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lou's garage

With the winter solstice just recently passing us by, what better subject to discuss this week than winter tires. In previous years I’ve mentioned stats on winter tire usage in Canada and discussed other relative information, but this year I’m just going to tell you a story. Do with it, what you will.

I’ve been in business for more than 25 years and have witnessed toddlers grow into young, new drivers and previously busy, productive parents settle comfortably into retirement. Last year, one of those newly retired couples decided it was time to reconsider their current vehicle lineup. They live in the West End of Toronto and had previously commuted to work on the subway, but always kept two vehicles because they had sufficient parking, and enjoyed the conveniences that two vehicles offer. But as the pandemic wore on, they decided that a second vehicle sitting unused with only a minimal fire and theft insurance policy was a waste. Eventually, they decided to trade both of their older vehicles in toward a brand-new Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Here’s where their problem arose. She was an avid winter tire endorsee, and he was to say the least, not supportive of the idea at all. He has been driving for 45 years and has lived in the city his whole life and worked from home whenever he could. He was adamant that he had never required anything more than all-season tires. She on the other hand, had a sister that swore by winter tires and had convinced her years ago to invest in a set. She was sold from the first season and had refused to drive her husband’s car in the winter.

Then came the first phone call about their new Jeep, it was four-wheel drive so naturally he thought they would pass on winter tires, and she of course had a different idea. As you can imagine, a brand-new Jeep with 20-inch wheels leads to a very expensive set of winter wheels and tires. The dealer package was more than $2,000, and he would hear nothing of it. After what I’m sure was a lengthy, heated debate she relented and agreed to give the all-seasons a try. As so often happens, we men forget who the boss truly is, and ultimately, I was tasked with sourcing and installing a winter tire package in November of this year on their now one-year-old vehicle.

Again, my phone rang just before the Christmas break. At first, I thought he was calling about some problem with the new tires, but then I heard a certain something in his voice that told me he was on the edge of tears. I feared that he was about to notify me of some personal tragedy, but he continued, recounting the incident that almost occurred the night before.

He and his wife were travelling in the North End of Toronto. It was raining and the temperature was hovering around the freezing mark, making the roads greasy. He approached a major intersection with a green light and the right-of-way when suddenly a large cube van came out of nowhere and ran the red light directly in front of him. He slammed on the brakes and stopped the Jeep just in the nick of time, narrowly avoiding a disaster. He had become accustomed to the delay in stopping with all-season tires and had just learned to accommodate for it with a defensive driving style. Or so he thought. He couldn’t explain how he had missed this large vehicle coming out of nowhere, he thought maybe he was getting older, or maybe he just had a moment of inattentiveness. But it was that desperate panic stop moment that his mind was changed forever. Still close to tears, he swore it was so close that if he had not just spent the money on winter tires, that he and his wife would be dead. He thanked me profusely for never giving in to his way of thinking and wished me a Merry Christmas.


Your automotive questions, answered

Good day Lou,

Are you aware of any vehicles currently that have factory installed Dashcams (besides Tesla)? Do you see this as a viable option in the near future as you frequently hear various Police agencies asking for dash cam video regarding accidents or just insurance claims, crimes etc.

The selection online is overwhelming and lacks the warranty that the larger manufactures would offer.

Regards,

John M

Tesla’s use of cameras is primarily a requirement of their autopilot system. Their dashcam style footage is a by-product of that. Thus, I don’t see the idea of dashcams becoming standard or factory equipment until we are closer to fully autopiloted vehicles being mainstream. However, we are on our way and cameras are now standard on any vehicle that features a lane-assist style drivers’ package. That being said, most auto manufacturers do not record, nor store this video information at this time, making them useless for the purposes you are hoping for.

Yes, the selection of dashcams is overwhelming. But rest assured, whatever dashcam you purchase today will be outdated in six months. There is nothing you can do about that; buy the best you can afford right now and don’t worry about it. Video footage from even last year’s average, run-of-the-mill dashcam is still remarkable and will suffice for most situations.


I just read your interesting column, again. Thank you. Re: break-ins using the key fob, I found myself wondering if thieves might use a “hybrid” approach – use the key fob electronic signature to UNLOCK the car, and then the PORT to start the car?

John

I believe that the creative car thief will always find a way of stealing one’s prized vehicle, and I also assume your hybrid technique is already in use. Things change rapidly in the auto theft world. As information and techniques disseminate to the average thief, vehicles that were not on their radar now are. Keeping up and developing new theft deterrent methods is the job of both the manufacturer and the vehicle owner.

If you are the owner of a popularly stolen vehicle, it is not likely because that vehicle has a security weakness, it is because that vehicle has an in-demand status among car-theft rings for both exportations to far off lands and also, locally, for parts.

The best thing you can do is block the vehicle in with another vehicle or put it in your garage. Also, employ a tried-and-true steering wheel lock device such as The Club, and a OBD2 port lockout device. These devices will slow down and deter the average thief, hopefully sending them on to the next house.

However, for the nonaverage, sophisticated thief, make sure your insurance policy is up to date as they will surely get the vehicle, regardless of your efforts. Thankfully, most thieves are of the average variety, stealing average cars. Your sophisticated thief usually has his or her eyes on a lofty, more exclusive prize.

Lou Trottier is owner-operator of All About Imports in Mississauga. Have a question about maintenance and repair? E-mail globedrive@globeandmail.com, placing “Lou’s Garage” in the subject line.

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