Dear Car Coach: I was wondering if the self-parking systems that are used on Ford, Mercedes and other cars are affected if it’s snowing. I’m looking at purchasing a new 2013 Mercedes GL SUV and I want to be sure. Have you driven the GL450? Thanks.
– G.G., Clarence
Dear G.G.: Parallel parking is probably one of the most frustrating parts of operating a vehicle. Most of us don’t do it well. Ford, Lincoln, Lexus, Mercedes, BMW to name a few, offer a self-parking system. Check with manufacturers’ websites to see if this is offered on a new car. It’s worth considering if you are always parking on the street and find it a challenge to get in a parking spot.
Self-parking cars currently on the market are not completely autonomous, but they do make parallel parking much easier. The driver still regulates the speed of the vehicle by pressing and releasing the brake pedal (the car’s idle speed is enough to move it into the parking space without pressing the gas pedal). Once the process begins, the on-board computer system takes over the steering wheel.
Different self-parking systems have different ways of sensing the objects around the car. Some have sensors distributed around the front and rear bumpers of the car, which act as both transmitters and receivers. These sensors will need to be kept clear of snow and dirt if you expect them to work properly.
I have driven the 2013 Mercedes GL. The Mercedes self-parking system is quite impressive. The GL450 4Matic has a V8 engine with 362 horsepower and earns about 16 mpg, with a top speed of 130 mph. The starting price is $63,900. The 2013 Mercedes GL-Class offers every technology package you could think of as standard features, plus these standard safety elements: around view camera - no more blind spots; collision prevention assist - visual, audio and maximum boosted brakes; crosswind stabilization - uses Digital Auto Pilot to engage the opposite side wheel brakes; and park assist – which parks the SUV for you and helps you pull away as well. I test-drove the GL in the dunes of New Mexico.
Dear Car Coach: Would you please discuss how to use cruise control safely? My husband insists that cruise control is safe in snow, wet or icy roads because he can react quickly. This makes riding with him in the winter a real adventure. I need someone of authority to tell him NO! He reads your column. – S.G., Buffalo
Dear S.G.: You are correct: Using cruise control on snow, wet or icy roads can be very dangerous. The reason for this is that the cruise control system is designed to be utilized on normal road conditions. The system doesn’t know when the pavement is slippery. Under slick conditions, you need to be in complete control of the car and monitoring road conditions. You’re more likely to notice hydroplaning if you are not relying on the cruise control.
With some cars, it is possible that the wheels will actually spin faster when the cruise control is on and the car can hit a slippery spot. When the tires make contact with firm road again, the car can skid or lose control. On most cars, tapping on the brake disengages the cruise control. In an emergency, this adds a fraction of a second to your response time as well as the risk of the braking action itself causing a loss of control on a slippery road.
Dear Car Coach: I don’t have an owner’s manual. I’m not sure if there was one with this car, but you stated I should look in mine and when I finally looked there wasn’t one. Do you have extras or know where can I get one? – T.S., Lockport
Dear T.S.: You can purchase a specific manual for your car at the new car dealer or at your local auto parts store or even on eBay. The Car Care Council offers a reference guide for motorists that is available by download or a printed copy for FREE. The 60-page guide covers nine major services, 12 component groups within the vehicle, service interval recommendations and much more. It even has sections on fuel economy and environmental awareness, too. The guide comes in English, Spanish and French, plus a metric version.
This nonprofit group also offers a free online service and maintenance schedules. They offer free information on everything you need to maintain your vehicle and keep you on the road longer. Check out www.carcare.org