Q: When the accelerator sticks or something electronically causes a car to accelerate and the driver can't control the car's increase in speed, am I wrong in thinking someone should tell them to put the car in neutral? Yes, the motor will most likely blow up and the power steering and power brakes will go away, but in my thinking I would rather take my chances bringing the vehicle to a stop without power brakes and power steering than not being able to control the car at high speeds and bring about circumstances that have caused accidents and deaths. I don't know about all cars but my VW and Ford F-350 and my wife's BMW will all go into neutral going down the highway. Even if not all cars will go into neutral at highway speeds, enough vehicles do. That little trick might save a life or two.
A: Precisely as I've been campaigning for decades. And allow me to add the other "half" of the stuck throttle/sudden acceleration tip — shut off the ignition. Internal combustion engines need three things to make power — fuel, air and spark. Remove one or more of the three and the engine cannot run.
Switching off the ignition stops the sudden acceleration instantly but can affect the power steering and brakes. Vacuum or hydraulically assisted brakes will have several brake applications still available after the engine stops, until the residual vacuum or hydraulic pressure is depleted. And of course, both the steering and brakes remain fully functional but may require significantly higher human force to operate.
I know of no automobiles — manual or automatic transmission — that cannot be shifted into neutral while moving. Most modern engines have electronic "rev limiters" that will not allow more than 4,000 rpm in neutral even with the throttle wide open. Disconnecting the engine from the drivetrain by shifting to neutral instantly stops the sudden acceleration and since the engine is still running the power assist for steering and brakes is still available.
Automobiles are designed so that the ignition cannot be switched into the "lock" position unless the transmission is shifted into "park," so there's no danger of locking the steering when switching off the engine.
All this is easy to understand, but reacting properly in the instant of panic and fear is another issue completely. Here's the answer — preparation and practice. Practice shifting into neutral from drive and switching the ignition from run to off until you can do them without looking or thinking.
Practice these on a regular basis with every vehicle you own and/or operate. Hopefully this will prepare you to "do the right thing" and avoid a catastrophe if the situation should suddenly develop.
Q: I'm having a heck of a time trying to remove the "film" from the inside of windows in my vehicle. I presume that the film is from the volatiles/plasticizers leaching out of the plastic/vinyl seats, plastic panels, carpets etc. due to baking by the sun-extreme temperatures. I've tried Windex with and without ammonia and several other window/glass cleaners with no success — these products just seem to move the film around and leave streaks and smudges all over the glass. I've even tried the Ford OEM glass cleaner to no avail — still leaves streaks and smudges no matter how many times I clean. The windows look clean when I'm done but as soon as I drive into the sun, the streaks and smudges are evident. HELP! Can you recommend a product that removes the "film"?
A: Here are some products in the order you should try. Automotive glass cleaner, which you may have already tried, isopropyl "rubbing" alcohol, a new single-edge razor blade and finally, Brasso metal polish followed by the alcohol and glass cleaner. The razor blade and metal polish won't scratch the glass but will remove any debris or film.
Paul Brand is the author of "How to Repair Your Car" and "How to Repair Your Truck and SUV," published by Motorbooks.