Runaway cars - Can't the ignition key be turned off?

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Old 02-24-10, 03:48 PM
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Runaway cars - Can't the ignition key be turned off?

I saw a picture of that Lexus, carrying 4 people, who ended up being killed. What a crumpled up heap!

Do they make these cars (today) so the ignition can't be turned off? Can't the brakes brake hard enough to load the engine and cause it to kill the engine, or at least go slower? Can't the shift lever be thrown into neutral?

A friend mentioned the parking brake. But I said probably a lot of people wouldn't think of that in such a panicky emergency. That might rank one step in front of thinking to try to rip wires/fuses/fuseblock out by the roots under the dashboard.

Braking would be an automatic reflex, I'd think. Thinking to shut off the key might come to many people.
 
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Old 02-24-10, 04:33 PM
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I don't know, Ec, whether these models had the push button start, or not. You have to hold the button in to turn it off, and if you are trying to keep the car in a lane, dodging other cars, the driver may not have had the presence of mind to hold the button in. IMO, that starting procedure is a little artsy fartsy anyway. Although throwing it into neutral is an option, once it is in neutral, the engine will race until it comes apart and you are left with no power steering or brakes. Just a thought.
Remember the TV show "The Man and the Challenge"? Of course you don't. It was in the '50s or 60's, not sure. This guy was thrown into emergency situations like this, falling elevators, runaway trucks, and he had only a few seconds to save his own life.
 
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Old 02-24-10, 04:35 PM
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Most people panic when something like this happens. I would start down shifting and then apply the brakes. Breaking suddenly while a car is travelling fast could cause it to go out of control. As for the parking brakes they will not help, they are not designed to slow a car down and if they do lock the rear wheels the car might start going sideways.
 

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Old 02-24-10, 04:37 PM
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I'd be very surprised if a parking brake could stop a speeding car with a screaming engine propelling it. They're not really designed for that.

I would imagine that switching the car off would work in most cases, though you'd lose all power assist (except for brakes - temporarily at least).

The service brakes may or may not be able to stop the vehicle. I know that brakes are some of the most over-engineered parts of a car so I wouldn't be too surprised if it worked. The torque converter would unlock when you hit the brakes so you wouldn't stall the engine.

The connection between the shift lever and the transmission is mechanical on every car I've ever worked on so I'd imagine that putting the car in neutral and coasting to a safe location is the best bet. The engine should hit the rev limiter so it shouldn't cause any permanent engine damage as long as the engine running at full bore for too long.

- Joe
 
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Old 02-24-10, 05:16 PM
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In cases where suggested evasive maneuvers could result in slides or something, well, the decision needs to be quick and you may be picking your poison, depending from at what speed your first noticed the car not being able to stop or was trying to go uncontrollably faster and faster. You'd have to think quick and say immediately downshift, turn off the key etc. The time you got to 140 mph, a person might be too afraid to try anything drastic other than turning off the key.

So you can turn off the key? No safety overide that does not let you? Such as a mfg'ers fear that some kid in the passenger seat might shut off mommy's car, and then turn the key back on and blast the exhaust system to smithereens from the backfire?

By the way - I was up til after 4 am last night watching the hearings on C-Span. I got really hooked on this. I couldn't turn it off and go to bed! And I found out we really DO have some very intelligent people in public office. The questions asked were excellent!
 
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Old 02-24-10, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
Remember the TV show "The Man and the Challenge"? Of course you don't. It was in the '50s or 60's, not sure. This guy was thrown into emergency situations like this, falling elevators, runaway trucks, and he had only a few seconds to save his own life.
Well, I am from the early fifties - but can't recall that show on our black and white/rabbit ears set. Sounds like my kind of show. On the elevator one, did he ride plunging elevators to the bottom, and try to jump up in the air before it hit bottom?
 
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Old 02-24-10, 05:36 PM
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Unfortunately, these cards don't have an actual key. In an all-out effort to "out-cool" each other, the car manufacturers keep coming up with overly-complicated ways to do everything. And, the (stupid) public love it. The Prius (and I assume many other new high-tech cars) uses a small thingy with an RF signal attached to the fob that lets the car know that "you are in the car," and can therefore start. Starting the engine(s) is by way of just pushing the "power" button. Normally, this just starts the electric motor on hybrids, with the gasoline IC engine waiting for demand to tell it that it needs more power. The "transmission" shifter is somewhat like a joystick; and, not very intuitive like the old type of column shifter.

As my significant other now has a Prius, I've driven it quite a bit. It's a very nice car. But, as soon as I saw these "cool" features I knew they were potential bad news. She has all the bells and whistles, such as the gps, on-screen control of almost everything (cell phone, climate control, gps navigation system, etc), which means you spend a lot of time NOT looking at driving while you try to make the radio work, or adjust the climate control, or navigate. In essence, you need a co-pilot just to operate what used to be simple devices. NOT COOL!
 
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Old 02-24-10, 07:13 PM
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Runaway cars - Can't the ignition key be turned off?

In the case of the Prius, I think it is probably a computer malfunction or programming glitch since it applies to all Prius cars made in all countries, which use the the braking to generate energy for the batteries. the system is computer controlled. Shutting off the engine may not do any good since that may not disable the braking/charging system.

Regarding the rapid acceleration for failure to respond to letting off the the gas, this seems like a mechanical problem and in some cases a fault in the cruise control system. the floor mat problem is obvious and happens frequntly when they are not attached and creep. It is interesting old the recalled cars, the exemptions were those made in Japan when both Japanese made cars and American made cars were available. Look at the VIN tag and the number starting with a "J" is made in Japan. some vehicles, like the Tundra were exclusively American manufactured. It is possible that the subcontractor proposed an alternate method that was accepted. The call-back is to replace some parts that are subject to possible dirt and corrosion and someone may have dropped the ball on the pedal system or the materials used were not up to the use.

It is also possible the the government is trying to protect its investment in GM.

Just some outside guesses without any real input.

Dick
 
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Old 02-24-10, 07:18 PM
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With the proliferation of drive by wire systems, I am afraid this is only the begining of these types of faults. They are not the first, remember the Audi 5000s? Audi survived so will toyota. I totally agree with Joe in Torrence, they are building cars unnessisarily complex to try to give the illusion that they are worth what they cost, and some people believe it, and just have to have the latest cool toys on their cars. Give me a cable or steel rod between my foot and the throttle blade, and I will be happy, drive by wire systems are for air planes!
 
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Old 02-25-10, 12:55 AM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
Well, I am from the early fifties - but can't recall that show on our black and white/rabbit ears set. Sounds like my kind of show. On the elevator one, did he ride plunging elevators to the bottom, and try to jump up in the air before it hit bottom?
He waited until it got to several floors below bottom, jumped up, grabbed the elevator infrastructure and used it to cushion the rapid deceleration. But, hey, it was TV!

Wiretwister, fly by wire and computer on planes, just ask the pilots of the A320 on their test flight (can't they're dead). Pilots had air speed and flaps, pulled up, but the computer detected a false stall and pushed the nose down.....all the way down. They had no means of override. Not a warm and fuzzy.
 
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Old 02-25-10, 07:18 AM
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Here's a hint anybody who had driven in snow before would know. Put the car in neutral! You can do this at any speed and at any time. Just push on the lever. Then apply the breaks. The engine might race and blow up but at least you wont be killed.

Originally Posted by Concretemasonry View Post
It is also possible the the government is trying to protect its investment in GM.
Humm, how very "black helicopter" of you but an interesting thought!
 
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Old 02-25-10, 12:36 PM
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I have been a mechanic for over 50 years and made a good living most of those.
When I heard the woman on news stating what happened to her--with the car accelerating with brakes pushed to the floor with both feet, gearshift in neutral, and the ignition turned off, I thought, well that is possible, similar to pulling the breaker on my central HVAC, and it continue to run.
I might add that if the brakes on a vehicle are working properly. The engine, will not overpower the brakes.
I demonstrated this to a friend that has a newer Chevy truck--We put the truck in low range 4x4 got up to 40mph held the gas to the floor and the brakes stopped the truck.
He said he would never do that again but was facinated.
 
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Old 02-25-10, 02:59 PM
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Chandler, there was lots of problems with the F-16 Falcon when it was first placed in service, seems it did not know up from down. Merely stating that more advances had been made in fly by wire in the aeronautical field than automotive. Give me a cable operated accelerator, or better yet a rod operated one, that way if it gets stuck i can pull it back up.
I also agree with Giles, if the brakes are working properly the car will stop regardless of what the engine is doing. I think it would be very unlikely for the engine to self destruct if the trans is put in neutral, unless the electronics that control the rev limiter are faulty, and even if it did an engine is easier to replace than a person.
 
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Old 02-25-10, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by chandler View Post
I you are left with no power steering or brakes. Just a thought.
Remember the TV show "The Man and the Challenge"? Of course you don't. It was in the '50s or 60's, not sure. This guy was thrown into emergency situations like this, falling elevators, runaway trucks, and he had only a few seconds to save his own life.
I remember it as a column in Science and Mechanics magazine. But I also remember he wimped out on some saying it just couldn't happen. One I seem to remember was what to do if the steering went out. He said that was to unlikely to happen.

Well I have had it happen going through an intersection on a very busy street. Ball joint came loose, front wheel folded in and at that point not much you can do but kill the engine and hold on. Got lucky and missed traffic jumped two curbs and ended up in a parking lot. No humor at the time it happened but looking back a bit humorous. I had to radio the boss I was broke down at a strip club and couldn't make the delivery. Yep, trailing sparks like it was the Fourth of July I slid into a strip club parking lot.
 
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Old 02-25-10, 03:26 PM
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STOP this carrrrrrr

I agree wth all the suggestions you pros with a combined many many years of experiance have made. As i watched some of the news accounts and a little of the hearings, I was asking asking no one in particular the same questions you guys brought up. I am amazed how dumb our drivers are these days, and also so helpless. God help us.
Sid
 
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Old 02-25-10, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Giles View Post
When I heard the woman on news stating what happened to her--with the car accelerating with brakes pushed to the floor with both feet, gearshift in neutral, and the ignition turned off, I thought, well that is possible, similar to pulling the breaker on my central HVAC, and it continue to run.
Are you being sarcastic, or did you mean to say "impossible" when you said "possible", in the quote above? There is no smiley face. That is why I have to ask, so novbody else gets confused.

Because then you said this:

I might add that if the brakes on a vehicle are working properly. The engine, will not overpower the brakes.
I demonstrated this to a friend that has a newer Chevy truck--We put the truck in low range 4x4 got up to 40mph held the gas to the floor and the brakes stopped the truck.
BTW, since you mentioned it - did you happen to read the thread in our forum here where the guy said he shut off the breaker, and the A/C continued to run? (Seriously)
 
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Old 02-25-10, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by sidny View Post
I agree wth all the suggestions you pros with a combined many many years of experiance have made. As i watched some of the news accounts and a little of the hearings, I was asking asking no one in particular the same questions you guys brought up. I am amazed how dumb our drivers are these days, and also so helpless. God help us.
Sid
But do knock on wood that you have the presense, if this were to happen to you, to think fast enough to do (any one of) those things.

What is most odd of the whole bunch(of ideas)though is it would only be natural to step on the brakes. So I'd think anyway. And you'd think a Lexus would have good brakes. It's like those people were destined to die!

The driver or occupant even called 911, and it seems to me the 911 guy asked the driver if he could shut the car off -didn't he? But then seconds later was that godawful crash sound.

MY car sped up on me one day. It was at a traffic light, and people were in front of me. In all honesty, I can't remember what I did. But believe it or not, I can pretty much recall I did not have a quick thought to shut off the key. The time period between the car speeding up by itself(no floor mat -probably goofed up IAC)) and me getting it to stop speeding, was so short of a time frame that.......well, maybe if it contiunued longer, I would have thought of that. I probably tromped on the brake.

With 3 addtiional people in the Lexus, and all that talking on the cell phone (to 911) before the crash, you'd think someone would have come up with the bright idea to at least brake. That I cannot figure out. Now, if a car gets up to 100 mph - I wonder what happens then when you tromp on the brakes?
 
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Old 02-25-10, 03:54 PM
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FWIW
Audi went through this exact same thing some years ago, and
some lawyers made a lot of money from them.
Also, a pastor at a West Indies block party in Boston ran into a bunch of celebrants in his F-150 PU and killed a few.
His claim was....guess what - the gas pedal stuck!
Personally, I'm with Mr. Toyoda until the wire-driven charge is proven; not with accusations or opinions, but proven;
and so far, nutt'n !!
BTW, I've owned 4 Camrys and I'm sure my current one will be in the driveway until I'm ready to mail in my license.
 
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Old 02-25-10, 04:45 PM
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You, and I, from my own explained experience, have hit on the fact that other vehicles can have this, for various reasons. And I have wondered if all car companies have been grilled in the way Toyota is. Conspiracy theorists naturally are going to assume Toyota is being grilled more since they are a foreign competing car (yes I know many of them are made on our soil, but still, not all the profits stay here) with now American owned GM and Chrysler.

Remember when Firestone tires killed all those people? [!Not to smear Firestone, as it was a well known fact, but they have since fixed the problem - this was quite a number years ago!] I can't recall exactly if they went through the same type of tribunal-like hearings or not.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 05:57 AM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
Are you being sarcastic, or did you mean to say "impossible" when you said "possible", in the quote above? There is no smiley face. That is why I have to ask, so novbody else gets confused.

Because then you said this:



BTW, since you mentioned it - did you happen to read the thread in our forum here where the guy said he shut off the breaker, and the A/C continued to run? (Seriously)
I was not being sarcastic--I am not saying the woman lied, I just compared this statement to someone PULLING the breaker.
There is a difference in SHUTING OFF and PULLING the breaker.
A circuit breaker or many "contact type device" can fuse together and shutting off would not open the circuit.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 08:13 AM
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Giles,

So then you are saying according to the 3 things you said a person could do in your earlier post I quoted, that turning off the igniton key might not work?, in the same way turning off the circuit creaker might not stop the current?

If that is the case, I'd say person is truly hexed for doom, if none of the stuff they tried, that should normally work, does not work.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by ecman51` View Post
Giles,

So then you are saying according to the 3 things you said a person could do in your earlier post I quoted, that turning off the igniton key might not work?, in the same way turning off the circuit creaker might not stop the current?

If that is the case, I'd say person is truly hexed for doom, if none of the stuff they tried, that should normally work, does not work.
I would have to agree with you---their time is near!
Today's automobiles are extremly complicated and I firmly believe, if the truith comes out about Toyota's problems, it will be from electronics,---Probably MADE IN CHINA!
"Drive by wire" was installed in vehicles to allow their computers to control the throttle under determined conditions.
It is also cheaper to install electronics then all the linkages or cables previously used.
As far as turning the ignition off---The vehicle may have had a push button start and the button must be held in for a short time. The brakes on the vehicle MAY HAVE NOT BEEN WORKING PROPERLY---Anti-Lock???---Pads worout?? About the transmission in every gear even reverse---Nearly all modern vehicles have a lockout to prevent entry of an unsuitable gear position. This is for the Manufacturers benefit as is the throttle limiter.
 

Last edited by Giles; 02-26-10 at 10:15 AM. Reason: Highlighting part of statement
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Old 02-26-10, 09:00 AM
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VERY interesting. And consider the Lexus SUV ad I saw on tv last night showed them starting it by pushing a button!

Anti-lock brakes not allowing someone to stand on the pedal to stop the car? If true, how absolutely ironic!!!...as anti-lock brakes are there to save a person! And here they could have killed someone, instead? So - to be clear - anti-lock brakes somhow will not allow the car to stop a runaway car? Is that true?

More and more I want to keep my old junker that has all these easy to get at.... and mechanical parts. All this (new)stuff is non-sense, that just drives up the cost and repair costs, and everything else. And makes people go deep into credit!!!
 
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Old 02-26-10, 09:44 AM
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Do these new cars even have a direct linkage from the shifter to the transmission or does the computer do that too?

Someone mentioned a 'joy stick' shifter so that makes me think it's electronic.

If that's the case, and the computer is having a stroke (unrequested acceleration), what makes anyone think the computer will listen when you hit the stop button? Same with putting it in neutral, it won't listen and away you go.

Even my old 89 Chevy 4x4 the computer tells it when to shift but I think there is still direct linkage to the tranny for gear selection. I'll have to look.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 09:50 AM
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From what I know of anti-lock brakes, you still have full braking it just won't let the wheels lock up.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 06:21 PM
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Baldwin is correct about the anti-lock brakes, if they are working properly they would stop a run away vehicle. The braking system is the same as far as normal braking, the difference is when the wheels lock up. Baldwin, your truck has a hard linkage to the trans. no computer involvement in the gear selection. I feel like the ultimate cause will be found to be electronic, will they disclose this to the public? Most likely not! Toyota will get past this, Audi did, some more lawyers will get rich, some people will get paid for their suffering, and the next big news item will shadow this and all will be forgotten, the world continues to turn.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 07:38 PM
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I think that many drivers associate shutting the engine off with the steering wheel locking in place. Every time they've parked a car in the past, day in day out, it's just such a learned experiance. People may even think about turning the key in the back of their mind, but in their panic perhaps this ingrained experience might override the logic and cause them to fear that they'll loose steering on top of everthing else.
 
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Old 02-27-10, 08:55 AM
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A thought

Does anyone else think it an outrageously advantageous
coincidence that all this 'rapid-acceleration-out-control' in Camrys occurs after huge bail-outs to the Big 3 to prevent
their going the way of AMC?
Why now, of all times, do these unfortunate claims arise.
Ditto: Audi, a vehicle with the same charges against them some years ago, to the financial fortunes of tort lawyers.
Has anyone had a Camry do this after repeated attempts by
experienced casualty experts from insurance, AAA or
NHTSA to re-create this 'problem'?
How about the FAA. They are very, very good at this stuff.
Let's find out!
 
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Old 02-27-10, 10:02 AM
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Originally Posted by mickblock View Post
I think that many drivers associate shutting the engine off with the steering wheel locking in place. Every time they've parked a car in the past, day in day out, it's just such a learned experiance. People may even think about turning the key in the back of their mind, but in their panic perhaps this ingrained experience might override the logic and cause them to fear that they'll loose steering on top of everthing else.
Actually, never gave that a thought! Now THAT makes me wonder. I think I am going to try to shut my car off out in a parking lot somewhere, going slow, and try to turn the wheel. But I have a feeling you can,..... and putting it in PARK, with the key off, is what does it. Years ago people used to goof around and shut off their car while driving, and turn it back on, to see if they could make it backfire.
 
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Old 02-27-10, 10:49 AM
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As to the people who are having this runaway car problem, I will not discuss hair color or gender...

Instead I will do the opposite!

Have any "auto mechanics" had this problem and then been in an accident as a result of not being able to stop the vehicle?

If the problem is "certain people" who do not "think" to turn off the ignition, perhaps the solution would be to install a big red button and label it emergency off?

As to anti-lock brakes, these apply MAXIMUM breaking power while still allowing the wheels to rotate. If a wheel is about to lock up, a tiny amount of pressure is released so it will keep the wheel turning and you can still "steer" the vehicle where you want it to go. Actually they will stop in a shorter distance than brakes which lock up.
 
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Old 02-27-10, 02:16 PM
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"I am going to try to shut my car off out in a parking lot somewhere, going slow, and try to turn the wheel"

If you turn the key just enough to switch off the ignition - it will still steer. You'll also be able to move the shift lever if it's an automatic. The steering wheel locks when the key is turned off all the way so you can remove the key. It might need to be in park to remove the key and lock the steering.
 
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Old 02-27-10, 02:27 PM
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Yeah...I think most cars have an interlock now...

I do remember being stupid and turning the key off on an Opel Kadett....and oops..no interlock....locked the wheel and I had to barely miss the fence as I ran off the road.

Of course...3 months later I blew the trans doing back up and then slam it in 1st burnouts....sorry Dad....
 
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Old 02-27-10, 04:58 PM
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Right if D is selected you cannot turn the key back past accessory to cause the steering to lock. I know that Now!


I had an '81 Dodge van do this on me once. My focus was narrowed down to concentrating on steering and trying to brake. I had to "wait" until I found a safe opportunity before I dared to turn the engine off because I knew what would happen to the steering and braking. It would still be there, but be diminished. But I wasn't sure how far back it would be safe to turn the key. Now if I had hit something while I was "waiting for the right time" then perhaps people would ask me why I didn't "just cut the engine!" But like Ecman had said of his experiance, I honestly can't remember what eventually happened to gain back control! I must have thrown it in neutral, steered to a safe spot, stopped and cut the engine. Now if I couldn't find a strait section of road or was on a busy highway, who knows! And we're not even talking about anything over 40 mph here either. But it was in a residential area with sharp turns.

I wonder if Ecman is back yet from doing donuts in a parking lot.
 
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