(c) Copyright 2018 David Dilworth
I relish puzzles. My parents gave me books of them when I turned five, to keep me occupied while we drove cross-country. As they told it – I’d finished them all by the second day.
However, I’m not at all fond of puzzles when starting a car (though I might put up with some inconvenience for a Ferrari). I’m happy to leave those puzzles to Sherlock Holmes, Mensa, or anyone else. Which brings us to the so-called “Smart”car.
There are a lot of pleasant benefits with a “Smart”car. They are darn cute, lots of people smile and wave when they see it – kind of like driving with a happy puppy hanging out the window. Indeed, they are so short I really have (legally) parked it straight in to a tiny parking spot – rather than parallel to a roadway. Also the cars get good, though not amazing, gas mileage, and (if you like this sort of thing) it feels like driving a Go-Kart, particularly over undulating, curvy roads.
Further, it has a manual transmission (better gas mileage) with a clever automatic clutch – so you don’t need to shift gears if you wish. (Quick tip: since this is not documented anywhere obvious — to engage this Automatic mode you simply press the button on the side of the Gear shift stalk -.)
However, “Smart”cars have one stunningly annoying hindrance that few are fully warned about or could be prepared for – which is why I rather rudely put the “Smart” part of its name in quotes.
Here we’ll examine the multifarious ways a “Smart”car is deliberately and intentionally designed to block you, stop you, prevent you, arrest you, impede you and obstruct You — You – the legitimate user, from simply starting your car.
Starting one is almost the polar opposite of easy; compared with say a Prius where you simply Press a Start Button – and drive off.
(That’s not entirely true, for the Prius starter to work you must step on the brake pedal while pressing the Start button. However, that easily and quickly becomes second nature – whereas nothing about starting a “Smart”car ever approaches that level of ease.)
With that in mind, let me now lead you through the numerous reasonably anticipated, expected, natural, or predictable ways that Fail to start a “Smart”car. These will not only leave you motionless – making you late for work and missing your Doctor’s appointment – they will sadistically make you start the complex sequence over – again and again and again – adding at least dozens of unnecessary and not altogether pleasant thoughts to your day.
The numbered steps below are the correct way to proceed.
Other items describe traps which will leave the car sitting quietly – causing the most mild mannered person to begin, rather forcefully, spewing fulminating epithets.
1) Key in lock.
All right, that at least makes sense, but only to lull you into a false sense of ease.
2) Turn key to On.
When a “Smart”car is parked and turned off, its gear lever is not in “Park” – it is in Reverse. One cannot move the gear lever into Neutral (where it must be to start the car) until key is in the lock and Turned to On or Start – unlike most other cars built in the past 100 years.
This should give you your first clues that this was designed with a very weird set of parameters.
From here on out – abandon all contact with reasonableness.
3) Press Key Door Lock Button
Car Will NOT start if “Door Lock” is not pressed – AFTER key is in the console Start lock.
Again, contrary and opposite to nearly every other car built in the past 100 years.
Right, it doesn’t matter how many times you already Pressed the Key Door Lock Button after getting in – you have to do it again after the key is in the lock.
(Yes, you must Press Key Door Lock Button while key is in the lock even though you can’t easily see or reach the key button.)
Do not turn key to On before you Press Key Door Lock Button, or you have to turn the key back to Off and return to Step 2.
The only way to tell if this was successful is when an “R” or “N” appears in the center of the Dash to show you are in that gear and our of Reverse. Oddly, that vital little necessity is nowhere made clear or obvious to drivers.
Spoiler Alert — *** If you see a “Key” symbol instead – Car will NOT start.
In that case you must Turn key back to Off, then return to Step 2.
This step so thwarted me, for a week – I genuinely believed the battery was dead.
Even got stuck at a friend’s home late one evening and hooked up a battery charger for an hour – keeping him up past his bedtime.
The aggravating part is the “Key” symbol or “R” or “N” appears completely randomly.
Sometimes you get one, sometimes you get another. And unless you know to look at the center of the Dash to see this, you’d never know. It would save a lot of gnashed teeth if this were documented – somewhere obvious.
4) Move Gear lever into Neutral
Why you may not start the car from its de-facto Park gear lever position is a minor whodunit mystery, along with why Reverse turns into a “Parking” mode.
5) Press Brake Pedal
If you do not step on the brake while turning the key to Start, the car will not start.
6) Turn key to Start – and (finally a helpful touch) you may let go of the key while the engine cranks over.
Soon the car starter will begin and engine will start.
7) Press Brake Pedal – again.
If you do not step on the brake, the car will not go into gear.
Oh, by the way – if the car is not fully, totally stopped when you put it in gear, you will get a “0” (zero) as opposed to an “N” or “1” or a “R” and you must backup and repeat step 5.
7) Move gear lever into “R” or “1”
Sometimes success here is random as well; moving gear lever into “R” or “1” will occasionally result in a “0” (zero) meaning it is not in gear so you have return to step 5.
8) Now that you have an “R” or “1” you may press the throttle and begin driving.
As the car begins moving under power you may let out your breath and mutter “O.M.G ! What a relief.”
In short, this “starting sequence” was either designed by a an extreme fanatic political committee, or an engineer (forgive me for using that term so loosely) who was either hates people who use their products (like most so-called “software engineers”) or is just monumentally incompetent.
Indeed, when I put my mind to it, I could not figure out how to make a more difficult car starting sequence – without resorting to making you run around the car twice, counterclockwise, barefoot, while touching the key to your ear, blinking eyes twice and whistling the Mexican Hat Dance.
He or She should be taken out back and shot without a Trial – to put a halt to this overthought (I’m being charitable here ) idiocy. It would quite surprise me if any other “Smart”car owner would object to that, or shed any tears – for the loss of a senseless life.
Bonus: Here’s another “interesting” “Smart”car surprise:
If you are driving and accidentally put the gear lever in Neutral, you may not be able to get it back into gear. This means you have to bring the car to a complete stop to get it back in gear. (As in go back to step 5). Not my favorite thing while on a Freeway or a road with no shoulders. In fact its Damn dangerous.
Changing to a slightly different focus:
Bewilderingly, the “Smart”car manual claims you can jump-start the car.
That is simply a case of pseudo-science (aka fiction). In spite of the innumerable angering experiences illustrated above – even though I doubted it before I tried, I did try a jump start using their stated method – and of course it always failed entirely. There must be more insanely un-obvious steps I missed.
My advice to the “Smart”car President – get a new designer ASAP and send the one who signed off on this Rube Goldberg monstrosity, to design things that no human will ever use — like Gasoline Powered Turtleneck Sweaters or BlueTooth Shoelaces.
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