You'd think that after over a century of development, car controls would be totally standardized by now. Jalopnik readers know ten wildly confusing features that don't fit the mold.
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Before we go into the whole list, we would like to give a little shout out to the Ford Model T. When it debuted, there really wasn't any kind of standard form for the controls in an automobile. Yes there were three pedals, but none of them were the gas. That was a lever on the steering wheel. To get low gear you needed to pull the handbrake lever and push down on the left pedal. To get high gear you need to move the handbrake lever to a different position and then release the left pedal. Reverse required the coordination of the handbrake and both the middle and left pedals. All of this is done while managing the hand throttle. The right pedal was the actual brake, but not the handbrake or the parking brake. You can read a better explanation here.
So no matter what, nothing will ever be quite as confusing as what your grandpa or great grandpa had to deal with way back when.
With that in mind, are there any other features we left off this list? Let us know in Kinja below.
Photo Credit: TVR
It's supposed to be pull back to go up a gear and push forward to go down, because that's what it is in racecars! Do you need another reason? Everything else is wrong, particularly Porsche's early wheel-mounted paddles.
Reader James Mackintosh explains what's wrong with these old Swedish controls.
Saab C900 Heater Controls. Ok, so dial on the left makes sense. Center dial is OK, very swedish in that 10% is cold and 90% is varying shades of hot (this is how it worked, too.) Dial on the right - oh, what? An 0. Some BIG right/left arrows. Small right-left arrows. A BIG down arrow. Oh hey, a SMALL down arrow. An up down arrow? And windshield?
Thanks Saab! Makes sense now!
Suggested By: James Mackintosh, Photo Credit: Saab
At least Saab labeled their controls, on the '80s BMW 6 series, the window circuit breaker button (why?) was unlabeled. Plenty of owners think their windows are broken, but it's just that they unknowingly pressed this blank button.
What was wrong with a simple lever?
Suggested By: McPherson, Photo Credit: Subaru
There's a reason why turn signals should feel strong, and make a loud clicking noise, as owen-magnetic explains.
I was test driving an Edge just before Christmas on 28th st in grand rapids (busiest MI road outside metro Detroit) in a snow storm, at night. And I'm trying to turn right and I hit the turn signal to change lanes and nothing happens. So I have to look at the stalk and I'm wiggling it up and down muttering and trying to figure out how to use the turn signal. At night, in a snowstorm, on a busy road, just before Xmas. Finally I realize it's been blinking the whole time and I change lanes, but it doesn't stop blinking. The stalk is in the center position but the blinker is still on. So I give the stalk a flick and it starts blinking in the other direction. Now I'm enraged. On a busy street. In a snow storm. Just before Christmas. All because of somebody decided to fix something that wasn't broken to begin with.
Suggested By: owen-magnetic, Photo Credit: Ford
The stalks behind the steering wheel make sense for the windshield wipers, the turn signals, and possibly the high beams or the gear lever if you're an OG. Carmakers love shoving the cruise control switches at the end of these for some reason. Others put the horn there, and Chevy even put infotainment controls on a stalk.
Want to re-route your destination while on the move? Plenty of car simply won't let you. It's supposed to keep you safe, but you end up just pulling out your phone to pull up Google Maps instead.
Suggested By: Viperfan1, Photo Credit: Jaguar
Looking for the door handle on a TVR? No, it's not on the edge of the door. No it's not really anywhere near the edge of the door at all, it's hidden under the wing mirror.
If the above graphic doesn't explain the heating and ventilation system of a late '80s Porsche, reader ejp is here to explain.
Over the years, the early Porsche 911 (1964-1989) developed into what is (perhaps) the most bizarre HVAC system ever devised. The earliest cars were simple - a heat exchanger box over the exhaust headers driven by the alternator fan provided heat into the cabin. As buyers demanded a heating system that provided consistent heat and didn't blow air faster as engine revs raised, the system was "refined" and thus became more and more complicated over the years. Additional blower fans were added. Different vents were added, each with their own function (heat/fresh air/AC). An "autoheat" system was developed. Different versions of air conditioning were added (none of them ever actually worked).
It all culminated into a ridiculous Rube Goldberg machine that never quite works right (unless I want to make my car very hot; that always seems to work). Every time I want to change where the heat is blowing, I have to think about which mostly unmarked lever to push (hint, it's the bottom red one).
See that little mushroom next to the gas in this old Citroen? Yeah, that's the brake pedal. How hard you press it determines how much it slows the car down. Sounds natural, right?
Suggested By: Chairman Kaga, Photo Credit: Citroen DS Restoration