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Buying a Car

Tips for buying a safe car

When shopping for a new vehicle ask your salesperson to give you more information on the safety features of the vehicle.

Be sure to investigate which safety features are available on the vehicle you are considering.

Front air bags

Front air bags are available on all new cars. Air bag systems rely on electronic sensors and an onboard computer to detect a frontal collision and then trigger the airbags if necessary. The bags inflate in a milliseconds cushioning the front seat occupants, and then immediately deflate.

Dual-stage front air bags

The latest generation of dual-stage front air bags detects variables in certain conditions such as whether a seat belt is fastened and the severity of a crash. With the ability to detect these variables the air bags can determine the appropriate deployment power relative to the conditions present.

Many of the latest systems can also determine whether a person is even in the passenger seat and will deactivate the air bag accordingly. State-of-the-art air-bag systems detect the presence, height, weight and seat position of the driver and front passenger and deactivate or reduce the deployment power of the front air bags in order to minimise the chance of injury due to out-of-position occupants.

Side-impact air bags

Side-impact air bags are designed to protect front-seat passengers.

Side-curtain bags

Side-curtain bags traverse the front and rear side windows and prevent passengers from striking their heads and protect them from flying debris as well as stop them from being ejected from the car during rollovers.

With continuing innovation in air bag technology, it is important to ask about the air bag system of any vehicle you are considering.

Global Positioning Satellite (GPS)

Decide whether you need a GPS system and if so check the quality of the system in the vehicle and ask about traffic information updates, software or map updates and the costs involved.

Antilock brakes (ABS)

Antilock brakes (ABS) maximises braking power by using sensors linked to a computer to eliminate wheel lock-up and loss of control. It is a common misconception that ABS will reduce braking distance in every situation. The reality is that it does not. What ABS will prevent is wheels locking up not allowing driver control over steering. A locked up wheel cannot steer but if being controlled by the ABS it will allow the driver to be in control and steer the car while under extreme braking conditions.

Brake Assist

Some antilock braking systems (ABS) come with brake assist, which engages ABS and boosts brake pressure under heavy or panic braking. Not all cars that have ABS also have brake assist. It is critical for the driver and passengers to wear their seatbelts at all times.

Traction control

Traction control systems electronically limit wheel spin during acceleration to help achieve maximum traction, particularly on wet, icy or slippery surfaces. Some traction control systems use the car’s anti-lock brake system to detect and limit wheel spin. When wheel spin is detected, traction control momentarily applies the brakes to the slipping wheel and re-routes power to a wheel with better grip.

Electronic Stability Control

Electronic stability control is even more advanced than traction control. Sensors throughout the vehicle allow the system to factor in a greater number of variables, including individual wheel speed, steering angle, and lateral motion so that it can electronically adjust the vehicle’s engine, braking,and suspension or steering systems as is necessary to ensure control of the vehicle in all situations.

Electronic stability control provides an extra measure of control on slippery surfaces and in accident-avoidance maneuvers. On some tall vehicles with high centers of gravity such as SUVs, electronic stability control can also prevent the vehicle from getting in a situation where rollover is imminent. Some manufacturers even incorporated roll stability control on these vehicles sometimes called RSC. These systems use accelerometers or gyroscopic sensors to determine if the vehicle is about to roll. If so, the system automatically activates the electronic stability control, as necessary, to help bring the car back under safe control.

Tyre pressure Monitors

Tyre under-inflation can greatly increase the chance of blowouts. The introductions of the monitors have gone a long way toward preventing them tyre pressure related blowouts. When you are looking for a car, keep in mind there are two types of monitors. A direct monitoring system places a sensor inside each wheel to measure the tyre pressure. An indirect monitoring system determines air loss by using sensors to measure chassis ride-height or to count wheel revolutions thereby assuming tyre pressure loss.