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LarryC

UPDATE: you're up to 100 mph, would you kill the engine, or shift into neutral?

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For update, see post of 1/26/10, 7:23 p.m. --

Some Toyota and Lexus owners have suddenly found their vehicles in runaway acceleration to near-maximum speeds, and there've been a number of fatalities and serious injuries. See last night's ABC News report, and be sure to run the video report: http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/RunawayToyotas/sudden-acceleration-toyota-cars-owners-rebel-accidents/story?id=8980479. See also http://www.theautoindustrieblog.com/2009/10/lexus-lacks-critical-safety-feature-for.html

As noted, Toyota has tried to blame it on driver error and incorrectly-sized floor mats catching and holding down the gas pedal; it has initiated a recall of 3.8 million drivers' floor mats. Some owners are now angry at Toyota, saying that's not it, but something else such as its engine-management computer. Toyota is (very!) reluctantly looking at that, too. I know Lexus can get stuck in arrogance and denial over the supposed perfection of its cars.

A possible runaway acceleration problem has plagued some cars in the past, such as Audi. Interestingly, makers' philosophies seem to vary by country! This NYT article and comments only a month ago summarizes the "Smart Gas Pedal" solution: http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/smart-gas-pedals-may-solve-floor-mat-problem/ With this system, applying brakes and gas at the same time DEACTIVATES THE GAS PEDAL. This system has been installed on mostly German cars -- Audi and VW since 2001 and BMW since 2005. Mercedes also has it.

In contrast, Japanese cars DO NOT use this system, except Nissan will put it on Infinitis in 2010. The U.S. as usual is also way behind the curve, except Chrysler (because owned by Daimler?). The system really works: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/10/toyota-recall-putting-stuck-floor-mat-survival-strategies-to-the-test.html.

Now, what do YOU do if you get caught in this situation? I'll bet, with a madly racing engine, a sense of panic, and an inability to slow the car much with the brakes, you'd try turning off the engine. That'd be my response, too! Unfortunately, that will kill the power brakes and power steering, and if you turn the key too far, it would lock the steering!

The proper way would be to put it in neutral, even though the engine will really rev, and bring the car to a stop BEFORE shutting off the engine. http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/10/putting-a-car-in-neutral-might-save-your-life.html. Unless, of course, you have a car with a smart throttle.

I'm still not sure I'd do it right....

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The Lexus in question has a push start. Hold the power button for 3 seconds and the engine shuts off. Ok now you loose power breaks and steering but the engine has also stopped accelerating. The odds that you live rise dramatically.

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The Lexus in question has a push start. Hold the power button for 3 seconds and the engine shuts off. Ok now you loose power breaks and steering but the engine has also stopped accelerating. The odds that you live rise dramatically.

All true, and more and more cars have push start/stop. However, it's hard to find that out at 100 mph and accelerating. It still might be better to shift into neutral.

Pics of what's happened (legends at the pic bottoms): http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/RunawayToyotas/slideshow?id=8978778

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The Lexus in question has a push start. Hold the power button for 3 seconds and the engine shuts off. Ok now you loose power breaks and steering but the engine has also stopped accelerating. The odds that you live rise dramatically.

All true, and more and more cars have push start/stop. However, it's hard to find that out at 100 mph and accelerating. It still might be better to shift into neutral.

Pics of what's happened (legends at the pic bottoms): http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/RunawayToyotas/slideshow?id=8978778

Its important that people read their owners manual. Cars today have so much technology so how is it that they just get in and drive and some one like a police office who did have time to call 911 and speak to the operator and yet couldn't manage to press a button on the dash for 3 seconds? It take me about 3 seconds to flip open the phone and press 911. Look I think Toyotas today have quality issues to Toyotas of late 1990s early 2000s but this is not one of them. Because the cop in the Lexus (who did dial 911 before the crash) or the wife in your case did not read the owners manual is just sad. Serious consequences for sure, I wish no one harm but who's fault is it was I think the point of your post.

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It is absolutely sad. But, owner's manuals are well over 100 pages of massive detail about "features." I'd be glad to bet you that even those who read their monster manuals wouldn't remember that trick 6 months later, while his/her car was accelerating past 100 mph. That is straining to put the blame on the driver or his wife for the crash. Remember, too, that he'd been loaned the Lexus, he wasn't the owner.

Safety approaches are often preventive, like airbags, rather than counting on drivers to avoid trouble. Avoiding trouble isn't always possible, as in this case.

The "smart throttle" is also a preventive device, and the cop would easily have survived if his loaner had had it.

Oh, yes, accidents and needed decisions may need a lot less than 3 sec.

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I think they realized they had an issue before the car accelerated past 100 unless they were on the German Autobahn. It up to the operater to understand how to operate the car they are driving and by all means the builders should install all the safety features they can reasonably based on cost for the consumer who is gonna buy it, but ultimately the driver is in control. I wouldn't buy a Toyota, but I also wouldn't buy an Audi or a Mercedes.

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You can always downshift to first gear, it wont stop you but i will slow you down.

My Focus has a issue also, there is a vent just to the right of the gas petal that my size 12's get hung up on every so often. Ford says there is nothing wrong with the car even after i showed them what was happening.

No wonder U.S. car companies are going down the tubes, they just dont care about the people who keep them in business.

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When I turn the key off with the engine at 6K+ rpm I don't lose power steering or power brakes. Only after the crankshaft stops moving do I lose that stuff and by then I bet I have her slowed waaay down.

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When I turn the key off with the engine at 6K+ rpm I don't lose power steering or power brakes. Only after the crankshaft stops moving do I lose that stuff and by then I bet I have her slowed waaay down.

Do you have a manual or auto? I've never shut off my engine at any speed, but suspect I'd lose power stuff at lower speeds. Also, many auto trannies are free-wheeling, so I think you can't start the car by pushing it, which suggests to me it might be chancy.

Well, I better go outside and practice emergency shifts to neutral. Oh, I forgot -- I have a German car.

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My MINI has electric on demand power steering, I'll have to see if it works with the engine off.

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HHMMMMM. Wonder why a normal driver would not immediately hit the brakes a s the car took off.

JJK

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I would think that most braking systems far exceed the maximum torque outputs of engines. Compare and contrast maximum acceleration with maximum decelleration. Jump on the binders lads [8-|]

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I would think that most braking systems far exceed the maximum torque outputs of engines

Apparently not necessarily. Below are some excerpts from a couple of sources: (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-toyota-recall18-2009oct18,0,739395.story?page=2) (http://suddenacceleration.com/?p=449) BTW, "the 3-second shutoff procedure is explained deep in the owners manual. In a text box labeled "! Caution," Toyota tells owners, "Do not touch the 'power' switch while driving." But under the warning it adds, "If you have to make an emergency stop, press and hold the 'power' switch for more than three seconds."

This is an interesting Consumer Reports report and demo: http://blogs.consumerreports.org/cars/2009/11/video-how-not-to-stop-a-runaway-car-dont-pump-the-brakes.html. He may have pumped his brakes -- from CR:

Instead of holding the brakes, we tried pumping them. This test confirmed that pumping the brakes is a really bad strategy. Power brakes rely on engine vacuum to provide additional brake pressure. At full throttle, the engine doesn’t generate any vacuum. So as soon as we removed and reapplied pressure to the brake pedal, the power assist disappeared and stopping the car became hopeless. “There was no way I could push hard enough on the brakes to slow the car down when the engine was fighting me,” said Sr. Automotive Engineer Jake Fisher.

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Interesting, I hadn't thought of the increase in manifold presure at full throttle reducing assist. I suppose they could run the brakes from an aux pump, but that would of course reduce milage.

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From the LA Times source:

The most obvious impulse for any driver experiencing sudden acceleration is to apply the brakes. But when an engine goes to full throttle and is speeding at 120 mph, the brake might not stop the car.

One source says that at 120 mph, the car is traveling 180'/sec. Since decisions sometimes have to be made in 3 sec. or less, that's 540' in 3 sec while trying to call 911 or look in the manual's index.

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All motorcycles have kill switches but no car does? I wonder why,it's good for bikes and not for cars? I have had stuck throttles, I just turned off the engine, I guess I've been wrong all this time? You loose power assist after a short time but you can still brake and turn. My car has 400 hp, if the gas sticks you want to turn it off quick before you gain too much speed. You are not going to be able to select neutral very well when you are pinned in the seat and gaining speed fast, plus you'll need both hands to steer when the power steering fades.

Thanx, Russ

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They did this on that show Myth Busters...........................

You can't turn the ignition off when in drive

You can't slam it up into park , or reverse for that matter.

Bye, Bye....................Birdy................

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When reading things like this that makes me glad I have a manual. All I'd have to do is just press the clutch if the engine starts running away (nearlly happened to me one time when it was a case of the floor mat getting stuck on the gas pedal. Was able to press the clutch and then kick out the floor mat).

The downside of being used to driving a manual was like the one time I took over driving my friends car because he was starting to fall asleep at the wheel. Later on that trip, I was getting hungary, so I wanted to stop in a McDonalds to grab a quick bite. I am used to just pressing the clutch and coasting down to a stop in most cases. The only problem was that this car was not a manual. Ended up slamming the brakes (good thing there was nobody behind me!). My friend immediatly woke up with a "WTF?" I just said "Whoops - forgot this is an automatic! There is no clutch! [6][:$] At least I was able to let him know I was stopping to grab something to eat.

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I didn't want to uncover my car (2006 GTO) to test it but my wife's car will turn off in drive (PT Cruiser). I don't think I ever had a car that wouldn't shut off in drive but I'm sure there are some new ones that might have that blocked.

Thanx, Russ

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