Q: In a recent
column, a reader asked about having an amber light showing when the
driver had lifted his or her foot from the accelerator. Twenty-five
or 30 years ago I saw just such a device while driving into Chicago
on the Eisenhower Expressway. The car in front of me had something
that looked like a traffic light mounted in the rear window. When
the driver was on the gas the green light was on, when he lifted off
the accelerator the yellow light was on, when he stepped on the
brake the red light was on.
I followed him for
quite a while and thought this was a pretty clever and useful
device. Iíve never seen another one and have no idea whether it is
still sold, but it was definitely helpful to me as I followed him on
a highway known for situations where traffic speed can change
ó B.J., Mendota,
A: I have been to
many automotive parts and accessory expos and have never seen
anything like the item you describe. I would not be surprised if
some clever reader spots this column and starts making them. But
nowadays, it would have to use LEDs for lights, an accelerometer to
detect slowing and maybe even Bluetooth for who-knows-why or it may
not move off the shelf. Would it be legal? Letís just say, nobody
seems to get a ticket for the obnoxious lights they display.
Q: Many cars already
have a warning that they are slowing down. Some hybrids and EVs
light up the brake lights when you take your foot off the
accelerator and engage regenerative braking. My Prius doesnít, but
its regen is relatively mild. Still itís good enough that brakes
are rarely used, and ours lasted over 90K before ever needing any
Several years ago I
test drove a BMW I3, and itís very aggressive regen would turn on
the brake lights. It would actually bring the vehicle to a complete
stop. Our year-old Tesla 3 is not quite as aggressive as the I3, but
still activates the brake lights when you back off the accelerator.
The console display shows you the red lights turning on when they
are activated. It wonít quite stop the car, but itís enough
braking that you have to be careful on snowy, icy or slick roads.
And brakes are expected to last even longer than on the Prius.
Itís almost one foot driving.
ó B.K., Chicago
A: Good point and one
that totally slipped my mind. Regenerative braking slows the vehicle
much more than traditional coasting as the traction motors morph
into generators to recharge the batteries. As such, some carmakers
switch on the brake lights to alert following drivers. Although some
people believe that regen braking improves fuel economy, it does
not. But it does help to keep the propulsion batteries charged.
Q: Is the E-85 gas
sold in Speedway gas stations safe to use in cars, specifically my
ó B.O., Chicago
A: When I see that
low, low price for fuel, the temptation is to give E85 a try. But
unless your vehicle is designed to run on E85 (85% alcohol and 15%
gasoline) donít do it. Only two 2016 Toyotas were flex fuel
compatible, the Tundra pickup and the Sequoia SUV. When in doubt,
check your ownerís manual.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Bob Weber is a writer
and mechanic who became an ASE-certified Master Automobile
Technician in 1976. He maintains this status by seeking
certification every five years. Weberís work appears in
professional trade magazines and other consumer publications. His
writing also appears in automotive trade publications, Consumer
Guide and Consumers Digest.
Send questions along
with name and town to Motormouth, Rides, Chicago Tribune, 160 N.
Stetson Ave., Fourth Floor, Chicago, IL 60601 or email@example.com.