Elizabeth and Critic. I didn't realize that they were doing away with the parking brake. I did see a show the other day and they were complaining that the brake was electronic. That doesn't make sense to me. I thought the whole point for it was that it was manual and fool-proof. I can't believe that they would do away with it, or even make it electronic. If your battery fails do you roll down the hill?
MY 2010 toyota Venza, with about 1700 miles on it, was totaled by fire. I drove it about 20 miles, parked it, and walked away. Smoke (smelling like burnt rubber) and flame emerged from the grill, and very soon every thing flammable, the headlights, grill, bumper, a tire, engine parts, battery, were consumed by fire, which then spread through the "firewall" into the passenger compartment. The radiator melted. When the fire department put out the fire, there was still fuel flowing from the stub of a fuel line. Fuel flowed even with the ignition off and no source of electricity. An insurance investigator ruled that, overnight, a "rodent" (nocturnal squirrel?) had built a nest of dry leaves on the engine. The leaves "somehow" ignited when I parked the car, igniting plastic in the engine compartment.
I suspect had my car been an airplane, all Venzas would have been grounded until fixed.
I replaced my Venza with another, just like the first, but my wife thinks I shouldn't drive something which could cremate me so easily.
Critic, it is indeed unfortunate that the emergency brake function is going away, and you can be certain that it is being removed as a cost reduction move. The sad fact is that modern brake systems are a great deal LESS reliable than 20 or 30 years back. But the mechanical system to apply a disk brak is much more complex than the mechanical system to apply a drum brake. In fact, Chrysler used to have a separate drum brake just for the emergency/parking brake function. And you know that was a painful expense for them. Of course, on every Chrysler vehicle that I have ever owned, after two years, the emergency brakes would still apply, but to release them required removing the brake drum and manually prying back the lever. So I never used those brakes except in a really serious emergency. I have not tried them on either of our current vehicles because of this past experience. But possibly by the time 15 or 20 people die because of total brake failure, possibly the attitude of the car companies may change. But then, the fedral safety people are the same idiots that allow vehicles to be sold with no manual means to switch off the engine. That has to be the most stupid thing that anybody in our government has ever done, bar nothing.
Speaking of using brushed-DC motors for fuel pumps, I used to have a 1997 Chevy pickup that became hard to start when cold. The problem was marginally low fuel pressure and was fixed with a new in-tank electric fuel pump. A post-mortem analysis of the old fuel pump revealed the problem -- The feed wire had separated from one of the brushes and had been arcing against the back of the brush. Fuel flows through the pump motor to lubricate and cool it, so I guess brushes are safe as long as there is not significant oxygen in there too. I imagine that most modern fuel injected cars use brushed-DC fuel pump motors.
I agree with you Elizabeth about preferring manual parking brakes on cars, and I prefer the hand operated over the foot operated. Maybe the automatic parking brakes on new cars are only on automatic transmission cars...to be sold in the USA (land of mostly automatic transmissions). I can't imagine an automatic parking brake on a manual transmission car...especially for steep uphill starts and parallel parking on steep hill city streets.
I learned to use the manual parking brake on manual transmission cars at age 16 when I learned to drive, although the practice was not taught in my Driver's Education (classroom) or Driver's Training (behind the wheel). With my motorcycles (back in the day), I used the front wheel brake (right hand) while working the clutch (left hand) when starting on a steep uphill.
Now if the auto manufacturers would just come-up with "smart blinkers" (automatic turn signals) ...since so many drivers do not use their blinkers when changing lanes or turning.
Oh and Critic, I do think car designs have come a long way. I drive a 1999 VW Transporter mini-bus here where I live in Portugal. I used a rental car briefly when mine was getting serviced--a new VW Golf. I think that car was more intelligent than some of my ex-boyfriends! And it was surely more high-tech and sleek than my old van (even though I love my van). So hand-brake issues aside, car designs are really on the move, in my opinion.
I am still a big fan of the parking brake, especially in places where there are a lot of hills. I used to live in SF (where it's mandatory, as RICKZ28 points out) and you were doomed if you didn't have a parking brake as a back-up on some of those steep hills, where parking was always an adventure. And here in Portugal it's the same--especially with manual-shift cars, which everyone has in Europe, you couldn't get up a steep hill without one.
Getting off the leaking gas subject, I find it amazing how many people don't use the parking brake when they park their cars/trucks. Here in California, it's required by law to use the parking brake when parked.
Many years ago, I was requested move my late in-law grandparent's car during a family gathering (park in a different location). Of course I used the parking brake when I parked the car. Later that day I was in "big trouble", since my in-law grandfather drove home with the parking brake on, burning-out the rear drum brakes. He said I shouldn't have used the parking brake...never mind that a "BRAKE" light was lit on the car instrument panel while he was driving.
Perhaps automatic parking brakes on newer cars will actually improve safety since so many drivers don't use parking brakes when they park their vehicles. I myself prefer the manual parking brake.
On April 15, 2010, President Barack Obama gave a major speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, announcing that the US would send astronauts to Mars by the mid-2030s. But in order to do so, NASA would first need to ramp up its capabilities through missions directed toward "a series of increasingly demanding targets," i.e. asteroids.
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