Runaway horn shows how some products blow

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

Every now and then I am amazed how product manufacturers overlook the most obvious things to make it less hassle for the consumer.

A while back, I was minding my own business at 3 a.m., fast asleep, when I got a phone call. By the time I was able to wake up and get to the phone, the caller hung up. It was a neighbor.

Then I realized that there is a steady noise outside, Not too loud, but noticeable in the bedroom. I then went outside to investigate.

The noise was a car horn. The car was parked closer to my neighbor’s bedroom window than my house. My Cadillac horns can be really loud when they all go off at the same time.

It was obvious that the Cadillac was having a horn problem. It wasn’t an intermittent burst that would be part of the security system, but just a straight, solid, never-ending horn.

The reason the car was parked closer to the neighbor’s house is because I was mowing the lawn in the lot next to my house, and I moved it there.

Anyway, the closer I got to the car, the louder the horn became, and no matter what I did, it would not go off. I finally pulled the battery cable, and that shut it down.

Then I went to the Internet machine and tried to find an answer as to why my car turned on me like that.
One of the neighbors called the police. I had to explain to the officers what happened. Nobody was trying to steal cars or break into cars. It was just a horn that would not turn off.

I started wondering why Cadillac made the horn so that if something connected to it failed, it would close the circuit and turn the horn on, rather than just keep it open, and then, obviously the horn would not work.

My neighbors also were probably wondering about that at 3 a.m.

I reconnected the battery the next day, and everything was fine ... until 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning. I thought the car had fixed itself. I guess not.

As it turned out, the horn problem is not cheap. There is a sensor under the air bag in the steering wheel that needs replacing, and the entire airbag assembly has to be changed out.

To make a short story even longer, I found a perfect solution that didn’t involve replacing the airbag. But I cannot tell you, or I’d have to deny it immediately.

I’d bet that foreign-car manufacturers would not be dumb enough to build something that closed the circuit when it failed.

“Hey dad, how come your brake lights are on?” my son asked as he pulled up behind my Honda Civic.
They were on and would not turn off. Again, I pulled the battery cable until I could find out on Google what was going on.

Honda actually made the brake lights so that when a little rubber piece fell out from between the brake and the switch, the light would stay on ... until the battery ran down.

Easy fix, the Google machine said. Find the broken piece on the floorboard and glue it back on. If you can’t find the piece, any rubber piece will do.

The Google machine must have seen what happened, because the rubber piece was right where it was supposed to be, and the problem was fixed in a few minutes.

But this is nothing compared to some of the more serious problems I found as I did a few minutes of research for this column.

• In 1978, Ford finally acknowledged that when its Pinto was hit in the rear, the bumper would puncture the gas tank and make the car blow up.

• In the early ’90s, 3.7 million Honda vehicles gave a little too much protection with their seat belts. That’s because owners weren’t able to actually take off their seat belts because the release button would crack and become unusable. That must have been fun.

• Ford recalled 11,500 2013 Ford Escape SUVs for the minor issue of engine fire. The problem was that some of the vehicle’s fuel lines cracked, and gasoline spilled on the engine.

• Toyota had its own recall problem with the 2010 Corolla. The issue was a defect in the gas pedal that caused it to stick down while in full-throttle acceleration. As a result, the driver couldn’t stop.

• Unfortunately for some General Motors drivers in the ’60s, their engine mount somehow separated due to the rubber eroding. As a result, vehicles would uncontrollably hit high speeds. Another minor little detail overlooked.

• In the 1970s, Ford vehicles had a defect that allowed cars to appear in park, but only to slip into reverse.

O.K .,. never mind about the lights and horn.