Speedy Beamer

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The Czar's picture
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I was reading through El Reg this morning and I came across this. Seems a BMW 318's accelerator got stuck and the car reached speeds of 130mph+ before crashing into a round-about and bursting into flames. Crikey! Thankfully, the driver wasn't badly injured in the ordeal and was able to walk away from the accident.

I had a similar situation happen to me a few years ago in a 1984 Dodge Caravan 4cyl 5speed. We were cruising down the highway and my mom's friend had gone out around a tractor-trailer to pass it. The accelerator cable stuck in the full throttle position and we kept accelerating. The driver started to panic, as she didn't know what to do, so I reached over and pulled the transmission into neutral. We got onto the shoulder and were able to stop the rig. The van then buried the needle on the tach (it went up to 8000 RPM, IIRC) and stayed there until the engine literally revved itself to death. I think one of the pistons let go from the crankshaft. Turns out it was a botched restore job by the driver's husband.

Anyone else here at the 'Fritter have a similar experience?

Cheers,

The Czar

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dankephoto's picture
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ignition switch

130+ MPH - yikes! Reading these sorts of stories, I've always wondered why folks don't just switch off the ignition.

dan k

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themike's picture
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I had this happen on a dirt b

I had this happen on a dirt bike, but i just jumped off and it fell over.

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cwsmith's picture
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Re: ignition switch

dankephoto wrote:

I've always wondered why folks don't just switch off the ignition.

Because the steering will lock up, the power assist to the brakes will be turned off, and you'll have virtually no control of the car. Putting it in neutral was probably the best they could have done ... but why it wouldn't switch off once it was stopped is a little worrisome.

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Re: ignition switch

cwsmith wrote:
dankephoto wrote:

I've always wondered why folks don't just switch off the ignition.

Because the steering will lock up, the power assist to the brakes will be turned off, and you'll have virtually no control of the car. Putting it in neutral was probably the best they could have done ... but why it wouldn't switch off once it was stopped is a little worrisome.

That's little more than a myth. It's called power assist because the power only makes it easier to steer and apply brakes; they will still work with the engine shut off, albeit with a bit more effort. At highway speeds the steering would be more than adequate for even the weeniest arms to get the vehicle pulled over to the shoulder. And out of trouble.

All of this is a good reason to keep your vehicle properly maintained.

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cwsmith's picture
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The steering will lock.

Most modern (post-1960s) cars have a locking steering column. This prevents someone from turning the steering wheel while you're gone and rolling the car away.

The other side of this is that if you turn the ignition to the "off" position, the steering wheel will lock into place and you won't be able to turn it. Kind of a bad thing to have happen at 130 mph.

I do know it's possible to brake and steer without power assist. My 1977 Chrysler Cordoba had holes in the power steering reservoir and the master brake cylinder, and needless to say I had to check them often (check the gas and fill the fluids, please?). When steering or brake fluid were out, it was much harder to steer or brake, but it could be done.

On the other hand, when my 1986 Ford Tempo stalled on the Interstate (a faulty ignition module -- I miss the days of points), I made the mistake of turning the key the wrong direction when I went to try and restart it. At 70 mph. The steering did in fact lock up. In a panic, I hit the brakes, spun a couple times, and by some miracle managed to come to a stop without killing myself or anyone else.

If you're ever in a deserted parking lot, you're welcome to try it yourself sometime. Just make sure you've got plenty of room.

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you can turn the key one more

you can turn the key one more back from the running possition and the stering wheel wont lock up it is called the acc position so you can run your radio and other stuff without turning on your caron a streight i would have flipped the switch just long enuff to shut the car off and then delt with hard sterring and hard to press breaks. just think of it as nascar or a nother form of racing wile the car is moving the stering will turn real easy it might not stop that good there is always an emergency brake

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Hmm...

In both my Volvo 740 and 360, the steering won't lock up unless the key is full *removed* from the ignition. If you remove it and lock the wheel, you do need to turn the key to the ACC position(or 'ON' on the 360) to unlock it, but even in OFF the car still steers while the key's in.

Not sure if this is just unique to Ovlovs, but if not it means in any car you *can* still steer if you panic and turn the power completely off.

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themike's picture
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My Honda Civic does the same

My Honda Civic does the same thing.

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Re: The steering will lock.

cwsmith wrote:

On the other hand, when my 1986 Ford Tempo stalled on the Interstate (a faulty ignition module -- I miss the days of points), I made the mistake of turning the key the wrong direction when I went to try and restart it. At 70 mph. The steering did in fact lock up. In a panic, I hit the brakes, spun a couple times, and by some miracle managed to come to a stop without killing myself or anyone else.

Sounds like a story from the Darwin Awards.

cwsmith wrote:

If you're ever in a deserted parking lot, you're welcome to try it yourself sometime. Just make sure you've got plenty of room.

Please don't do something idiotic like that; instead, while the car is standing still in your driveway or parking lot start the engine then turn the key one click backwards to shut the engine off. Then check to see if you can still turn the wheel. In most cars the engine will shut off but the steering wheel will still function. If you turn it all the way back it will likely lock the steering wheel, which is something you do not want to happen when the vehicle is moving; deserted parking lot or no.

I think the lesson in all this is to a.) keep your vehicle well maintained (as I mentioned before) and b.) be familiar with how your vehicle works. It's not rocket science.

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switched OFF locking wheel = typical stupid American design car

I've never seen a German car's steering wheel lock unless you completely pull the key from the ignition. I'm not surprised however that a motown product's wheel would lock when switched to the off position. Typical stupidity of American motor makers. Tongue Still, as others have mentioned, in all cases an engine can be shut off (switched to ACC) and still retain steering.

The Bimmer (BTW, spelt Beemer, it's a BMW motorcycle) driver is either an idiot or a liar. It sounds like he might have been faking the fault to escape from a helacious legal trauma brought on by breaking numerous traffic laws. I'm positive the mentioned BMW 318 could have had its run of terror cut instantly short by a mere twist of the key. Noone in the police dept. thought to have the idiot switch off the ignition? Yeah, right.

Having just now read it, I find the entire story completely implausable.

Edit: And another thing, the brakes are far more powerful than the engine on a 318 (prob. a 1.6L 4 cyl., what, maybe 75HP?), there's no F^&$%n way pressing the brakes wouldn't have brought the car to a standstill, even with the throttle wide open. Well, unless the brakes were totally useless, very unlikely in the safety-obsessed UK.

dan k

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Also, the whole deal about th

Also, the whole deal about the gears getting stuck doesnt sound very possible. The hand brake also should have been able to stop it and probably stall the car.

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Ignition and steering wheel lock.

I think U.S. laws require the ignition, steering column, and brake-shift interlock to behave a certain way under certain conditions for safety reasons.

Your steering wheel locks ONLY when the ignition is in the OFF position. That's the only position where you can insert or remove the key. Once you turn the key to start the car, the steering lock is released. Also, you can't shift out of park unless the key is in the ignition and turned to "first position" or "second position/ON" AND you depress the brake to shift into Reverse, Neutral or Drive. Now, once your car is in gear or neutral, you can't turn the key back to the position where you can remove it which prevents the steering wheel from locking while the vehicle is moving.

If your engine quits running while you're driving, your steering won't lock and your brakes won't quit working. YOUR STEERING AND BRAKES WILL STILL FUNCTION but without the power assist provided by the hydraulic fluid.

If you're accelerator sticks, my Rules of the Road manual recommends shifting the car to neutral, maneuvering the vehicle to a safe stop on the shoulder or side of the road and turning off the ignition.

tony b.

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Panic Situations

This is a story all too common. Happened to my older sister with a 93 firebird trans am back in 94. She ended up hitting a house. Sure enough, the ignition and transmission were in fine functional condition. In her case, she spent ten years trying to sue GM and never got a dime out of it.

My personal opinion is that in a panic situation people don't think rationally, lose their cool, and don't try to work with the ignition or shifter properly (i.e. the way they normally would). In an automatic, shifting the car into neutral is painless, push the shifter into N, you don't have to touch the brakes or anything. It's also a matter where the driver does not take the time to know their vehicle and surroundings. There was a case of a woman in VA some years back with a VW Jetta. She claimed that she couldn't get her five speed into neutral. When the VA state police went over the car, the clutch, ignition, and transmission were functioning properly. Maybe I look at things differently than most, but when I test drive a car, I figure out how I can get out of an emergency situation with the car. Generally this means that the emergency brake has to be in the center console (had a brake failure in an 89 integra some years ago and that e-brake saved my life - had it been on the floor, I'd likely have hit the back of that semi in front of me at the red light), a floor shifter (manual preferable - easier to disengage gear with a clutch as well as engine brake in a brake failure situation, though an automatic there is nice too), and manual crank windows and/or a sunroof (with all the car submersion stories in Florida when I lived there, I wanted to make my escape as easy as possible). These factors led me to buy the car I currently own and despise - the unreliable 2002 ford focus zx3.

Another interesting thing to note - (bear in mind that I am not being sexist here) this happens more frequently with women than it does with men. Think of the Audi and Jeep unintentional acceleration issues in the 80's (Audi 5000) and 90's (Jeep Grand Cherokee).
The biggest issue is that, at least in america, emergency situations really aren't a part of the driving certification process.

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Re: Panic Situations

iantm wrote:

This is a story all too common. Happened to my older sister with a 93 firebird trans am back in 94. She ended up hitting a house.

You know, I hate it when that happens. I mean, there you are, driving your house down the road, when some out-of-control car comes along and whamm-o...

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Pretty much

That pretty much sums up how everyone in the family looked at the situation. But eh, she's the nasty judgemental one. Every family seemingly has one of those people who does their best to make life miserable for everyone. For me, moving 1200 miles away fixed that issue. Wink What can I say, she holds everyone to a much higher standard than herself. Though, for some strange reason, I'm more forgiving of others than I am of my own mistaks. She's the weird one.

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Re:

it's "bimmer" dude. just so's ya know.

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man I miss my old 535i

Oh well, that's a good life lesson in this somewhere. I should never have gotten rid of my 88 535i. Owning a BMW is bliss. Sure, it's expensive, but as I've learned from Ford and Acura, when any car breaks it will be expensive. The driving dynamics, the sleek body, the compliments you get from people, and the insane luxury and utility you get with all that too. Let me improve upon this, owning a 5 series BMW is bliss. Be it an 76-81 e12, 82-88 e28, an 89-96 e34, a 97-03 e39, or the 04-present e65, it's great. Whenever I see one, I wish it were it were mine. Be it a beat up slightly rusty e28 or that shiny new black m5 at the bmw/audi/porsche dealer I pass every day going to and from work.

(yes, I am a car geek too - I know Mercedes Benz chassis codes too!)

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Re: Ignition and steering wheel lock.

yotonyb wrote:

I think U.S. laws require the ignition, steering column, and brake-shift interlock to behave a certain way under certain conditions for safety reasons.

Your steering wheel locks ONLY when the ignition is in the OFF position. That's the only position where you can insert or remove the key. Once you turn the key to start the car, the steering lock is released. Also, you can't shift out of park unless the key is in the ignition and turned to "first position" or "second position/ON" AND you depress the brake to shift into Reverse, Neutral or Drive. Now, once your car is in gear or neutral, you can't turn the key back to the position where you can remove it which prevents the steering wheel from locking while the vehicle is moving.

I've had several manufacturer recall letters about shifter lock issues, goign back to cars as old a '92 and a couple for a '97. It really seems that floor mounted automatic shifters are prone to breakage, and can thus be shifted without turning the key if they've been bumped hard a dozen times too many. The only way the manuf. can know I even owned these card is to have to go through the state DMV for anyone owning that make/model. I've gotten all my cars used from private parties save one, and it never had a recall that I recieved (an '86 Chrysler 5th Ave., nice car but the friend I sold it to sold it off because he could no longer source steering/susp. parts)

Anyway, I'm jsut confirming that there are regulations in steering/shifter/brake interlock, though brakes are not always included. The brake interlock is generally needed on trucks of 3/4 ton or more. My 1/2 ton truck doesn't have it, but my moms of the same make/model in a 3/4 ton and a year newer does.

There's usually a notice on the dashboard that says in effect "Apply brake to shift from park."

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Re: Ignition and steering wheel lock.

Jon wrote:

Anyway, I'm jsut confirming that there are regulations in steering/shifter/brake interlock, though brakes are not always included. The brake interlock is generally needed on trucks of 3/4 ton or more. My 1/2 ton truck doesn't have it, but my moms of the same make/model in a 3/4 ton and a year newer does.

There's a big difference between steering wheel lock and shifter interlock. Steering wheel lock is simply a theft deterrent. Shifter interlock keeps you from accidentally jamming the transmission into reverse or drive from park. Every car I've seen, driven or owned requires you to press the brake to move the shifter from park to another gear. Some shifters add yet another layer and add a button that must be pressed to the shift knob (my old Chrysler Cirrus, for example). Other shifters do away with the button for whatever reason (my new Mazda 3 doesn't have one because it's a manumatic), but you will at least have to press the brakes to move the shifter out of park.

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On every car I've had, you on

On every car I've had, you only needed to turn the key to unlock the shifter, if it was wheel mounted. All the floor mounts had the button you describe, but at least one was able to shift without turning the key. I didn't own it anymore at the time I got the recall letter, but I could just hop in and put it in any gear I wanted as long as I pressed the button on the lever itself. I haven't driven it yet, but we are in the process of buying an '03 Ford Taurus. I just asked my wife, and she wasn't sure if it needed the brakes pressed to shift from park.

In all the vehicles that I have driven that had a brake interlock did have the note I posted above somewhere in direct view of the driver.

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03 taurus

jon,

on the 1996-2006 taurus/sable (same chassis/mechanical bits, mildly different body shell, you will need to hold down the brake pedal to get it out of park. Once out of park, you'll need to hold down the brake pedal to go into reverse only. (have had three of em in the family, and countless rentals)

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i own a 5 speed manual 1992 m

i own a 5 speed manual 1992 mazda protege its just a simple tap to put it into n or just depress the clutch wile the car is off with the key one click back from the running posision. the bad thing about the newer auto trans card has all this safty feature stuff on it it sorta fights you in a emergenct situation. the nutral safty switch is to keep you from puting it in to reverse if the shifter is on the floor dont press the button so it wond go into reverse if you do hold the button it disables the switch and will allow you to shift into reverse.

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Re: i own a 5 speed manual 1992 m

madmax_2069 wrote:

i own a 5 speed manual 1992 mazda protege its just a simple tap to put it into n or just depress the clutch wile the car is off with the key one click back from the running posision. the bad thing about the newer auto trans card has all this safty feature stuff on it it sorta fights you in a emergenct situation. the nutral safty switch is to keep you from puting it in to reverse if the shifter is on the floor dont press the button so it wond go into reverse if you do hold the button it disables the switch and will allow you to shift into reverse.

[sarcasm]

I believe your keyboard came equipped with a period key. It's located below the "L" key.

Most keyboards also come equipped with matching left and right Shift Keys for the purpose of making Capital Letters.

They make it so much easier to understand you -- and they're free.

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Yep, I drove it myself tonigh

Yep, I drove it myself tonight. It's got a solenoid or something that releases the shift lever to be pulled toward you when the brakes are on. If you try to pull it back without the brakes, it won't even swing toward you, let alone come out of the park slot and go to a gear. If you pull the lever and then press the brakes, it won't come out of park until you release pressure on the lever. On our '94 Town & Country (for sale now, BTW) I believe there isn't an interlock on the brakes, and there isn't on my truck.

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burst into flames? i read the

burst into flames? i read the story on saabcentral and they said the car simply flipped over. either way, i wouldn't be getting that model bmw. not fun. people on saabcentral commented that the moron driving didn't try to force it into neutral or shut it off either.

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