Horns


#1

You were ranting against extra-loud after-market horns on your last show. I must respectfully disagree. Most of my driving career I have driven small, fuel-efficient cars. I always add an extra-loud horn when these vehicles come into my possession. I began this practice after a near-incident on the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles. I was merrily driving my Ford Festiva slightly faster than the general flow of traffic (I was in the #1 lane) at around 75 mph when a…“person who gives feminine hygiene product a bad name” …whipped through traffic and cut me off. I of course slammed on my horn and stepped on the brakes in order to avoid a collision. Because of the impressive acoustic insulation in his Lexus and his ear to the phone, he did not even pause in his slalom through traffic. Ever since then it has been my practice to have enough horn power to generate at least 140 dB. I can list at least three instances where having this much acoustic power prevented a “lane merge” accident.


#2

“I of course slammed on my horn and stepped on the brakes in order to avoid a collision.”

Stepping on your brakes was the reason that the collision was avoided…not slamming on the horn. The automotive horn has no magical powers.


#3

I remember the days when the bottom trim line of some makes had a single horn that sounded a rather sickly bleat while the more expensive lines had a two horns that sounded two notes a third apart. The driver of the school bus I rode to school for several years installed three horns that played a major triad. He would press the buttons one at a time so that we knew he was approaching our bus stop.
I always wanted to install a “wolf whistle” horn on the car my parents let me drive as a teen-ager. This horn ran off manifold vacuum. However, I think they were illegal in our locality.


#4

Having just returned from Costa Rica literally this morning I listed to the show on podcast and wanted to point out something that I observed there that we do not consider in the USA very often. They use the car horn very liberally which if you read the traffic laws for most states we do not use the horn near enough. Most states laws on passing another vehicle on a two lane road require you to signal, flash your lights, and honk before passing to make the other driver fully aware of your intentions. In Costa Rica they honk before passing almost anyone because the posted speed limit is 40 km/h (~25 mph) on most roads but only 25% of people obey this the average speed is probably 80-100 km/h most of their horns are very quite because they use them on average once per 1/2 mile and a loud horn would be extremely obnoxious to even the person driving.

However I had a Ford ranger pickup which seemd to have the same issue as the callers Nova and which I did have an air horn installed.

Now that I’m an engineer and understand these things I have come up with what I feel is a great solution to this. Every car should be equipped with two horns. One is a courtesy horn and goes off instantly when you press the button. The other is a “HEY YOU” horn which has a small capacitor delaying the activation by 1/2 second so a long press gives an instant notice but holding will boost the volume if the person doesn’t immediately take notice.