We all have whipped into a parking lot, late for something or other, let the front tires hit the barrier and hop out. Of course, later when we return and back up, we hear the grinding of the parking stop on the bottom of the car. I am seeing more and more damage these days from something as simple as parking.
Cars are getting lower all the time for aerodynamic reasons. The lower the car is the less chance of air creating a cushion underneath and causing a floating sensation when driving. Anybody remember the boats we used to drive in the 70s? Get them above 50 or 60 mph and the front wheels would not even touch the road.
Another reason for controlling the passage of air around, over and under the car is for engine and transmission cooling purposes. You may be surprised just how much science has gone into that little piece of plastic or rubber under the engine. Air flow is a critical component with today’s lighter, more fuel efficient vehicles.
Today we have front air dams, front spoilers, and other body parts that almost scrape the road. And recently, I have been seeing damage to the bottoms of radiators, air conditioning lines, electrical components and sensors, oil pans, transmission cooler lines, just a whole raft of ruined components, from these wheel stop barriers and other items that we used to be able to ignore.
Here are a couple of tips to avoid costly repairs:
- Always back into a parking space. There is very little chance of damaging anything back there and there is a very real safety benefit to parking backwards. According to the NTSB (National Traffic and Safety Board) 92.7% of all low speed accidents happen in parking lots when folks are backing up. The numbers of injured children every month from cars backing over them are nothing short of staggering. All of this could be avoided if you park such that you all always go forward when leaving.
- Then driving along, always go around instead of over debris in the road. I know, it sometimes is unavoidable, but if you can go around something it is better. It may look like an empty box or bag but more and more this debris really fouls things up. Or worse, it isn’t empty at all. A brick or some other hard something can really tear things up when travelling at highway speeds.
Now of course, if you drive a truck or SUV, this whole article may seem a little silly (except the part about backing over kids). Still, these are good habits to get into. A great deal of driving and parking is done on auto pilot these days. What with cell phones, meetings, deadlines, stereos, kids and God knows what other distractions these days, should you find yourself in a rental car or someone else’s car, that autopilot SUV driving might really cost you.