Horn placement: A history lesson

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Sep 01, 1990

Dear Tom and Ray:

Could you use your good offices--wit, irony, satire--even humor--to help get the automobile manufacturers to stop being cutesy about where they locate the horn button. They've started putting it on the wheel spokes instead of in the center of the steering wheel where God intended it. When the wheel is turned, finding the button quickly may require taking one's eyes off the road. It seems to me that this could lead to a fender bender or worse. Am I the only one hung up on this one?

TOM: No, Andrew, we agree with you wholeheartedly. The horn should be in the middle. Throughout history, that's where it's always been. If you watch the movie Ben Hur, and look closely at the chariot he drives, you'll see that horn is in the middle of its steering wheel too!

RAY: You would think that plain old common sense would lead most car makers to leave it there. But recently, some manufacturers have been moving the horn to the steering wheel spokes to accommodate an air bag in the center. I guess the theory is that if you can't find the horn to avert a crash, at least you'll have the air bag.

TOM: Anyway, the implication is that you can't have both a horn and an airbag in the center of the wheel. But we know that's not true, because we've seen that companies like Toyota and Mercedes have figured out how to do it.

RAY: Well, at least we know for certain that the horn is back in the middle. And I'm sure that as soon as my brother gets his hands on another Mercedes or Toyota to test drive, we'll be able to verify that the air bag is in there too!

Get the Car Talk Newsletter

Got a question about your car?

Ask Someone Who Owns One