Dear Tom and Ray:
My son has a '94 Ford Explorer. After we bought it, we found out that rollovers are not uncommon with this vehicle. Since the previous two cars he had during his short driving career were totaled, I would like to protect him the best I can. I've heard from a friend that you can get weights attached to rollover-prone SUVs that adjust the center of gravity and lessen the risk of a rollover. I checked with the Ford dealer, the Ford corporate help line and searched online, but came up empty. Have you heard of this, or is it just wishful thinking?-- Marty
RAY: I'm sure that somewhere, some knucklehead is doing something like this, but we don't recommend it.
TOM: If you attach weights to a car, you're going to affect the handling in ways that you can't even predict. So even if you do manage to make it more stable in one way, you're likely to make it less stable in other ways. I'd forget all about the amateur engineering, Marty.
RAY: It's too bad you didn't find out about the top-heavy nature of SUVs before you bought one for your son. You probably also know by now that SUVs tend to do lots of damage to cars in non-rollover accidents, and I'm sure you don't want your kid being a danger to other, innocent people on the road. So I'm afraid your best bet is to sell the Explorer and get him something else.
TOM: The best cars for teenagers tend to be medium to large sedans without too much engine power. That way, kids have some mass around them should they get into an accident, and they don't have so much power that they're tempted (more than usual) to drive like idiots.
RAY: We've often recommended older Volvos to parents who ask us what to get for their kids. They're very safe, not overly powered and, as an added bonus, Volvos are kind of expensive to fix. So the kid has to get a job, and he'll have even less time to drive around and get into trouble. Best of luck to you, Marty.