Today: How to Handle a Stuck Accelerator

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 11, 2014

Dear Tom and Ray:

I've always heard that if your accelerator sticks, you could turn the key off (not to the locked position) to kill the engine, and then gently apply the brakes and steer car to safety. But with these new push-button starters in cars now, how can you do that? My 83-year-old mom has a Chevy Cruze LTZ with a push-button ignition switch. The only way to turn off the car is to stop and put the transmission in park first, and then push the STOP/START button. Any suggestions? Why did the manufacturers stop making ignitions requiring keys, anyway? Cheaper?

-- Dan

RAY: What you "heard" is wrong, Dan. You should never turn off the ignition if your accelerator sticks.

TOM: When you turn off the ignition, you lose your power steering and power brakes, making the car very difficult to steer or stop.

RAY: Instead, shift the car into neutral and leave the ignition switch alone. The engine will keep revving, but it will no longer be moving the car. And you'll still have full use of your steering and brakes so you can safely pull over. Then you put the car in park and turn off the ignition.

TOM: Some people worry that the engine will rev to the point where it will blow. We have two responses for those people: One, modern engines are computer-controlled, and the computer won't let the engine exceed its "red line" limit.

RAY: And second, if by some rare chance the engine does get damaged, so what? It's an engine. It can be fixed or replaced. If you're dead because you couldn't stop or steer the car, that's traditionally been a lot harder to fix.

TOM: And by the way, the reason manufacturers have switched over to push-button stop-and-start systems is for convenience.

RAY: With "keyless" ignition systems, the car checks and makes sure that the key fob is within a few feet (in the driver's pocket or pocketbook) before allowing the push button to start the car.

TOM: That saves us the back-breaking work of having to find the key, insert the key and turn the key. I don't know how our ancestors managed all that.

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