Yet another electrical item to protect you from yourself.

I once had a '99 Windstar, a highly utilitarian yet ultimately hateful piece of excrement. Like most cars that do it wrong, the brake lights would light up without the ignition turned on, and having only driven German cars until that point this was a foreign concept to me. Normally I wouldn't consider this a big deal, but the car had some issues.

One of those issues were the brakes. Despite having replaced the master cylinder, the pedal would still drop a tad when parked until you restarted it and got some vacuum back into the booster. When it dropped, it would turn on the brake lights and proceed to drain the battery.

My carport had a storage locker, with an area below where you could place the nose of your car - standard stuff. When the nose of the car is under that storage area, you can't get under the hood. This being my first car with an automatic, I was unaware that you couldn't just grab the shift lever and put it into neutral. There was a safety interlock that required you to press the brake pedal and then a solenoid will allow you to change gear, and therein lies the problem. Nose parked under the storage locker, battery gets drained by brake lights because of faulty brake system, and now I can't get the car out of park so that I can push it back and get to the battery.

I could open the hood about 8 inches, but of course I had to have something to hold up the hood so that I could work the wrenches and pull the battery. Not finding anything close by I just used my head, literally, to hold the hood in up as high as it would go.


Just like the sequence of events that lead to the downing of ValuJet 592, no engineer in Dearborn probably ever thought that a situation like this could occur. I tend to associate American cars with engineering that is just good enough, but never exceeds expectations. One thing I loved on the E34 was the primary air intake pipe that went into the airbox. It was a tube that would slide back into the airbox, out of the way, if you needed to access other systems in the area - no removal and no tools necessary. Simple, elegant, and demonstrates that someone was thinking ahead through all of the "what if" scenarios.

I understand the need for the lockout system, but there should be some way to easily override it if the need arises. A simple mechanical system would have been fine, just as effective, and probably less trouble over the long run.