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Forensic Mechanic

2003 Honda CR-V A/T with about 130K miles - My son was driving the car after having a new starter replaced at a repair shop in the Plymouth, MA area, when after about 2 miles, while attempting to stop, the car accelerated requiring two feet on the brake pedal. It happened so suddenly and in traffic that he was unable to get the car into neutral before he rear-ended the car in front.

Does anyone know a mechanic in the Cape Cod / Plymouth, MA that can examine the car and tell us what may have been wrong mechanically that would have casued the acceleration?

Thanks,

Sorry but in almost all cases of this happening, the driver hit the gas pedal instead of the brake pedal.

With both feet pushing, one of those is pushing the gas.

  • The floor mat is another VERY common cause that people just can’t immagine could happen to them.
  • Now that it’s winter, people break out their big winter boots and the parameters change drastically.
  • WET shoes easily slip off of one pedal over to the other.

So, yes, a mechanic would investigate to the point of ruling out an actual mechanical malfunction.
They also could find a frayed cable or mouse nest debris.

Does the son often drive THIS car or another he’s more familiar with ?

I dunno, even going back to the days of the Audi’s or whatever they were, I always felt there could be some computer glitch. Throttles and cruise control are controled electronically. I just see the potential for crossed wires, electronic interference, or momentary glitches, causing the throttle to go wacky. The potential for finding it as Toyota, Chrysler, Audi and others have discovered is pretty low.

I think maybe the best would be to have it inspected by a dealer who takes it seriously. Some years ago Bruce Williams, the talk show host, talked about his wife’s Chrysler brand that experienced this. Nobody could find the problem or correct it. He even sued Chrysler to no avail since he had the resources. He got nowhere and finally just crushed the nearly new car so no one else would have a problem with it.

I had my Olds in the shop once and the technician and I were looking at and all of a sudden the engine surged with no one touching it. I said what was that and he said he didn’t know. Never had a problem but something caused it to surge to a high rpm out of nowhere.

Ken: I would agree that in most cases the unintended acceleration is the driver’s fault. I am less likely to believe it in this case for a few reasons. One, it is the only car that our son has driven for the last five years and this is the first occurrence. Two, he was wearing tennis shoes in dry conditions. And three, I bought the car new and drive it for the first five years without any acceleration issues. I included a picture of the pedals and foot area of the car to give you an idea of the space between the brake and accelerator. Thanks for all the comments!

BTW, the insurance company is now going to evaluate the car as to why it may have accelerated on its own. Fingers crossed that they find something…

So will the insurance company then refuse to insure it as unsafe? Then what?

As far as I know, the Honda CRV does not have a reputation or history of unintended acceleration, either by the car or by the driver. The pedals are well spaced apart, but your picture does include some evidence. Note the wear pattern on the extreme right side of the brake pedal. This is kind of typical, but it does indicate that your son, like most of the rest of the driving public, tends to have their foot only half on the brake pedal under normal circumstances.

It certainly is worth having someone look into this, but I’m afraid that in the end, you and your son will have to rack this one up in the lessons learned column.

Bing: because of damage to the front end and the cost to repair vs. the value of the vehicle, the ins co has deemed the car “totaled” - sucks
Keith: completely agree…sigh

The first thing you need to check is the driver’s side floor mat.

For this reason and many other reasons, I’d recommend your son leave more room between his car and the car in front of him.

Just a final note on the status of the car situation. Most all the comments are good ones and would help prevent the “unintended acceleration” and are much appreciated. The insurance company investigated the possible cause of the acceleration and what the found was the (my words) throttle stuck wide open. However, they were not able to determine if the throttle was stuck open before the crash or as a result of the crash. Thanks to all…

I was in a car the brakes failed on and it felt like I was going faster as I was approaching a stop sign, but in reality I was not. There may be no acceleration issue, but a brake issue is my thought.

One variable is that the starter was just replaced. To replace the starter, the battery needs to be disconnected, and this will cause the computer to have to ‘relearn’ the engine’s running characteristics—for example, the computer analyzes how much unburnt fuel is in the exhaust and adjusts the amount of “fuel trim”, both in the short term and long term. There are other parameters that need to be relearned, depending on how sophisticated the system is–the system may learn the driver’s driving style and adjust throttle response and shift points for the transmission. It may take several days of driving in various conditions for everything to be ‘relearned’ properly, though it is a continual process. Normally you would just notice your car running a little odd or responding a little differently for a while, if you noticed it at all.

I’d suggest that some anomaly in this learning process caused or contributed to the unintentional acceleration.

What comes to mind is the stereotypical young driver pushing the limits somewhat and when suddenly faced with a brake light just a few feet ahead the bravado quickly gives way to panic and, yes, with 2 feet on the brake pedal the right foot was likely holding the accelerator on the floor at wide open throttle. But that’s just throwing together the limited information available here and my experience teaching 3 boys to drive and investigating a few accidents blamed on stuck throttles.