Handling Uncontrolled Acceleration

Do you ever wonder what you would do if your car accelerated rapidly without you pushing your foot down on the accelerator pedal?  You will almost certainly never have to deal with this, but unfortunately others have.  The reasons that cars can accelerate uncontrollably are numerous and can range from electronic malfunctions to simply floor mats jamming the throttle pedal.  In this article, we will seek a little peace-of-mind by examining several things that one can do if a car you are driving in exhibits this sort of thing.

Stomp on the Brakes

The most natural reaction to a stuck-throttle situation  is to stomp on the brakes –hard.  The question is: are automobile brakes strong enough to stop a roaring engine?  Several tests over the last few years have demonstrated that they are.  Back in 1987, Car and Driver magazine tested the theory on a modified Audi 5000 and discovered that the brakes in this car were quite capable of overpowering the Audi’s engine under full throttle.  The driver could stop the car.

Use  the Emergency Brake

Your car’s emergency brake or “parking brake”  is either a pedal located under the dash on the left or a handle-grip lever on your right (often behind the gear shift).  This is your “Plan B”.  If stomping on your brake pedal doesn’t work, this one should.  When researching this article, the folks at Akins Chrysler reminded us that since it’s a device that few people use, many drivers may forget where it is during an emergency!  Do yourself a favor, next time your get in your car to drive, refresh your memory as to where your emergency brake is!

Shift into Neutral

If your regular and emergency brakes are completely disabled, the next best option may be to quickly throw the car into neutral.  When a car is in neutral, the engine is decoupled from the drive train and it will have no driving power.  This may not slow down your car but it will stop the acceleration.

Switch the Engine Off

Switching off the ignition is a sure way to stop an engine, but it’s probably the least desirable action because it may also make the car more difficult to maneuver. It may cause a reduction in power-steering and may cut off vacuum boost for the brakes.  Note a new wrinkle here: the keyless, push-button start systems in many vehicles. Owners need to be aware that these systems require a long press of the button to shut off power when the car is moving.

In summary, as we mentioned before, you are unlikely to ever experience anything as unintended acceleration but it isn’t a bad idea to at least give some thought as to what actions you would take if it did happen.

Amir Saeed

Passionate about cars, love to ride muscle cars in particular. I am big fan of old and classic cars of various decades.

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