If you're asking, “why is my car accelerating on its own?” then you're most likely dealing with what's known as sudden unintended acceleration. Causes for sudden unintended acceleration differ significantly depending on what you are driving an older car or a newer one. In older vehicles, the problem is most likely related to a bad or a stuck accelerator cable, while in newer cars, the problem has to do with a faulty computer sensor or chip.
If you drive down the road and notice that your vehicle started accelerating by itself, it can be extremely risky and scary for many inexperienced drivers. This situation is referred to as unintended acceleration. Since this is one of the riskiest situations that any driver might get in, automotive experts paid good attention to the main causes for unintended acceleration.
This article walks you through some potential reasons why your car is accelerating on its own. It also provides you with additional recommendations on stopping the unintended acceleration as much as possible to prevent putting yourself in safety problems.
How does your car accelerate?
Before we discuss the details and helps you answer the question, “why is my car accelerating on its own?” We must go back to the basics and familiarize ourselves with how vehicles exploit in the first place.
Vehicle acceleration works differently in older and newer vehicles. Let's take a closer look at how the acceleration system works and each vehicles type:
1- The old vehicles accelerator system
In order vehicles, the throttle body is connected to an accelerator cable, and this cable gets pulled once you press on the gas pedal. So typically, most exploration problems in older cars have to do with the accelerator cable that might get stuck as you press on that pedal.
2- The new vehicles accelerator system
In more modern vehicles, you won't see an accelerator cable. Instead, these vehicles are equipped with computer chips that work using a sensor connected to the gas pedal. As you press on the gas pedal, the sensor sends a signal to the computer and the electric motor around the throttle body to open it, depending on how much you press on the gas pedal.
Obviously, with their introduction of computers and sensors, the vehicle is more precise, and the response to your pressing on the pedal is much more accurate. Therefore, you'll see that your vehicle responds faster when you drive a modern car versus an older vehicle.
What is sudden unintended acceleration?
As the name suggests, the sudden unintended acceleration has to do with your vehicle accelerating on its own without any control. The problem can be related to issues with the driver's input, problems with the electrical system, or probably a mechanical issue in the vehicle.
Unfortunately, sudden unintended acceleration is a dangerous situation that might be accompanied by loss of breaking effectiveness, which is ideal for car crashes. The situation can be more complicated and dangerous if you're driving at highway speeds.
Sudden unintended acceleration comes in many different forms, and it does not necessarily mean that your vehicle keeps running on its own. Look at these situations, and if you got in any of them, you're dealing with sudden unintended acceleration:
- Your vehicle's speed increases by itself without you pressing on the gas pedal
- Your vehicle moves after stopping without any input from you
- You're not able to brake and stop the vehicle
- You can't put your vehicle to idle after setting it to gears
- You cannot control the vehicle
Why is my car accelerating on its own?
Understanding the main reasons and causes for your vehicle to accelerate on its own is critical to prevent the situation from happening or understand what to do when you are in such a situation.
The sudden intended acceleration must deal with situations where the throttle body opens on its own without you pressing on the gas pedal.
Since the accelerator system differs significantly depending on your vehicle, the main causes for unintended acceleration are also different whether you're driving an old car or a modern vehicle. In general, here are the main causes for sudden unintended acceleration:
1- What causes sudden unintended acceleration in older cars?
If you are driving an older vehicle, when you deal with sudden unintended acceleration, the problem most likely has to do with the accelerator cable. Whenever you press on the gas pedal, you pull this cable to open the throttle body, and it's not rare to deal with situations where this cable gets stuck, causing the throttle body to stay open and have your vehicle accelerate on its own.
2- What causes sudden unintended acceleration in newer cars?
On the other hand, if you were driving a modern vehicle equipped with computers and sensors, the problem most likely has to do with an electronic issue with these sensors or the computer itself.
Despite the main cause for the unintended acceleration, it is very critical for you as a driver when dealing with such a situation to have your vehicle inspected and repaired by a professional mechanic immediately to resolve the issue and prevent getting yourself involved in car crashes.
How do I stop my car from suddenly accelerating?
If you are in a situation where your vehicle is accelerating suddenly, there are some recommendations you can implement to get yourself out of the situation without any risks. However, these recommendations require some knowledge and practice; therefore, being proactive about the situation and familiarizing yourself with how this stops sudden acceleration.
1- Do not panic
Yes, we understand that unintended acceleration is one of the very risky, dangerous situations that might freak you out. However, you must stay as calm as possible, especially after understanding that there are some tips that you can implement to stop the vehicle safely. The more you panic, the harder it is to get you out of the situation and the higher the chance for you to get involved in car accidents.
2- Engage the brakes steadily
When we get in an unintended exploration situation, we first hit the brakes as hard as possible to give the vehicle to stop. However, that's not the way you should do it. Instead, it is recommended that you slightly start engaging the brakes steadily to get your vehicle to stop without extra force. In fact, hitting the brakes hard does not help stop the vehicle, and your vehicle will not slow down.
Keep in mind that in some scenarios, you might need to add extra force on the brakes to get the vehicle to slow down because, typically, brakes are more powerful than engines, and you will be able to solve the end of the day vehicle.
3- Try shifting to neutral
When there is a problem with the accelerator system, the throttle body will be completely opened. If that happens, a good idea recommended for emergencies only is to switch your vehicle to neutral. Of course, you want to try these steady states breaking before relying on this option to get out of this sudden acceleration situation.
4- Turn the engine off
Once you try the breaking and set the car to neutral, at this point, your vehicle is at a good level of control. Once you are safe, try turning off the engine. Depending on the vehicle you're driving, you might want to press the push-button for a couple of seconds to get the engine to stop. Keep in mind that as you turn off the engine, it gets a little harder to use the brakes, and therefore, you want to make sure that you are pulled over safely, so you don't get in crashes with other people.
5- Turn on the hazard lights
After stopping your vehicle and pulling over to a safe place, you must engage the hazard lights because that's why it's made for. This way, vehicles driving around you can get an idea about your issue and stay away from your vehicle.
6- Apply additional safety measures
If unintended acceleration happened when you're driving at highway speeds, you must apply all safety measures once you stop on the shoulder. Try using the warning triangles if you have ones, and use a fluorescent jacket as well.
7- Reach out for help
At this point, you can comfortably reach out to your road assistant or probably the independent shop to get an idea from your mechanic about what you need to do next. Obviously, you don't want to risk being in a situation again, and in some scenarios, you might want to pull your vehicle to the nearest repair shop to get it fixed.
Is sudden unintended acceleration a new issue?
Some drivers might think that sudden unintended acceleration is a brand-new problem that faces them. However, sudden unintended acceleration has been reported since the 1980s. In many situations, the sudden acceleration has to do with the way the vehicles were designed, which means that it is the full responsibility of the manufacturer to deal with the problem and resolve it.
1- Audi was recalled for unintended acceleration back in 1980
That's why back in the 1980s, Audi recalled about 250,000 vehicles because of sudden unintended acceleration issues that resulted in 5 deaths and 271 injuries. Obviously, it is not surprising to hear about these 36, especially with the high number of reported unintended acceleration instances.
After the recall, investigators spent some time and effort looking into the issue, and they discovered that the paddle itself has a problem during the manufacturing process. And the main reason for this issue seems to be related to the different brands of pedals Audi uses compared to other vehicles in the United States.
When digging in the unintended acceleration in all these vehicles, investigators also found that the pedals used for these vehicles do not take the engine out of gear when the brake pedal is hit. That's why whenever drivers tried setting the vehicle to idle or reverse, the vehicle accelerates on its own, putting them in risky situations.
2- Other recalls in 2010
The unintended acceleration problem was related to Audi vehicles because back in 2010, about 8.1 million vehicles were recalled from Toyota due to issues with the unintended acceleration. In addition, a lot of claims about serious injuries were reported regarding the Toyota Prius vehicle specifically.
Unlike the issue with the Audi vehicles, Toyota's unintended acceleration had to do with a loose floor mat requiring replacement to get the vehicle not to accelerate independently.
Setting unintended acceleration is one of the very risky situations that no driver wants to get involved in. But, unfortunately, this situation might happen at any point of your vehicle’s lifetime without any previous warning signs.
Understanding the main causes for sudden unintended acceleration helps you tackle the problem down and resolve it with minimal negative outcomes. In general, when your vehicle starts accelerating on its own, the problem is most likely having to do with the accelerator cable if you're driving an older car or probably the computer and chip if you're driving a modern vehicle.
This article provided you with some recommendations on how to get out of the situation safely when your car accelerates on its own, especially if you're driving at highway speeds. However, it is important to note that if your car has unintended acceleration issues and other major complicated problems, it might be the right time to get rid of this vehicle and use the money towards a better car that doesn't have such issues.
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