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Driving 101: Stopping a Car With a Stuck Accelerator

Posted in driving, General, How To, Newsworthy by Kurt Ernst | January 28th, 2010 | 2 Responses |


This video, created by ConsumerReports and posted to YouTube, could save your life. Automotive engineer Jake Fisher shows the actions you need to take if your vehicle begins to accelerate without your input.

The video is a good reminder for drivers of all skill levels. To summarize what Jake shows you:

1) First, don’t panic. This may be more difficult than you think when your car is closing in on another vehicle or a solid mass of concrete. The faster you react, the sooner you eliminate the danger.

2) Brake hard but don’t pump the brakes; doing so may deplete the vacuum reservoir that provides additional braking force. In certain cars (Volkswagens, for example) the brakes will override the throttle when applied simultaneously. Firm and constant pressure should be enough to stop vehicles like this; when stopped (safely off the road), simply turn off the ignition and shift the car into park.

3) If brake pressure isn’t sufficient to stop your vehicle, bump the shifter (on an automatic transmission vehicle) from drive into neutral. Generally speaking, neutral is located above drive, although you may need to move the shift lever several positions to enter neutral. Practice this in an empty parking lot to make sure you can select neutral from drive in your vehicle. If you drive a manual transmission equipped vehicle, depress the clutch and move the shifter to neutral.

4) With your foot still on the brake and the transmission in neutral, coast to a stop safely off the road and shut off the igntion. Put the car into park (auto transmission) or reverse (manual transmission).

5) Do not shut the ignition off when the car is still moving forward; doing so may lock the steering column and prevent you from turning the front wheels. Even if you don’t lock the steering column, cutting the ignition eliminates power braking and power steering. You’ll still have brakes and steering, but you’ll need to use a lot more effort to stop or turn.

6) If your vehicle is equipped with a push button starter, make sure you know how to shut the car off using it. In most cases, this requires the driver to press and hold the start button for a number of seconds. Read the owner’s manual to learn the procedure on your vehicle.

7) Once the vehicle is stopped, do not try to drive it further. You’ll need a tow truck and a good mechanic at this point.

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2 Responses

  1. tehllama says:

    Where’s the neutral on my 6MT??!!? I wish I had an automatic so I could figure this out.

  2. Kurt says:

    Same place as it is on my 6MT – north of 2, 4, and 6, south of 1, 3 and 5.