Monthly Archives: April 2012

What to look for when test driving

An important, but often neglected feature to take into consideration when test-driving a vehicle is the steering system. While all steering systems perform similar functions, they are not all created equal. The steering factor is an important function to take note of when purchasing new or used, because it is a vital link to how well a car performs on the road.

Most salespeople accompany potential buyers on road tests, while some dealers allow you to take the vehicle out by yourself. Either is fine, but if you can take the vehicle out yourself, we recommend it. And, take it for an extended test-drive–at least 25 miles. Test the vehicle on all roads and on the highway to determine whether it performs correctly at various speeds. While you are driving, ask yourself some questions:

*Does the model you are test-driving perform similiar to your old vehicle?

*Does the engine run smoothly?

*Do the gears shift easily?

*Are there any noticeable rattles, squeaks or shakes?

*Are you comfortable in the vehicle?

To ensure adequate field of vision and improve steering control, the height of the driver’s seat should be checked. The steering wheel should be no higher than the top of your shoulders: The tilt steering wheel or column option may be for you. Your hands should fall at “eight” and “four” oclock, with upper arms resting on your rib cage.

As mentioned above, taking the car out alone is terrific, because you can put it through any paces you want; using caution, of course. If there are two of you who will be driving the vehicle, both should take a turn at the wheel. Test our those steep hills, parallel parking and stop-and-go traffic situations. Put the car through some short stops and hard turns to see how well it responds. Try to duplicate the road conditions that you will encounter most often.

Probably most important is how comfortable you are in the car. Does it feel right? Are the vibes you are getting good ones?

Before you return to the dealer, stop and evaluate what you have discovered while test-driving. This helps you develop perspective on your intitial opinions before the sales person hits you with his/her pitch.

Whatever you do, do not skip the test-drive. Believe it or not, many buyers neglect to test-drive the model they want, choosing a vehicle only by how it looks, or how popular it is reported to be. This is a big mistake

Book Reviews

The Milepost, 2012, 64th edition, Valencia, Kris, Editor, 8 1/2×11, 784 pages, $29.95 paperback ($34.95 Canadian). Digital Edition Free with book. ISBN: 978-1-8921542-9-3

Reviewed by: Susan Frissell, Ph.D., Publisher,

This may be the biggest book you’ve ever read. It is also, by far, the most comprehensive and invaluable tome when navigating the Alaska Highway. When traveling throughout Alaska and northwestern Canada, The Milepost, a much-needed Bible since 1949, is the book to have under your arm-or car seat.

In its 64th edition, The Milepost is the “essential guide” for Alaska travelers, since 1949. This edition is edited by Kris Valencia, and with nearly 700 color photos and 100 maps to edit, her job is a big one. According to Valencia, “traveling the Alaska Highway is worth the price, and the memories are worth the mileage.”

This reviewer can attest to that. Taking off on my big adventure in 1972, a friend and I traveled from Chicago, IL to Fairbanks, AK and back. With dozens of stops along the way-and only one flat tire-we drove 28,500 miles in 28 days.  At that time, the famous Highway was not all paved; much of it gravel. Now, the Highway is paved, all    miles of it, which probably means the trip is a little faster.

Covering some 14,000 miles of road, The Milepost lists detailed descriptions of all the communities along the way, a mile-by-mile log of all Northern routes and attractions in both Alaska and northwestern Canada. When traveling the Alaska Highway, we found the mile-by-mile logs extremely helpful; particularly, when in need of a fuel stop and/or eating establishment. We had our camping sites scheduled ahead of time, which helped, but referred to Milepost time after time when searching for suggestions about where to stop and/or eat.  I have kept my original Milepost, which in the 1970s was a considerably smaller version.

As I did when traveling in Alaska, The Milepost recommends all travelers carefully plan their itineraries ahead of time. For instance, if you are traveling in a good size RV, you will find there are extended parking areas available most everywhere along the way.  Travelers can also combine road travel with the Alaska state ferry system and the Alaska Railroad. We tried booking the Ferry before we left town and even at that time, there was no more room available. In 2012, I suspect this is more of a problem, due to far more travelers to Alaska.

Readers and travelers needn’t purchase The Milepost only if they are planning a trip to Alaska. On the contrary, for the armchair traveler alike, The Milepost is just great fun to read and peruse. There is so much contained in this travel planner, it is great reading. You will learn a lot.

Available in bookstores, The Milepost can also be purchased online at and Or call 1-800-726-4707. And if you are interested in blogging your travels to the great state of Alaska, go to