video setting menus. The process was quick and easy.
Included with the unit is a micro SD card to store the video recordings or still photos (depending on the setting you choose.) Once the card reaches its memory capacity, the dash cam loops back and starts recording over the previous video.
So how can you be certain the video you need will not get deleted? You can manually lock the recording with the push of a button, but get your settings right and you won’t have to. The G-shock mode automatically locks a video into memory when the sensor in the dash cam detects the force of an impact.
In addition to preparing you and your vehicle for the unfortunate circumstances of a collision, below are six more reasons to use a dash cam.
Traffic Ticket Witness
The men and women in uniform that enforce our traffic laws are not perfect. Drivers can—and do—receive tickets for offenses they did not commit or could reasonably argue as unwarranted. In such situations, video proof could be your ally.
Traffic cops cannot be everywhere at once. Your viewpoint, or the view from your dash cam, may provide some evidence that sheds new light on a situation.
Teen Drivers & New Drivers
A dash cam is a good educational tool for new drivers. If you have a teen driver or other new driver in your household, consider a dash cam to improve their driving skills while providing a watchful eye.
Protecting young drivers and their passengers is important; crash rates for inexperienced drivers are significantly higher than for those with more miles under their belts. The message from parents can be a simple one: safety, not spying. Even if parents never play videos back, drivers who know their actions are being recorded may be more inclined to use caution and avoid dangerous behavior like speeding or texting while driving.
The Shop Truck
Business owners and managers that use vehicles to get the job done can add a layer of protection with a dash cam for the company car or truck. As with teen drivers, employee drivers may be encouraged to drive carefully with a dash cam in place.
The liability factor with business vehicles is a great reason to use a dash cam, too. Even if your employee is at fault in a crash, video evidence could help support an argument that the driver practiced safe driving and was not negligent in his or her actions leading up to the incident.
Your dash cam could help others out, too. If you spot an erratic driver but missed the vehicle type or license plate number, the information recorded by your dash cam could help you alert authorities.
Most of us have witnessed crashes of other vehicles, too. Your video could provide evidence to help law enforcement as well as crash victims.
Studies show most Americans think they’re great drivers. Is it true? Can we all be above average behind the wheel?
No, but even the best drivers among us could probably do even better. Just as the presence of a dash cam could influence a teen driver or an employee wheeling the company truck, it can help experienced drivers to become more conscious of their own driving patterns. With your dash cam watching, you may be inclined to break bad habits like following too closely or weaving through traffic.
Fireball in the Sky
Occasionally, spectacular things happen around us. Witnessing a rare fireball hurdling across Earth’s atmosphere is highly unlikely, but dash cams often record exciting moments, traffic-related or otherwise. Just search YouTube for hours of crazy dash cam clips. If your dash cam records something out of the ordinary, you can share it with the world.
Jumper cables are a gear you always want to have with you but hope you’ll never actually need to use. These cables can be a lifesaver when your battery is dead and your car won’t start, or when you get the chance to help out someone who’s been stranded by a bad battery.
Knowing how to use the cables appropriately and how to store them safely will make it that much easier to help both yourself and others out of a sticky situation.
You might have a hard time finding the battery under the hood of some vehicles. That’s because it may be in the trunk or, in the case of some SUVs, under the load floor in the cargo area. In these installations, you’ll likely find an access panel that lifts up over the positive terminal of the battery, alongside a ground terminal that might not be the actual battery ground itself. Your owner’s manual can help you find the battery as well.
Jumper cables, also called booster cables, seem pretty straightforward. The black alligator clamps connect to the negative ( – ) or ground on each vehicle, while the red alligator clamps connect to the positive ( + ) terminal on each car’s battery, completing the electric circuit between the two vehicles and allowing them to share the electricity needed to run the starter on the dead automobile. It’s not as simple as just connecting the clamps, however. With both vehicles off, you’ll want to use the following sequence:
1. Connect to the positive terminal on the good battery.
2. Connect the positive terminal on the bad battery.
3. Connect the negative terminal on the bad battery. Don’t connect the negative clamp to the good battery.
4. Look for an unpainted piece of metal in the engine bay to use as a ground, and clamp there instead — it will offer a better connection, without risking damage to the good battery.
5. Once clamped on, start the car with the good battery, let it idle for a minute and then crank the car with the dead battery for five seconds, or until it starts.
Wait a minute or two between each five-second pull to make sure you don’t drain the other vehicle’s electrical system. Jumper cables need to stay clean and free of corrosion to ensure they can transmit enough power to get a car started. Most cables come with a protective bag you can use to store them in your trunk, but it’s important not to get that bag wet and to clean off any dirt or rust that could form on the leads. Cables can corrode on the inside, too — this is harder to spot, but generally if you keep them dry you won’t have to worry.
You probably already know you should change your engine oil every 3,000 to 5,000 miles, and it’s a job that even a green DIYer can do in about 30 minutes. It seems like such a simple job, and maybe you don’t even think twice about what parts and supplies you’re using. If you visit a mechanic for an oil change, what kind of parts and supplies may he suggest? Does oil quality matter to your engine or only to your wallet? Can’t you just use whatever’s on sale?
How Does Oil Quality Differ?
You can use any oil that meet the industry standard API class required by the manufacturer of your car, but there are better options to protect your engine and help it last even longer. Engine oil is specially formulated to lubricate, clean and protect in an extremely harsh environment. Temperature can vary from -50 °F to near 300 °F in a matter of minutes. Oil is pumped through the system at up to 60 psi, squeezing through spaces as small as 0.0005 inches — just 12.7 m or a quarter the width of a human hair — at which point the pressure skyrockets to hundreds of psi before dropping to zero and draining into the oil pan.
There are dozens of engine oil brands and each carries a range of varying oil quality. Whether it’s the cheapest conventional oil or most expensive synthetic blend, all engine oils are the product of specialized refinement. Additional processing gives each oil specific qualities — some engine oils contain up to 30 percent additives — such as higher resistance to oxidation (sludge) or improved stability in extreme temperatures. It’s only logical that more refining and processing adds to the price of each quart of oil that you put in your engine.
What Kind of Oil Should You Use?
When comparing oil quality, take note of its intended application and how you use your vehicle.
- If your vehicle requires a synthetic oil, stick with what the manufacturer recommends.
- If your vehicle doesn’t require synthetic oil, conventional oil will do, but practically any engine can benefit from the detergent and lubricant qualities of synthetic oil.
- If you drive a high-performance vehicle, choose a high-performance oil.
- If your engine is turbocharged, look for an oil rated for turbocharged engines.
- If your vehicle is older — the average vehicle in America is over 11 years old — consider a high-mileage formulation to improve lubrication and prevent deposits.
As always, make sure you change your engine oil and oil filter regularly, depending on vehicle recommendations and how you use your vehicle. Using the right oil, you’ll keep your engine running for years to come.