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  • Whale Watching: What Were They Thinking?

Whale Watching: What Were They Thinking?

What's your favorite truck-design-related WWTT issue? Let me know!

G. R. Whale
Jun 29, 2011
I pushed my grocery cart onto a new, dimpled ramp-the only route to the parking lot not over a curb-and my cart bounced like a solid axle in the sand. That ramp took out a couple of eggs, pummeled some fruits and veggies, and shook up all the beer. That "what were they thinking?" moment unleashed a flood of recall.
Multifunction rearview mirrors: One recent example had more buttons than on the dash, and even had reading lights in it. When the driver was of short stature, the reading light was aimed at the dash, and the passenger's light shone on the back seat. Make it a simple mirror, mounted on an articulated arm so you can see under it.
Overkill: I gave Hummer grief for using Grade 8 bolts to mount a plastic trailer plug on a bumper, itself held on by Grade 5 hardware. But when my neighbor's Volvo horn wouldn't shut up and we found the cabin fusebox location on the dash, we needed a Torx driver to get the damn cover off.
Photo 2/5   |   2010 Hummer H3t Front View
Pointless rearview mirrors: You'd think a rearview mirror on a car with no rear window qualifies as pointless. But the Feds require these vehicles have a rearview mirror. They also mandate that an electrically switched mirror can't stay on the nighttime setting when the engine is off, so you have to reset it every time you restart the car at night.
Roof-mounted switches and fine print: My senior relatives bemoan any overhead switch because they can't read them unless their bifocals are on upside-down, negating the security aspect car companies are marketing to seniors. And the reason for overhead switches can't be to keep these controls out of younger hands, since years ago Honda successfully sited the sunroof switch on the dash to the left of the steering wheel.
Photo 3/5   |   2011 Honda Pilot Front Three Quarters In Motion HL
In-road strobes: The next step in road warnings appears to be strobe lights in the pavement that blink more rapidly and randomly than conventional signpost-mounted amber lamps. My medical friends suggest the strobes could trigger seizures in some people.
Exhaust pipe routing: As noise, energy, and emissions regulations expand, so does exhaust pipe complexity. Failing to heatshield a catalyst from a U-joint is one thing, but running a V-configured engine's left-side downpipe out and under the front driveshaft of a 4WD truck really had me wondering WWTT.
Remote start/stop: This may be alluring for climate extremes, yet with available solar-powered venting sunroofs and electrically heated windshields, steering wheels, and seats, who really needs it? If it's cold, wear gloves and a jacket. Remote start on "green" cars is oxymoronic-why buy a car that saves gas if you're going to run it with no one in it? And if it switches off when you open the door so no one steals it, it creates more emissions and wears things out faster.
Not-in-motion controls: Lawyers have determined that even eight-passenger vehicles carry only a driver and no one else. Many systems won't let you input navigation data or adjust a vehicle setting while the vehicle is in motion, even if the vehicle detects the passenger seat is occupied because of the airbag sensors. Some will allow you to change radio stations on the move, but not iPod tracks. But the worst was when digital odometers weren't that common (and navigation less so), and I sampled dual trip odos that wouldn't allow you to reset them if the vehicle was in gear. WWTT?
Photo 4/5   |   Tomtom Navigation System
Bad serviceability, familiar to all of us with scraped knuckles: Using an interference-fit stretch bolt on an iron exhaust manifold? At just six months and 3000 miles, quality impact sockets couldn't get it out. We had to torch the head off, drill it out, and rethread. There were 10 of them-on each side of the engine. On one four-wheel-drive vehicle, you have to remove a crossmember to change the ATF filter, and you need a frame spreader to get that crossmember out. And you have to do that every 15,000 miles. WWTT? Those vehicles where you have to lift the engine a bit to change the spark plugs-WTFWTT?
CARB electric vehicle certification: Why do electric vehicles with sealed batteries need California Air Resources Board certification? "Yup. Got no engine. You're good." If CARB has determined brake dust and wheel bearing grease are a pollution problem, how long until my mountain bike needs a biannual smog test?
Offset steering wheels: It's been a while since road cars didn't put the driver on one side or the other (McLaren's F1 excepted), but it's still a challenge for some manufacturers to get the steering wheel directly ahead of the driver's seat and remember that human arms tend to be equal length. Face it, this isn't a NASCAR oval we're driving on. We spend most of our drive time going straight ahead.
Photo 5/5   |   McLaren F1 Front Three Quarters View
Poor RV planning: So many examples from which to choose, like cargo doors and awnings that can't be opened with a slideout or the entry door open; portable barbecues you hang right above the L.P. tank door; and front axles just pounds away from GAWR with no driver on board. But my favorite was a bathroom door that opened until it was stopped by a globe-shaped vanity light bulb above the mirror. A WWTT moment, it also demonstrated dismal quality control.
What's your favorite truck-design-related WWTT issue? Let me know!



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