Today: What to do if unintended acceleration happens to you.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2010

Dear Tom and Ray:

Recently, there was a large recall of Toyotas because the gas pedal could get stuck on the floor mat and cause the car to keep accelerating wildly. Yesterday the pedal got stuck in my 2008 Honda Accord. What should you do if such a thing happens?

-- Dan

RAY: Well, whether the gas pedal sticks because of the floor mat or because of any other reason, the first thing you do is hope that you're wearing your brown pants.

TOM: We've talked about this before, Dan, but it's worth repeating -- not only because of the Toyota recall, but because this can happen on any car.

RAY: Right. Floor mats can get bunched up near the pedals. People can install thicker, aftermarket floor mats, or those thick, rubber winter mats. Or the pedal can get obstructed by something that you drag into your car, like a chunk of ice or snow, or a kid's toy or juice box that rolled onto the floor.

TOM: So what do you do? No matter why the gas pedal is sticking, first, put the car in neutral.

RAY: Why? Shifting into neutral disconnects the engine from the wheels. So no matter how fast the engine is revving, the car will simply slow down.

TOM: By putting the transmission in neutral rather than turning the engine off with the key, you also keep your power steering, power brakes, ABS and lots of other stuff working.

RAY: And, most importantly, you keep the steering wheel lock from engaging. If that happens, you'll need two pairs of brown pants.

TOM: Some people worry that the engine will rev so high that it'll blow. But that won't happen. Modern cars all have rev limiters that cut off the fuel supply if the engine tries to rev beyond the limit set by the manufacturer. So the engine may sound like it's screaming, but just ignore that.

RAY: Once you're in neutral, calmly coast to a safe stop by the side of the road, and THEN turn off the ignition. Then, if you see that the pedal is clearly stuck on the floor mat, you can throw those floor mats out the window and keep driving. If not, call a tow truck, have the car towed to the dealer and tell them to call you when they're absolutely certain they've figured it out.

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