But was the problem truly operator error, or was the switch designed and implemented in a manner that made the problem likely to occur, even by a conscientious driver? The purpose of the lockout switch is safety -- to prevent children from raising or lowering the passenger windows. When the driver engages the lock-out switch, the affected power windows will not function. The switch is mechanically latching, such that once the driver depresses it, the switch remains engaged until manually disengaged.
Let's look at the various design issues that may have contributed to this operator error.
Non-standardized operation. Contrary to my expectation, lock-out switches do not operate the same on all vehicles. Some affect only the rear windows, some affect the rear windows and front passenger windows, while some affect all four windows. The result is that the operator may have experience with only one type of lock-out switch, and logically (but erroneously) believe that lock-out switches all operate in the same manner (this was my situation).
Contributing to this misconception is that the lock-out switch has no visual indicator showing which windows are affected. Further, the section of the owner’s manual describing the lock-out switch states ambiguously that it locks “passenger window” switches, without specifying which passenger windows. Not to mention that very few people would think it necessary to study the owner’s manual about such a common feature as power window switches.
Frequently unneeded feature. A large portion of drivers of pickup trucks (as opposed to, say, minivans) will never have children in their vehicle, and so have no need of a window lock-out switch (this is also my situation). As a result, these drivers have no reason to examine the function of a lock-out switch because it is a useless feature for them.
Illogical switch grouping. Because the lock-out switch affects window operation, it should be located in the same general grouping as the four power window switches. However, this truck has the four power window switches grouped together, then about an inch ahead of them is the power door lock switch, then only a quarter inch ahead of the door lock switch is the window lock-out switch. This results in the window lock-out switch appearing grouped with the door switch, not with the other window switches.
Close proximity of the power door lock switch to the window lock-out switch. The lock-out switch is so close to the door lock switch that it is easy for the driver to mistakenly activate the lock-out switch when intending to lock the doors.
Same activation operation as nearby switches. Momentarily depressing the window lock-out button activates it, as does momentarily depressing the nearby door lock switch. In addition, the window lock-out button requires only a light force, so the driver can unknowingly engage it while feeling for the door lock button.
Similar appearance to the nearby power door lock button. The lock-out switch is the same overall size, shape, and coloring as the door lock switch, making it easy for the driver to mistake one for the other.
Similar appearance whether engaged or not. When the driver engages the lock-out switch, the switch latches in a slightly lower position than when it is disengaged. This minor difference is barely noticeable when viewed from the driver’s normal position looking down at the switch. Further, there is no indicator light on the dashboard or anywhere else to show that the lock-out is engaged.
Substantial difference usage pattern between the lock-out switch and the adjacent door lock switch. As discussed above, many drivers will never use the lock-out switch. However, virtually all drivers will use the door lock switch every time the driver enters the vehicle (there is no automatic locking function). A driver who uses a vehicle daily for three years will activate the door lock switch a few thousand times, but may never use the window lock-out button.
In summary, the manufacturer could change the design in many ways to reduce the likelihood of operator error. While not relieving the driver of the responsibility of knowing how to use the vehicle properly, the types of improvements suggested here would certainly improve the user experience.
This entry was submitted by Donald Murphy and edited by Rob Spiegel.
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I don't mind the automatic door locks on my Aspen. All of the doors lock at about 20 mph. The driver and front passenger doors open with the handle, while the rear doors must be unlocked first. And I usually keep the child locks off. What I don't like are the rental cars that automatically unlock all of the doors when the ignition is turned off.
Speaking of motorcycle controls, the foot clutch and hand shift prior to the hand lever clutch and foot shift was a safety issue.
I have lost count of how many times I inadvertently locked out the other windows, but as an earlier poster pointed out, in all my cars the driver's controls still operated without a hitch. The mistakenly turned off switch is quickly corrected when my kids gripe, "Dad will you unlock the windows?" Now the auto door locks when I reach 15-20 MPH are a different story. I get to discover that myself when I return to get something out of the back seat and have to go around to the driver's side to unlock the doors.
It used to be that motorcycles had many different control arrangements and functions. In some cases it caused some serious safety problems.
Transmission - Today all new motorcycles sold in the USA have a shift patter nat starts with first gear and then neutral and second third, fourthand so on. Theis means that in a poanic situation the operator will be downshifting and wind up in first gear and slow speed. At one time there was a British bike that that had the gears arranged Neutral, first seconf and so on, but the unique feature that if you shifter down from first to neutral and then hit the shift lever again you were in high gear. Imagine you are on this bike for the first time and you need to stop fast. A suden lurch into danger...
Hand COntrols - Today the throttle and front brake are on the right hand, and the clutch is on the left. There have been motorcycles with those controls reversed. Panisc and grab the clutch when you want the brake...
Foot controls - today the shifter is on the left and the brake is on the right. Some older machines - including the Harley Sportster - had those controls reversed.
The point I am trying to make is that by standardizing controls and their function it means that less operator attention is required by these devises leaving the operator to pay attention to the road rather than where the controls are and how they function.
The final ruling is tedious though its intention is noble. To prevent little appendages from being damaged or caught in an inadvertently operated power window. The analysis by Mr. Murphy of murphy's induced problem was exhaustive. I have the same switch on my late 90's GMC and out of curiosity have exercised most switches in my car just to see what they do and their conditions. I would say the first thing most tech support should say to users when something seems dysfunctional: read the manual. And if you find your controls might ambush you, disable them if you'll never need them. I have a built-in speaker in my computer which I have permanently disabled by disconnecting the wires so it doesn't produce sound that is unsuitable for the workplace. Lot of analysis for what shouldn't be a problem. And really wasn't. But its a good brain calisthenic on how interlock and lockout switches should be designed.
I just used a rental car recently and we had no trouble with the power windows. It was a KIA, for what that's worth. The only problem we had was the lack of space, especially legroom, for the front passenger, which was me. I'm not used to that in compact-sized cars.
A year back, I had the same problem. My Driver side power window failed to work somehow. I did the same thing- checked the fuses. There was nothing wrong with them. Then I checked other windows as well, they were working perfectly fine. So, the problem was also not with the battery. I even checked, if the button was working fine or not, by using my DMM. And it was working.
I tried to diagnose all of the problems but couldn't find it. So, I took my car to the electrician. I told him all of the things I tried, he was also a bit confused. Then he opened my door, and pulled out the window motor. He tested it, and it was not working. The problem was with the window motor. He further opened the motor to repair it, and then we found it. It was the carbon brushes that had worned out. Created a big mess for us. So finally, he repaired the motor and fitted it back in the door. And from that day on, it worked fine.
I take issue with one point that the author put forth in his list of items. While he may believe that pick-em-up trucks are MOSTLY used by tradespeople, etc., I'd say he hasn't visited too much of N. America. There are areas of both countries (U.S. & Canada) where the "family" vehicle(s) ARE pick-em-up trucks from simple FORD F150s through the monster cousins in this class of vehicle.
Having driven many rental cars, I can concur with all the design issues highlighted in this article. However, when the windows (any of them) do not work, I mash on the window lock-out button. If they still do not work, I mash on the window lock-out button some more!
Like you, watson, I do not drive anything newer than a 1993 Suburban. This has power windows, but no lock-out feature (thankfully). At this age, the main issue is aging of plastic and the resulting brittleness. Any service work (as a do-it-yourself kind of guy) results in cracked and broken plastic that either has to be glue or replaced. Thus when a window stops working, troubleshooting is low priority until multiple windows quit working.
The most interesting aspect of the issue to me is that the driver's controls are locked out when the passenger's are. As far as I recall from cars I've driven with a lock-out switch the driver's switches were not locked out. That way Mr. Murphy would have been able to operate the window as desired and only if a passenger tried to operate the window would there be any questions. In that case the troubleshooting is virtually intuitive - "Hmm, the window operates at the driver's switch but not at the passenger's switch - must be the lock-out!" As I recall that's what my thought process was when I faced this situation.
Now in the interest of full disclosure I don't often experience this situation. These days I've been mostly driving the most recently acquired car - a 1991 Mazda 323 with manual windows. The newest car I own is a 2005 Chrysler minivan and it doesn't have a lock-out since its rear windows are permenantly locked-out - they don't roll down.
You've got my curiosity piqued. In a few weeks I'm travelling for business and we'll be using a rental car. I'll check its behavior and report back.