Car wheels: Part 1

Car Wheels

The wheels on your car must be strong enough to resist the many forces acting upon it but light enough to allow it to be steered. The rolling motion of the wheel reduces friction and when two are used in conjunction with an axle, it allows for heavy loads to be carried safely. A load is at its most stable when it is within the area bounded by the wheels.

In your car, passengers sit within the area that is bounded by the wheels as this provides the greatest comfort and protection.

Wheel Construction and Size

Your wheel is made up of a hub at the centre of the wheel which is where the axle connects joining 2 wheels. A set of bearings allow the wheels to rotate around the axle. The hub is then connected to the rim by either wires or spokes.

Your wheel can be dished which means that the hub and wires or spokes are set in a bit from the rim, in order to protect them from damage. The rim is the outside edge of the wheel that holds the tyre.

The width of a tyre should never be greater than the width of the wheel. A tyre that is wider than the wheel will distort when cornering. A tyre that is much narrower than the wheel will not flex properly, resulting in excessive vibration and a very uncomfortable ride.

A wheel larger than the standard size for your vehicle will mean the vehicle is going faster than the speedometer shows. Put simply, this is because your speedometer is measuring how many times the wheels are turning. If the wheels are bigger than the standard, they will be travelling further and therefore faster for a given number of turns.

Space-saver Wheels

Most vehicles carry a spare wheel but, in order to create more space in the vehicle, a much thinner spare wheel is often used. Spare wheels are for emergencies only and are sometimes known as 40/40 wheels. This is a reference to the fact they should not be driven faster than 40 mph over a distance not greater than 40 miles. If your vehicle has a space-saver wheel you must consult The Manufacturer’s Handbook for the correct use of it.

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Seat Belt and Head Restraint: Why do we have them?

Seat Belt and Head Restraint: Why do we have them?

The purpose of the headrest is to stop your head rotating backwards. In order to set the headrest to you, you want the pointy bit at the back of your head to match up with the middle of your head restraint. The pointy bit is more correctly known as the occipital bone.

Your seatbelt is part of your vehicle’s passive safety system and in modern vehicles, you’ll find a 3 point lap and diagonal system which are specifically designed to contain you within your seat in the event of a collision. In an accident, anyone or thing that is not restrained will be thrown forward at the speed the vehicle was doing at the time of the collision.

If you hit a stationary vehicle at 30 mph anything or anyone not restrained will hit what is in front of them at 30 mph, a terrifying thought! For the driver, this will be the steering column and for passengers in the back, this will be the people in the front. Seat belts are designed to bear upon the bony parts of your body. This means the lap part should be across your pelvis and the diagonal across the chest and shoulder.

When using a seat belt, make sure to give it a tug (every time) to ensure the reels are working. Examine by a feel and a glance for cuts, tears and frays and always check the tongue is secure.

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CAR DOORS: MORE THAN JUST A DOOR

The doors on your car provide for the entry and exit as well as security of the vehicle. Their shape and method of opening are all part of the overall styling of the vehicle. They are also a part of the passive safety of the vehicle, in a number of ways. For example; load-carrying pockets, the structural integrity of the vehicle in the event of a collision and they may also contain airbags.

Did you know that doors are fitted with door brakes called stays? These are to smooth the shutting of the door. Particularly when the camber adds to the shutting force. Care must be taken with the opening of doors as they can be hit by other road users. This can also include pedestrians on the pavement. You are obliged to ensure you open your door safely. This applies to any door on your vehicle whether opened from the inside or out.

Did you know that there are a number of types of door openings?

Conventional Doors

The door itself is hinged, on the leading edge. This means that if you drive off, the door will tend to close on its own. When a saloon car only has 2 doors, those doors will be bigger than a saloon car which has 4 doors. The reason for this is the door space needs to be bigger to allow access to the rear of the vehicle.

Coach doors

These are hinged on the trailing edge so open the opposite way to normal doors. For this reason, they are sometimes known as suicide doors. The reason for this is that they open if the vehicle is moving as the airflow will force the door open! Scary! This not only creates a hazard for oncoming vehicles, but an unsecured occupant may also find themselves in the road. These types of car doors are often fitted to vehicles where the driver is opening the door for the passenger such as taxis or chauffeur-driven cars.

Sliding Doors

These types of doors are used on larger vehicles such as vans or people carriers. A conventional door on a large vehicle would require a bigger space into which to open. So they are space-saving.

Other Doors

Think the doors on the Bat Mobile. These tend to be used on concept vehicles rather than mainstream ones. Gullwing, canopy, butterfly and scissor doors, amongst others. Because all these doors open upward if the vehicle has rolled it makes getting out very difficult. Also when parked there must be sufficient clearance above for the doors to open. So they may be cool, but they’re not necessarily practical or safe!

So…what kind of doors does your car have?

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