VW Fox – Made Out of Pineapples


I’ve reviewed so many cars over the past six months or so, that I may have been guilty of getting used to the thrills and spills of driving fast ones. If this is the case, my assignment this week brought me back down to earth – very slowly might I add – with a bump. The car in question is the Volkswagen Fox – the baby of the German manufacturer’s fleet.

The car has a 0-60mph time of…wait…for…it…17.5 seconds. Top speed is 91mph and no, there isn’t a turbo attached to the puny 1.2 liter engine. Yet to lambaste the Fox for being slow and unexciting is to completely miss the point of the car. The giveaway is in the model name of the car I tested – the Volkswagen Urban Fox. You see in this time of petrol prices soaring, roads becoming more congested and the car being the global warming villain, the Fox could well be where the smart money lies when it comes to getting around town.

I don’t like to use the word ‘cheap’ but there’s no other way to describe the Fox, with prices starting at £6,430 to be precise (in the UK I should add). To get four brand new wheels onto the road, with a Volkswagen badge adorning your car for this money is quite simply a remarkable feat. The cost saving doesn’t end there either, with the Fox falling into insurance group one – the cheapest banding around. Fuel consumption almost looks made up with combined urban and extra urban figures of 46.3mpg.

Blimey this is starting to make a lot of sense. The Fox is quite tall too, so despite the diminutive length, the driving position is not too dissimilar to that of a larger 4×4 vehicle. The advantages of making the car tall, aren’t limited to the driving position, as headroom and legroom are also boosted by the extra inches up top. There’s plenty of glass around the car, making all round visibility excellent and parking a doddle.

Outside of its favored habitat things do go a bit awry with the Fox – particularly on the motorway. Now before you shout “the little thing’s not meant for the big roads!” if we’re being objective, there’s going to be occasions when you’re going to leave the big smoke and hit one of the multi-laned snakes cutting through the country. By-passing (no pun intended) the 0-60mph time, the Fox is – and I hate using this word as much as ‘cheap’ – slow. An overtaking maneuver requires the forward planning of a chess master and snooker champion all in one. Changing from fifth gear to fourth made little difference to my forward motion and worryingly, nor did a further shift down to third.

The tall sides also act as a pair of very large hands that grasp hold of every gust of wind or buffeting from a passing lorry, making the Fox a wee bit skittish in the outside lane. However, once off the motorway, the Fox feels far more assured navigating country twists and turns, thanks to a longer wheelbase than most in its class and wider track. In fact, rather than welding the accelerator pedal to the floor, a gradual motion combined with a neat gearbox brought great rewards in the great outdoors.

Parked up against it’s rivals the Fox sits comfortably in the ‘not ugly’ bracket but struggles to make it into the ‘pretty’ range either. As with Volkswagen’s other small hatchback the Polo, the Fox is subtly styled compared to its rivals, in this case the Citroen C1, Toyota Aygo and Peugeot 107. Yet there is something more grown up and civilized about the Fox when viewing it alongside the almost immature stylings of the other city cars.

An interesting fact for your next pub chatter – Volkswagen are committed to reducing the environmental impact of producing cars and are keen to promote recycling and greener vehicles. In the case of the Fox, it’s built in Brazil where the Curana plant grows. Fibers of this plant from the pineapple family are mixed with a recyclable synthetic material which makes the material for the roof lining and rear parcel shelf. No the car isn’t edible.

The Fox has been manufactured using the latest laser welding technology which means it’s a very rigid car helping it garner 4 stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests and features ABS as standard. Optional extras include alloy wheels, air conditioning and a CD player.

The Fox has a big fight on its hands, not necessarily from its competitors, but from the car it replaces – the much loved, and cute Lupo. Either way, the evidence is clear. Next time I get behind the wheel of a 2.0 liter turbo’d monster, I’ll be wishing I was a far sensible human being and was driving a Volkswagen Fox.


Source by Gareth Jones

Driving And Back Pain – Is Your Car Seat Causing Lower Back Pain?


A lot of us experience lower back pain whilst driving. A number of researches have investigated the relationship between driving and Back Pain, which uncovered uncovered some interesting results. One finding is a comparison of drivers in the USA and in Sweden found that 50% of people questioned in both countries reported low back pain.

So what is the connection of driving and back pain?

So far research has found three factors for low back pain whilst driving. The first one is the vibration from the engine (something that you can not change), the sitting position is the second factor and the third one is the length of time that we drive.

Scientists at laboratories have researched the effects of vibration of our body whilst driving. The Lumbar Spine(lower back) naturally resonates at a frequency of 4-5 Hertz and from research they found that this natural frequency can be distorted. This distortion can result into higher spinal loadings (compression) in the lower back, therefore causing an increased chance of low back pain. As mentioned before you can not change the vibration of the engine, but what you can do to reduce the effects of this on your lower back is to drive shorter periods at a time.

It is a lot easier to get comfortable in your seat when the car is stationary, a bit like sitting in a normal chair. But once you start driving the body will be subject to various forces like accelerations and decelerations, lateral movements from side to side and whole body vibrations.When we sit on a chair our feet, when on the floor, are used to support and stabilise the lower body. Whilst driving our abdominal muscles can not provide enough stability to our upper body and arms when turning the wheel. This will result in a significant increase of torsional stresses in the lower back, which in return will significantly increase the risk of low back pain.

To start with we should address one more important issue first – we all are guilty when it comes to adjusting our car seats correctly! In 2004 one of the largest car insurance companies (I won’t mention a name, after all you may think I am paid to write about this), released the findings of a research into how we sit in our car. (about 2.000 people were involved in this).

The research resulted in the following –

  • The headrest was found to be in an incorrect angle when driving of 61% of people involved in the study. This will increase the chance of ruptures of the spinal ligaments or worse when involved in an accident.
  • 50% showed a slouched or hunched position over the steering wheel.
  • About a third of the drivers had back pain whilst driving.
  • 25% tilted their heads or shifted in their seats each time they had to look into the ‘rear view mirror’.
  • Wearing unsuitable footwear or clothing happened to 34% of the drivers.

Please find below a list of 10 ways that can help to improve your seating position, make your driving experience more comfortable.

The Seat

Make sure that your bottom sits all the way in the back of the seat – where the base and the back of the seat meet. This will help to make you sit more upright and maintain the natural curvature of the spine, minimizing the stress on the spinal ligaments. If your seat has a lumbar roll built in have this all the way out – most cars with lumbar support that i tried do not allow enough support fom this lumbar roll, therefore it would be best to have it all the way out.

The Base length and Height of the Seat

The base of the seat should never touch the back of your knees and the front of the base should be slightly higher then the back, helping to provide more support and allowing you press the pedals without changing your spinal posture.

The Backrest

First relax back into your seat, place the seat at about a 10-15 degrees incline from the vertical position. If this feels unnatural to you then it probably means that the backrest is not upright enough for you. This can result into neck strain and / or coccyx (sitting bone) pain. Move the backrest more upright or if that doesn’t help you can place a small towel (folded in three) against the midspine, between the shoulder blades.

The Headrest

Have you ever noticed when watching an American movie that the headrests are often missing from the seats – it makes me crinch each time i see this (ooch). So much for giving a good example to our children. The position of your headrest will not only help to minimise the injuries of an accident but also to help to allow a better posture. The bony bit at the back of your head (known as the ‘inion’) is a good guiding point, the headrest should be level with this. There should be about 2.3 cm’s (1 inch for the non -metrics) between the back of your head and the headrest, when you are in the sitting position as described earlier. This to absorb shock as much as possible. This allows for the ligaments and the muscles of your neck to control the posture of your head better and giving better support in case of an accident.

Seat – Pedal distance

Make sure you have the distance between seat and the pedals so that when operating the pedals this does not cause you to over strech your legs or twist your body in any way. Thus your legs should not be straight when pushing the throttle or clutch all the way down. Obviously your knees should not be bend to the point you cannot easily move from one pedal to another. It is normally advised to have your knees bend about 45 degrees.

The Arm position

Your arms should be as relaxed as possible, elbows bend around 20-30 degrees. If your steering wheel is adjustable have it in the mid to lower position (make sure the wheel does not partially obstruct the instrument panel), this will help to reduce the stress on your shoulders. Your hands should be positioned at ’10 past10′ and not as is suggested left hand at 9 o’clock and right hand at 3 o’clock.

The Armrests

If your seat has armrests then it is advised to use these. As a guidance you should position the armrests so that they gently support the elbows, any more will cause the shoulders to rise and increase the change of straining your neck.

The Mirrors

These should only be adjusted once you have positioned your seat as described above. If not sure then please revisit the information again how to adjust your seat. The mirrors should be adjusted to allow you to freely look into them without the need of having to move your head much. you either have adjusted the mirrors incorrectly or you are to close to the steering wheel.

Adjusting Seat at intervals

This sound great in theory but for most of us this may be akward whilst driving. For those who have electric seats it is easier (although it always advicable to stop first), just reach for the buttons to adjust the seat without the need to take our attention of the road. It is said that you should be doing this every 30 mins. to reduce the incidents of back pain. This allows to change the pressure that is placed on the spine is varied regularly. Once arrived at your destination it would be good to strech! (don’t worry if it looks funny, soon everybody in the carpark will join in – you can be proud having started a new ‘healthy’ trend)

Have breaks

We all have seen the ‘take a break’ sign along the roads, helping you to avoid falling asleep behind the wheel. Taking a break helps your back as well, so when you need to take a rest you can have a strech at the same time to help your back. An hour maximum is the current thinking, although these tips should be taken as a general rule. This is a good time to adjust your seating position!


Source by Arjen Bootsma

Caterpillar Inc: Age of Yellow Reign


For over 90 years, Caterpillar Inc., also known as CAT, has been setting the pace in the construction and mining industries. This huge multinational company has managed to gain such a wide reputation and popularity that its brand name sounds familiar even for the ear of a non-specialist. And the first association doesn’t include the image of an insect with the same name. Instead, one would certainly think about some heavy machinery painted in yellow or about rugged boots with the well-recognized yellow-black emblem. (Caterpillar Workwear is popular among constructors and mere adventurers who need extremely comfort and durable clothing).

Present-day product segments

As of today, Caterpillar Inc. is focused on its three main product segments: Construction Industries, Resource Industries and Energy & Transportation. Apart from leading the markets of mining and construction equipment (producing more than 30 types of machines), Caterpillar excels in manufacturing diesel as well as natural gas engines.

Rise of the legend

The birth of this notable company as we know it today came from the merging of the Holt Manufacturing Company and C. L. Best Tractor Co. in 1925. Previously, both companies were working on track-type tractors (steam-powered at first, and gasoline-powered later). The word “Caterpillar” was registered as a trademark by the Holt Manufacturing Company in 1910, and almost immediately it became synonymous with the track-type vehicle.

In 1928, the newly founded Caterpillar Tractor Co. decided to expand its much promising business into the road construction industry, purchasing the Russell Grader Manufacturing Company. Thus, Caterpillar initiated the practice of acquisitions, which allowed the enterprise to set new goals and reach new markets. Soon after, the enlarged company unveiled the industry’s first true motor grader. Actually, introducing the industry’s first vehicles and equipment has become a good tradition for Caterpillar since its creation. At the same time, the brand’s designers developed the new “Hi-Way Yellow” paint color with black trim for their products. Coming back to the present, it’s safe to say that the color choice was perfect. According to color psychology, yellow is characterized as creative from a mental aspect (the color of new ideas and practical thinking). According to public surveys, people most often associate this color with joy and amusement. And according to Caterpillar, yellow has become an integral part of the overall company success. In 1979 the brand even implemented a special new paint “Caterpillar Yellow” instead of the “Hi-Way Yellow” one.

The history of Caterpillar Inc. doesn’t reflect just the development of one particular company, but it is also associated with the progress of infrastructure as well as energy and natural resource assets on every continent.

Fields of applications

CAT equipment helped to start the construction of the Bhakra Dam (India), the Mangla Dam (Pakistan), the Yacyreta Dam (Paraguay and Argentina), the Ataturk Dam (Turkey), the Three Gorges Dam (China). One of the main workhorses on such kind of construction sites is an excavator. The first brand’s hydraulic excavator was introduced in 1972. Since then, Caterpillar excavators represent the highly demanded excavator machines on the market.

Furthermore, Caterpillar machines are active participants on mining sites around the globe. In 1962 the brand introduced its first off-highway truck – the 769. Nowadays, different versions of Caterpillar haul trucks represent one of the major products in the company profile.

Other manufacturer’s significant missions include: the participation in the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge; the works on widening the Panama Canal’s sections; building the Kansai International Airport, located on an artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay (Japan); assisting the completion of the Saemangeum Seawall – the world’s longest man-made dyke.

What is more, this giant company doesn’t seem to have any limits at all. In 1955, Caterpillar’s tailor-made equipment was used by the U.S. government for Operation Deep Freeze in Antarctica. The further, the more! In 1969, the Caterpillar engines supplied power for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

Company strategy

After “shooting for the moon” in the previous century, Caterpillar welcomes everybody to the Age of Smart Iron. In a present-day world, advancements come faster and more frequently than ever before. As the productivity incentive, the manufacturer underlines the crucial role of connectivity. To provide the total company growth, Caterpillar is focused on its three strategic goals: maintaining superior results for stockholders, creating the best team inside the company and keeping on leading the global markets and satisfying the brand’s customers.


Source by Victoria Zhurkowskaya

Factors To Consider Before Servicing Your Car


Regular servicing of vehicles is as essential as filling fuel in it to enjoy smooth driving from it. But there are lots of motorists who consider maintenance of their car as a tedious task and do not pay attention towards it and realize its relevance when they are not able to drive their car for reaching their preferred destination at the time which they had decided to reach on.

This sometimes sounds surprising and unusual that how a person, especially the driver of a car can forget or ignore the service of his vehicle. This is mainly because of the myth prevailing among lots of owners who consider car servicing stagnated mainly with checking the level of engine oil, regular cleaning, filling fuel and checking the pressure of tyres.

Therefore before proceeding ahead, always keep in mind that car servicing is not restricted only to above mentioned checklist, but involves the checkup of different parameters such as a check up of engine, clutch & gearbox, braking system, etc. which are necessary to be performed once you have driven specified kilometers by your car, whether it is during the year or after that.

So, now after going through the importance of car servicing it becomes imperative for us to look after the factors that should be kept in mind before visiting any garage:

  1. Types of Services: It is one of the important factors to check before visiting any garage that what type of services they offer, because there are some centres that expertise in offering services only to mid-sized cars. Whereas there are lots of stations who offer services of all types of cars by the technicians that are accredited by the manufacturer to conduct the service of their vehicles. Let us assume that you own BMW then you can get your BMW serviced from authorized BMW service centre without any second thoughts as they are registered by the manufacturer and have access of database to update the records of car service, tuning, repairing etc.
  2. Infrastructure of the Service Station: Most of the people believe that all car service centres are same, but this is not true to the huge extent because authorized service centres are equipped with all latest computerised equipments that are used nowadays, and have separate areas for inspection, servicing, cleaning, washing of vehicles and also the waiting area where their clients can wait and have a look towards the servicing of their car, if they wish to. Moreover, licensed garage also displays the certificate of its accreditation from the manufacturer permitting him to look after the maintenance of car manufactured by them.
  3. Charges: Finally, last but not the least you should get the estimate of your vehicle before giving it for servicing so that at the time of payment. For example, when you get your car serviced from the authorized garage they will charge fix price for every task varying from changing of engine oil or replacing the damaged part of your car with genuine part as quoted by manufacturer.


Source by Kamal Swami

Car Insurance Estimator – What You Need


Such calculator asks a number of questions; each answer will be used as variable to make quotes and determine the premium fee. The questions can be divided into two main categories including vehicle-related and personal information. Some of the most common questions you see in car insurance estimator are listed as follows:

1. What is your age or birth date?

Age plays a role in the overall estimation. The insurance company considers very young and senior citizens high-risk drivers. The former group probably lack of experience, and there is a high possibility that young drivers break some traffic laws, commit violations such as speeding, etc. The latter group probably has some limitations in terms of vision, hearing, and driving skills, meaning the chance of being involved in accident increases as well.

2. What is your profession?

Car insurance estimator uses drivers’ professions to calculate accident rates. There is a statistic suggesting that certain professions such as doctors, real estate brokers, lawyers, business owners, and salespeople are considered stressful jobs; insurers believe that stressful jobs affect concentrations on driving. Cal insurance calculator may determine higher insurance fee based on this factor.

3. What kind of car you drive?

Car model affects insurance rates as well. Car insurance estimator may treat luxury cars like the more expensive assets to insure. In case of accidents, vandalism, or theft, luxury car is more likely to cost more to repair compared to its cheaper counterparts. Sports car with high top speed and quick acceleration rate is quite risky to insure as well, so insurance companies tend to charge more for such vehicles.

4. How many cars to insure?

The good thing is that the more cars listed in the same insurance policy, the more discounts you probably get. The discount is based on bundling option, so you can be eligible for other discounts if you insure your house, health, and life with the same company as well.

5. What is your address?

Car insurance estimator uses your address to determine if you live in certain area where crime rate is considered high. You have to pay more to protect the car if you live in risky towns.

6. How many violations on your driving record?

Driving record is evidence where DMV lists all previous accidents in which you were involved, traffic violations, and every traffic ticket. The insurance companies uses the data to determine whether you are low-risk or high-risk driver.


Source by Mike Heuer

What Your Brake Pads and Parts Say About Your Vehicle


While brake pads are almost invisible compared to the size of an entire vehicle, you can only ignore them at your own risk. They hold the key to safety of even the most experienced drivers. Brake Pads and Parts of your vehicle communicate the condition of your vehicle and can be used to judge the level of safety.

Choosing the Best Pads

There are thousands of parts available in the market. Some are genuine with an even wider variety of imitations. The imitations are done so perfectly that it would be difficult to distinguish them from the originals. Here are tips that will help you get the best original parts and pads for any vehicle.

Know your vehicle model- vehicle parts are designed specifically for particular models and vehicle types. Brake Pads and Parts for a saloon car differ from those of heavy commercial vehicle even if the model is the same. Though you may use parts from a different vehicle model if the specifications tally, the performance might differ. Ensure that you select pads or parts that fit your vehicle.

Buy original pads and parts– vehicle manufacturers recognize that vehicle parts and pads wear out. They therefore provide replacements that are similar to original parts. The market has also witnessed a flood of imitations which are of a lower quality. Though their prices are lower, they will compromise the performance of your vehicle and may lead to fatal road accidents.

Use a dealer– buying vehicle parts is not an easy task. The parts appear similar or vary slightly in dimensions. They are therefore likely to confuse you when buying which will eventually affect the performance of your vehicle. A dealer understands different vehicles and the parts available in the market. He is therefore better positioned to advise on the pads or parts to buy.

Invest in parts and brake pads– quality parts are sold at a premium. To get the best in the market, you must be ready to pay the price. Using low quality parts may damage your vehicle further, leading to heavier losses. It is better to pay a higher price on parts other than bear the cost of repairing extensive damage to the rest of the vehicle.

Durability of any part depends absolutely on maintenance. Even the highest quality will be damaged if proper maintenance does not happen. What steps can you take to make your vehicle parts last long?

Maintenance– do not wait for the vehicle to break down before visiting the garage. It might stall on the road and even cause a fatal accident. The secret is to be strict on maintenance schedule as indicate in the vehicle manual. Maintenance also involves oiling the moving parts and cleaning areas that are exposed to contaminants like dust.

Proper use– there are brake pads for each type of vehicle. Heavy commercial vehicles use a different material, size and mechanism compared to saloon and sport cars. This aspect must be maintained all through. Instant braking must be avoided at all cost. It quickly damages the pads.

It is not mandatory to visit a garage or engage a professional mechanic when changing your brake pads. If you have the time and necessary tools, it will take a few minutes to an hour to complete the task. Some of the tools you require include:

Jack and jack stand

Lug wrench

Disposable mechanic gloves

A turkey buster to be used in drawing brake fluid

A piece of string, bungee cord or plastic tie

An adjustable, open or socket wrench

You will also need new pads that fit the specifications of your vehicle. Considering that you are DIY in order to save money, the money can be used to purchase high quality pads. Original parts save you money in the long run. You will also need a can of brake fluid either as replacement or to store the existing fluid before returning it.

The parts must be opened procedurally to avoid breaking them. Turn the wheel such that the entire part is easily accessible. Change one wheel at a time. All nuts and screws must be replaced and tightened before returning the wheel. In case you are doubtful about your skills, engage a professional mechanic.

Replacing Brake Pads and Parts can be done as a DIY procedure as long as you understand what is required. Getting genuine parts, regular maintenance and involving professionals will prolong the life of your vehicle. Shoddy work will cause the damage to spill to other areas and thus increase your overall cost.


Source by Long Chad