How to make driving comfortable

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When driving in your car, you can concentrate fully only if you are correctly positioned, well located and at the right distance from the controls. A common mistake, especially among new drivers, is to sit too close to the wheel in what is termed the 'sit up and beg' position - so named because as well as having the elbows bent, the driver's wrists also have to be bent.

Seating position

The ideal seating position is with the arms almost straight and the hands holding on the steering wheel rim at 'ten-to-two'. But for people with long arms, this can mean having to move the seat back so far that the feet can scarcely reach the pedals. Some cars have adjustable steering columns which can bring the wheel closer, or you can change the wheel to bring the rim closer (see sideline overleaf).

Being the correct distance from the pedals is also important for comfortable, relaxed driving. It should be possible to adjust the seat so that your legs are extended, without having them so straight that you can't push the clutch pedal to the floor without stretching. Most modern car seats offer fore and aft adjustment for this, plus an adjustable backrest angle and sometimes height adjustment too.

Seat runners

Some car seats do not have enough rearward adjustment to accommodate especially tall people.

In these cases you can mount the seat runners further back (look for alternative holes on the floor or seat frame, or drill new holes to bolt the seat to) or buy a bracket set from your dealer to relocate the seat.

The bracket sets move the seat backwards on the runners, so the runners need not be moved.

Backrest/height

Wheel dish to alter rim position Shallowdish Deepdish

Wheel dish to alter rim position

If you are happy with your steering position but find the steering wheel too distant for comfort, you can move the position of the rim by fitting a wheel with either a shallower or deeper dish.

Most aftermarket steering wheels are available in several different dish depths. Or you might be able to buy a deeper steering wheel boss from a main dealer.

The handwheel type of backrest control gives very fine adjustment, but many cars feature instead a release lever to unlock the backrest, with adjustment from one notch to the next. Very often the position that would give the most comfort lies between notches. If this happens, try moving the seat slightly backwards or forwards.

Drivers vary considerably in their body height and, luckily, more and more cars are now featuring height-adjustable front seats. It's a good idea to check the height before setting the other seat adjustments.

Different types of height adjustment are used. Luxury cars may have a joystick or rocker switch that controls electric servo motors to adjust the seat. Less expensive models may have a rotary control with a folding handle beneath the front of the seat. Another commonly used system has a telescopic lever control beside the seat - you pull the lever out first, then pull it back to raise the seat.

Some less expensive cars have a type of height adjustment that pivots to raise the front of the seat but also changes the angle of the rear cushion. However, it is usually possible to modify the height of the fixed pivot by inserting spacers or wedges, so that both height and angle can be correct. This modification can also be used on seats that do not adjust for height at all.

Shaping/support

Good shaping of the seat and firm upholstery is vital for sustained comfort on a long journey. For example, as cars corner faster and generate more sideways forces, seats are being made with improved side bolsters to hold the occupants in.

Another big improvement in the design of car seats is the increased support given to the small of the back. Older seats tended to have support in the shoulder area, but none below, so that the occupant slumped down and forward in the seat. If your seat doesn't have enough support in the centre of the back lumbar padding - you can get a special lumbar support cushion from an accessory shop.

Ventilation

Finally, remember that airflow is needed through the car at all times, otherwise the build-up of stale air will make the occupants, including the driver, drowsy.

To make sure of good ventilation, it is best to have the air control slightly open all the time and to regulate the warmth or coolness with the temperature control.

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