Thursday 07/01/16

Welcome to the New Year, and welcome back to my blog. I hope you have had a rest and are ready to face the New Year with a renewed sense of purpose, and a determination to make the most of the opportunities life presents to you. Tonight, I’m going to teach you how to deal with one of those opportunities; one that most drivers dread..... changing a tyre.

It doesn’t matter what sort of car you drive, or what part of the world you drive in, there is a very good chance that you will eventually have to change a tyre. It doesn’t matter if you belong to an Auto Club, knowing how to change a tyre is an essential skill to learn (especially if your flat tyre happens when you are several hours away from civilisation). Anyway, why would you want to wait for an hour or two for the Auto Club to arrive when you can fix the problem yourself in only a few minutes?

To replace a tyre you are going to need a few basic items to get the job done:

  • Spare tyre (make sure you check this tyre’s pressure every time you inspect you other tyres)
  • Car jack
  • 4-Way wheel brace (it looks like an X with a socket at the end of each arm)
  • Tyre iron
  • Hi-Visibility safety vest
  • Free-standing torch (if you have to change a tyre at night you don’t want to hold a torch in your mouth while you are trying to work)

A word of advice: just like your household tools, DO NOT take the cheap option when you are buying tools for your car. I learned this the hard way when I was a teenager. My job didn’t pay much money, so I purchased the cheapest wheel brace I could from the auto shop. Anyway, my car got a flat and I had to change the tyre. The wheel nuts on my second-hand car hadn’t been removed in many years, and they refused to budge. The only way I could get the nuts to move was by doing a palm-heel strike onto the wheel brace (very similar to the way karate black belts break bricks). After three nuts were loosened my luck ran out. The fourth strike snapped the sub-standard weld holding the wheel brace together, and I slammed my knuckles into the tarmac. Lesson learned

Ok, back to changing your tyre. You’re driving along and you hear the dreaded thub-thub-thub coming from under your car (or your car suddenly starts to handle like a shopping trolley), what do you do?

  1. First thing is don’t panic. Calmly pull over to the side of the road to the first available FLAT surface, where there is sufficient room for you to work safely. Do not park on a slope, and do not just stop in the middle of the road. Park your car in gear and put on the handbrake; this will reduce the chance of your car rolling away while you are working on it. Put your hazard lights on, you want to draw attention to your car and the fact there is a person working in close proximity to the road. Next, put on your safety vest. This gives other road users the best chance of seeing you before it’s too late.
  2. Use your tyre iron to remove the hubcap. You will use the hubcap (or your pocket) to keep the wheel nuts in. DO NOT just put them on the ground. Even losing one wheel nut would be a disaster.
  3. Use the wheel brace to loosen the wheel nuts (by turning them anti-clockwise). Notice I said loosen, not remove them. It doesn’t matter which nut you start with, the next nut you loosen must be on the opposite side of the wheel (think of when you were a kid and you tried to draw a 5 pointed star with one continuous line). This allows the rim to be removed from the axle without creating uneven pressure on the rim by loosening one side first. If your tyres were put on in an auto shop, the wheel nuts will done up very tight.
  4. Put the jack on solid ground under the car. Make sure the jack will make contact with a structurally sound part of the chassis; the owner’s manual will specify these locations for your car. Pump the jack handle until the jack touches the bottom of your car. Once the chassis is sitting stable on the jack, pump the handle another two or three times. You only need the wheel to be an inch or two from the ground to remove it from the car.
  5. Carefully remove the wheel nuts and put them in a safe place (as described above). Try not to shake the car too much, you don’t want to unbalance the jack. When you remove the wheel immediately lay it on its side, you don’t want it to roll away (it’s not as funny as it sounds).
  6. Put spare tyre in place and finger-tighten the wheel nuts.
  7. Lower the car to the ground and remove the jack.
  8. Use the wheel brace to tighten the wheel nuts (turn them clockwise and use the same star-type pattern you used to loosen them). Make sure you really tighten the wheel nuts; you don’t want the wheel to fly off as you drive away.
  9. Pack your gear away and resume your trip. Don’t forget to get your tyre fixed or replaced ASAP; you don’t know when your next flat tyre will happen.
  10. Even though you have your hazard lights on, and you’re wearing a Hi-Vis vest, you must always keep an eye on the traffic. Your safety is your responsibility; you can’t simply hope everyone else will be looking out for you.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared. The better educated people are, the less likely they are to suffer a tragic mishap when dealing with something as simple as a flat tyre.

Thursday 03/12/15

Welcome to December and my final blog post for the year. Over the last twelve months I’ve shared a lot of information with you; in turn I hope you have enjoyed my blogs and shared them with your loved ones.

At this time of the year we are all busy and excited in the lead up to Christmas, but we still need to remain vigilant. Over the last couple of weeks I have seen a few a few things on the internet that inspired the topic of tonight’s blog..... Holiday Safety.

As the Christmas holidays rapidly approach we need to remember not to overshare our plans on social media. Over the last week or two I have seen a few friends on various social media platforms sharing their holiday plans. Yes, their holidays look exciting and fun; but they include far too many details. Unfortunately, the world isn’t a very nice place anymore; and as such, we need to remember that not everyone on social media can be trusted. We might know who our friends are, but we don’t know who their friends are.

If you are planning to go away on a trip, it would be wise not to advertise the details before you go away. You don’t need the world to know your travel itinerary. Even if you go to the trouble of cancelling the regular deliveries and made the other appropriate arrangements; it will count for nothing if you have already announced to the world when your house will be empty and for how long. Play it safe; keep these details on a strict need-to-know basis. Once you return from your holiday, feel free to share your holiday snaps with your friends.

Another timely reminder for Christmas is to resist the urge to share pictures all your lovely new toys on social media. You don’t want complete strangers seeing everything Santa left under your Christmas tree. The same goes for packaging. If you leave empty boxes for expensive electrical items on the kerb, you are providing thieves with a list of goods they might like to steal.

That’s enough doom and gloom for now. Stay safe and enjoy your end of year break. As usual, please share this information with your friends and family. Information is useless if it isn’t shared.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year to you and your family.

Thursday 12/11/15

Too often I have seen people venture into the countryside with little more than an odd assortment of gear in their car and clothes on their back. In my first book Sleep With One Eye Open, the main character purchased a list of equipment he thought he might need to help him endure some of the difficulties he might encounter. I based this list on the equipment that everybody should carry with them if they venture into the countryside. Sure, you may not need each item every time you go out; but if you find yourself in a difficult situation you will be grateful you have this equipment with you.

Be forewarned, this list will cost you a few dollars to complete. As such, I recommend only purchasing one or two items at a time. I strongly urge you to avoid the temptation to buy budget (bad quality) items. One day your life may rely on this equipment, so only invest in good quality gear. This kit is commonly known as a Bug Out Bag (or B.O.B.).

Your first item is a backpack. You don’t need a huge, metal framed backpack. Your backpack only needs to be big enough to carry your essential equipment. A 30 litre daypack should be sufficient. Granted, a bigger backpack can carry more gear; but bear in mind, the more gear you pack, the heavier your backpack will be. A heavy backpack is a hated backpack. Your backpack needs to have more than one compartment and plenty of internal pockets. This will keep your gear organised, and save delicate items from being damaged. If your pack doesn’t have internal pockets, it is little more than a disorganised sack. Your backpack must be water resistant and made from heavy duty material. Lightweight, flimsy material can snare or tear if it comes into contact with sharp rocks or barbed wire fences. The zippers have to be sturdy; an open backpack is useless. A couple of external pockets will be required so you have somewhere to carry your water bottles. Finally, your backpack needs a solid back support to keep it in shape; and your pack needs sturdy well-padded straps. You must try on a variety of backpacks to see which one feels right and suits your body shape. Don’t simply take the sales assistant’s word for which pack is the best; they aren’t the one who will be carrying it for hours on end, over rugged countryside.

Next item on the list is a knife. I recommend a fixed blade knife made from carbon steel. It must have a full tang. I prefer a knife that is no more than twelve inches long, with a seven inch, clip point blade. The longer the tang, the sturdier and more durable your knife will be. A tang that is shorter than the length of the knife’s handle is more likely to fail if your knife is being used for heavy duty tasks. Remember; in a survival situation, your knife will be your best friend. Ignore the “latest and greatest” advertisements. Look for a brand and model that has a proven track record, with a loyal following from customers. Your knife needs a sheath; this is not negotiable. Without a sheath it is impossible to carry your knife safely. A leather sheath is traditional but there are some good quality hard plastic sheaths on the market too. Never use a soft nylon sheath (made from the same material as a sports bag). Sharp blades and flimsy sheaths are a bad combination.

Other equipment you will need:

  • Good quality multi-tool.
  • 2 x one litre stainless steel water-bottles with a wide opening and a screw-top lid.
  • Lensatic compass.
  • Fire steel.
  • Matches in weatherproof container.
  • Chemical glow-stick.
  • Signalling mirror.
  • Space blanket.
  • Plastic storm whistle.
  • Waterproof marker pen.
  • Military can opener.
  • Spork
  • 10 metres of green para-cord.
  • Small LED torch with spare batteries.
  • Small bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • Small bottle of sunscreen.
  • Roll-on bottle of insect repellent
  • Roll of duct tape.
  • A floppy bucket hat. (This can be folded to fit in your pack).
  • Socks x 2 pair.
  • Jumper/Sweater (Lightweight).
  • Protein bar/chocolate bar/trail mix; enough for three days.
  • Tinned food (eg baked beans/spaghetti/tuna/processed meat); enough for three days.
  • A deck of cards. (Card games can help pass the time if you are stranded).

As I said at the beginning of the blog, this gear will set you back a few dollars; but it is a worthy investment of your hard-earned money. If you look after your gear, you should get a lifetime worth of use out of it.

Before heading out into the countryside, you need to practice using your new gear. Make sure your knife is sharp. Know how to use each tool on your multi-tool. Practice using your compass to get you from Point A to Point B. Make sure you know how to use your fire steel; don’t try it out for the first time in an emergency situation.

If you found the information in tonight’s blog useful, please share it with your friends and family on social media. Information is only useful if it is shared. The better educated people are, the less likely it is they will find themselves facing an avoidable emergency.