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Cooley On Cars
Car Tech 101: 10 and 2 is not for you.We see cars differently: We love 'em on the road...but we also check the tech...and tell it like it is. This is CNET On Cars.
-Now I'm guessing you were taught to drive with your hands at 10 and 2. It's been driving school dictum for decades, kind of what I'm doing here. You got this big leverage at the top of the wheel. And one of the things that was good about 10 and 2 is it gave you this big kinda cranking forceps here like you're sawing away at the wheel of a ship. But that was then. Starting in the 80s, cars begin to come with power steering almost universally. And that changes a lot of things about how you address the wheel. If anything, steering in the 80s didn't really matter where you put your hands, starting then you could operate the car steering with the least effort. You could drape your wrist over the top. You could steer it down here with one finger, the classic kinda big American car thing. And people really got sloppy about where they put their hands-- too many of them just do this. Starting in the 90s, power steering evolves. It's not so numb and dumb-- it's variable ratio. That means it requires a different number of turns to navigate the land at speed than when you're parking for example. -The steering movement from lock to lock is much smaller. This reduces accordingly, the steering effort required during the entire parking maneuver. -But the big change is in the 90s we start to get airbags. And they show up everywhere in the car eventually, but the one that we're concerned about is this guy. This high explosive staring you square in the face all of the time. This demands a new discipline of how you hold the wheel. If this airbag goes off while you're up here in the traditional 10 and 2, a whole list of bad things can happen, including slamming this boney arms and hands of yours into your eyes, nose and face. De-gloving the flesh and muscles on your hands and arms-- don't even ask. And burns from your hands and arms being in this area and perhaps trap while this solid rocket propellant, basically, deploys this bag in 30 milliseconds. Let's get out of here. So 9 and 3, or better, 8 and 4 is where you wanna run your hands on a modern high-tech car and notice most car makers prompt you to put your hands there with the wheel design. And look at race footage. You will find most race and rally drivers keep their hands here as well for the best fine motor control and so they never obstruct the gauges as they work the wheel. And finally, with today's power assist systems which are often variable, you almost never have to turn the steering wheel more than about 3 quarters of a revolution. If you do, however, get in the habit of shuttling the wheel between your hands still in that virtual position, not riding them up and down like this or even worse, grouping and then doing this non-sense. That leads to a really clumsy steering dynamics, and again your hands are in a dangerous place. And of course it goes without saying that 9 and 3 or 8 and 4 keep your hands in position to use the steering wheel buttons and paddle shifters that are so common on cars today, compared to 10 and 2, which puts your hands in a completely different zip code.