Electric windows: will they work if you drive into a river?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1993

Dear Tom and Ray:

My mother has an anxiety that has puzzled my family for quite a while now. Our 1980 Buick Electra has electric windows. If my mother were to drive off the side of a bridge and land in the river, would the electric windows work? Or should we keep a sledge hammer on the floor under the driver's seat?

RAY: Well, Jonathan, as soon as I got your letter, I went right out and tried this with my brother's 1963 Dodge Dart. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I was in the water that I realized that he didn't HAVE electric windows!

TOM: Actually, Jonathan, we have no personal experience with this problem, so our answer is really a guess. But I think they will work, at least for a short time. Water is not a good enough conductor to short out the low voltage electric window motors, or the car battery itself. And it would take at least a little while for the water to infiltrate and dilute the acid in a maintenance free battery.

RAY: My brother may be right, but this question is too important to leave to theory. So we're commissioning Paul Murky of Murky Research?? to set up some experiments and give us a more definitive answer. We'll print the results in a future column.

TOM: Until then, just tell Mom to keep that sledge hammer under the seat, and buy the paper every day.

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