Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Clutch Safety Switch

Yes, it is a simple plunger switch that merely completes a circuit from the ignition switch to the starter solenoid. If it malfunctions, it can drive you crazy trying to diagnose the no-start condition.

Those who want this switch can keep it. Those who don’t can easily short it out permanently without doing any harm elsewhere.

As for the suggestion of a wipers/headlights switch, not good at the drive-in movie! And would turning off the wipers kill the headlights? Not a great idea.

westwest: “If it is it’s a pretty easy and cheap thing to replace, and what’s the big deal?”

The cost of the part on my invoice was more than $100, which would have basically doubled the bill. The switch used in some cars might be cheap, but the one used in my car isn’t.

westwest: “If you are sophisticated enough to know how to disconnect it then you can certainly deal with it if it breaks.”

It’s not a matter of sophistication. It’s a matter of health and age for me. My days of crawling under the dashboard with half my body hanging out the open car door are long past. Also, electrical troubleshooting isn’t one of my strengths as a shade tree mechanic. I probably could have gotten out my circuit tester and figured it out, but I think not making guesses and throwing money at parts that didn’t need to be changed was a good decision for me. I’ve diagnosed electrical problems before, but usually, I gave a mechanic a shot at them first, and I only put time, thought, and money into it after someone else gave it a shot and failed.

I have practiced a similar approach that many have noted here. For example, my lawnmower safety interlocks have all been defeated, I have made many repairs to both household equipment and vehicles. I am aware of safety issues but I am not fanatical about them. I always exercise care in using equipment. However, as of late, I have become more concerned about maintaining these safety systems even if I don’t agree with them. One reason is, I have a 6mo old boy and there’s no telling what he’ll be getting into in the coming years.

Another reason is I may not always be in control of the systems in question and then I am exposing people to these “hazards” when they may expect the safety measures to be in place, or are acting in a manner that they are meant to protect against. What if the neighbor’s boy comes over and borrows my mower only to get hurt using it? I shudder at the possibilities. I recently read on a boating site of a tale that sends shivers up your spine if you do work on your own stuff and later sell it.

This guy wanted to save a few bucks on an auto pilot for his sailboat. He paid some yard “mechanic” to do the work on the cheap. It worked fine and everyone was happy. He later sold the boat. The new owner took some friends out for a cruise and they ended up putting their 3 yo down for a nap in the fo’scle. He was intrigued by the sound of the chain and gears of the autopilot and you may have guessed it, stuck his hand in there. Short story, the guy who sold the modified boat lost his entire fortune of $8M. The lesson here is liability has no expiration date.

I can imagine a scenario where I defeated the CSS and had no troubles myself. But even some stories here speak to others operating the vehicle either not knowing it was disabled or being ignorant and not having the protection afforded by it and potentially being injured.

Imagine a kid getting run over in the driveway or a mechanic bumping the key thinking it won’t go anywhere and pinning a coworker against the wall or toolboxes in front of the vehicle. After they find out you circumvented the measure, the lawyers will take everything you have, or ever could have had. I have this co-worker who thinks “all they can take is all of it”. WRONG, you can go negative and spend the rest of your life paying someone else.

Be careful about those choices you make…I know I will be taking a different approach to protect those around me as well as my family’s financial future…

Right! If I wasn’t the only driver of this car, or had a teenager at home, I would be taking a different approach to this problem. I would still have bypassed the switch to get the car back, but I would be following up to get it replaced now if circumstances were different.

I just don’t see the point of spending another $150-$200 on a 13 year old car for which I am the only driver and on which I do most of the work. In addition, the mechanic who works on my car is the one who disconnected the switch, but I plan to remind him every time I drop it off anyway.

There is no substitute for good sense but the “nanny state” state of mind seems to be more and more pervasive lately. But there seems to be a great deal of contradiction based on the circumstances. While equipment and tools used in the mundane, day to day activities of life get “fool proofed,” so kids and “fools” won’t get hurt, the kids and fools rush off to sky dive, snow board, skate board, and push the boundaries of safety to the limit. Then, when the obvious occurs, the thrill seekers look for and expect that no expense be spared to save them from their frivolous folly. Life is much more enjoyable to me with fewer obstacles to overcome so I eliminate many of them. I make up for my daring-do with lawn equipment and trucks by avoiding skate boards and half-pipes.

You are right about kids and fools, but people who skydive, snowboard and skateboard on a serious level are usually pretty safety conscious especially the skydivers. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a drunk skydiver, although you would have to get me pretty drunk to jump out of a perfectly good airplane.

BTW, the guy who picked up a running lawn mower was drunk at the time, he wanted to trim his hedges.

I don’t think I quite understand your reasoning for preemptively removing all the safety interlocks on your lawn equipment. I have removed interlocks when they presented a problem for me. I had one mower that was made shortly after the infamous law suit that went a little overboard with them.

On my previous rider, the seat switch malfunctioned and I bypassed it. But on my current one, all the interlocks do is the the things I do automatically anyway. If one malfunctions or gets in my way, then its gone, but until then, I’ve got other things to do.

My current rider has a manual rope starter and I prefer to leave it running when I get off to pick up a limb, etc. And the although it does not cut well in reverse I choose to let the blade turn when backing. I cut the wire that shorts the magneto and re-attached the single wire to the key off switch. I decide when the engine is off and on. I just now finished mowing my yard and heaven forbid I topped off the gas tank with the engine running.

New lawn tractors are approaching the absurd. Like older ones, if you unweight the seat, blades disengaged. This happens even if you just shift around in the seat counterbalancing for small hills or try to look in front while mowing.

The latest is they disengage on reverse. I mow in reverse a lot. Sometimes you just want to back up to make turns for example. They have some goofy override that is a PITA to use and must be done everytime you select reverse.

Almost as bad as the new gas cans that I spill more gas than ever using them.

I had this junk 89 Olds for about a week. I put it in neutral and stepped on the clutch switch to start it. My legs don’t work well enough for me to enjoy pushing the pedal all the way down. I thought the car companies learned not to mount switches to the floor. I remember the dimmer switch being there. The switch or the floor would rust out.

Had a 70 Maverick and was in traffic when the engine died due to a clogged fuel filter
and blocking the left lane. Instead of getting out and pushing it to the center grass medium, just put it in first and turned the key with clutch out and the starter pulled me off the road.

I searched my comment above to verify my memory wasn’t failing me and found this

I don’t know what movie this is but they stole the line for some reason and the context there was very appropriate for this discussion.

It must be a satire of some time. Klatuu Barada Nikto was the secret term used to activate the alien robot in The Day The Earth Stood Still, a true classic in scifi films from 1951.

59thunderbird, that’s a great story, and could be pretty useful, although I am skeptical the same thing would work on something with what, in comparison, has a tiny engine, like my Civic. If I ever find myself in that situation, it’s good to know I might have that option.

It must be a satire of some time. Klatuu Barada Nikto was the secret term used to activate the alien robot in The Day The Earth Stood Still, a true classic in scifi films from 1951.

And the remake SUCKED…The original was excellent…Very little special effects…just a good story.

I had a 1980 Mercury Bobcat. I was leaving a parking lot that deposited you onto a 4 lane divided highway and as I stepped on the clutch and put it in first gear, the welded arm that supported the entire clutch pedal assembly broke off and fell on the floor. The car lurched out into traffic and I was nearly broadsided by cars going 40 mph.

After checking my shorts, I was able to make it home some 20 miles with stop lights, stop signs and traffic by being cautious about leaving enough room and shifting at the optimum speeds. When I had to stop, which was fairly often, I coasted up in neutral and shut the engine off. Selected first gear and used the starter motor to get going again.

The arm that the supported the clutch pedal and it pivoted on was welded into a 1/4" plate with two cr@ppy welds, 180 deg apart, that looked like birdsh!t.

Mike, special effects?? We’re talking early 50s here…all movies back then had to rely on the story (and they did a great job too). I always liked the original. The phrase started with “Gort”, the name of the alien police(robot). I was wondering how that line could apply to this topic when I first read it…

The title of the movie was “The Day the Earth Stood Still” Twin Turbo. And with the discussion of failures of electronic components it seemed appropriate to mention the movie. I recall the scene where all the traffic is at a stand still and everyone looked puzzled. I’m not a Sci-Fi fan but that movie has stuck in my mind for many years. I didn’t know it was such a classic. When I was young a local station would play a movie over and over all night and I must have watched all night. It wouldn’t likely keep an audience’s attention more than a few minutes today.

I am quite familiar with the movie, I could probably recite most of it for you. I didn’t make the connection to failed clutch switches and defeating safety interlocks. It’s not like every car around him stopped running at the same time :wink: