William, that made me laugh. The two levers that come out of the steering wheel shaft on my Nissan Sentra are lights and wipers, and they're always there in the same place, as you said. Of course, my car is a 1996, and I don't know if "some fool" changed that yet. I hope not. There are no controls on the door, perhaps because I don't have electric door locks. I would also prefer a keyed gas cap lid release. I have a lever inside on the floor that releases the small gas cap door, and the small door's latch recently got bent, preventing it from opening. Of course, I discovered this right there at the gas station and had to turn around and drive home so we could fix it.
For many years the headlight switches in all of my cars were on the dashboard to the left of the steering column. The headlight switch was always the farthest to the left, and it pulled out two clicks for headlights, one for parking lights. Even better, it seemed to be the same in all of the cars. If the switch ever failed the replacement was handy at the local auto parts store, and they were mostly all interchangable, only the knobs were different.
The wiper switch was always easy to find, right above the headlight switch, always. So the two accessories needed to drive the car could always be found, even in the dark.
Then things fell apart: some fool put the headlight switch control on the turn signal switch lever, along with the hi-beam-lo-beam select function, allegedly to make it more convenient. So how often do you turn your headlights on and off? And the wper switch moved all over the car, and onto the door in one Nissan that I once rented. All of the switches for everything were on the door. It was a mid 80's Nissan Pulsar, which may have been a nice car but the controls were certainly wierd.
If the safety people were really concerned about safety they would insist on a more uniform set of control locations, instead of allowing this wild "product differentiation" to continue.
The gas cap lid release that I liked best was one that used the trunk key in a keyhole near the fuel door. It was quite secure and very reliable.
Yes, it is a bad design. The steering wheel does tilt, but that doesn't help the light-of-sight much. It's a Ford Winstar minivan. I like the vehicle is most regards, but that light switch was placed in an odd position.
Wow, that's really bad design, Rob. Does the steering wheel have a tilt adjust? Even if it doesn't, that's ridiculous. My lights are controlled by a level coming out of the steering wheel--impossible to miss. You didn't say what kind of car that is, but mine's a Nissan.
The line-of-sight is important. My 16-year-old daughter is learning to drive. We were out the other day at dusk in my Ford minivan. She asked where the headlight switch was. I told her where it was, but she couldn't see it, The steering wheel blocks the view of the switch. I've had the vehicle for a few years, so it didn't occurred to me that there's no line-of-sight to the switch. If you don't know where it is, you have to feel for it. You also have to duck your head around the wheel to see if you have it on running lights for full headlights.
Well, that's funny. I always assumed the stupid ones were those who put it there in the first place--since when are headlights an afterthought in car design?--and neglected to also put a great big red arrow on the dashboard pointing down and big red letters that said "headlight knob here." I got the same argument about "everyone knows this" from that friend whose house I stopped at for a 101 on US cars. I pointed out to him that obviously this was no longer the case, and many people were now used to the Japanese controls clearly marked with easily identifiable symbols and located near eye level so you couldn't miss them. Glad I never had to find the gas cap door switch on those cars. Guess that must not have been an important design element, either, since its location also appears to be an afterthought.
I know exactly what you mean about the headlight switch. I always felt like I was the stupid one, thinking that everyone else in this country probably knows exactly where the headlight switch is. Another real winner is trying to find the button that releases the gas cap door. Sometimes I've found it under the front seat.
Yes, that harassment went on for several years, into the mid-80s when I was living in LA. Your experience in rental cars sounds just like mine. It was disorienting and, a couple of times, downright dangerous, especially the headlights. I had to drive without them a few times, fortunately at dusk so that limited my mobility severely. Another time I had flown back to the SF Bay Area from LA on a business trip. I had to stop by a friend's house so he could show me where the dang headlight switch was so I could drive at night. It was some knob way under the dashboard down near my feet, invisible while sitting in the driver's seat. I was very glad when American cars began adopting the same user interface conventions.
Wow. I'm surprised that was happening even in California. I agree with the user-friendly interfaces in Japanese cars. I went through a period where I rented cars frequently. When I would step into a U.S. car, it was all bumping elbows and knees, and I'm not tall. And it was always difficult to find the headlights switch and the wipers switch. When I would get into a Japanese car, everything fit and all of the switches were in logical places.
I was in my twenties when all that was happening and it impressed me deeply. We had originally bought my first car, a '76 Toyota, after the oil crisis because it got better mileage, and even though those early models needed adjustments to suit taller Americans, I was impressed at the easy-to-understand user interface, aka the controls and dashboard. Many older American cars still have esoteric, hard-to find controls for basic and important things like the headlights, which I can't understand. And yes, I got angry looks and hand signals on the freeway in those days for driving a non-US car, even in California.
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