Whether it’s cars or anything else in life, we all have what are otherwise known as “pet peeves.” That is, a little list of annoyances that interfere with the pleasure or convenience that we’d anticipated. Despite being filled with technological wonders nowadays, new cars all too often possess more than their share of displeasing characteristics.
How can this be? After all, manufacturers have been producing automobiles for a century and a quarter. By this time, shouldn’t they all be close to perfect in every respect, large and small?
Of course, what goes unnoticed by one person, or ranks as the most trivial of irritants, can make another driver cringe and fret, if not grunt in a bitter blend of anger and disgust. Here are a handful of my personal automotive irritants, presented in the knowledge that your own list might be quite different:
Bells, Beeps, and Whistles
Excessive technology may be the biggest irritant, led by audible and/or visual warnings whose significance is unclear—especially at the moment when they’re first heard or seen. Premium automobiles are the most guilty of intrusive beeps and buzzes, but the aural clutter has been moving down rapidly into the modestly-priced categories. Most of them sound valuable in theory, enhancing safety or reliability. If only the sounds could be deciphered instantly, without having to consult the owner’s manual for guidance, they might be more tolerable.
Gauged and Confused
Overly stylized gauges might be pleasing to the artistic eye, but too many are tough on the brain—impossible to decipher with a quick glance. Unless they’re properly illuminated, too, they’re probably difficult for older eyes to see at all.
Better-Late-Than-Never Nav Systems
Navigation system maps are loaded with details—sometimes providing too much information, when all you want to see is a simple display of your position. Yet, most digital maps fail to deliver the most vital bit of information of all: the name of the next cross street. The GPS system knows that street’s name, of course. If you should happen to turn onto that cross street, its name will appear almost instantly, in big letters, on the screen. So, why isn’t that valuable detail featured prominently instead of omitted?
Floor Humps and Head Bumps
Why do we see so many skimpy backseats in sizable cars, often worsened by the presence of floor humps—even in cars that have no under-floor driveline running toward the rear? In so many automobiles, the center rear rider must endure a hard, high perch, with the roof constantly threatening that occupant’s head. Of course, when older folks look back fondly on cars of their personal past, they often forget how cramped some of those vehicles were, too. We were all younger then, and more agile. But that’s no excuse for squeezing today’s riders into the back seat, just because the designers like the look of the roof profile or covet a cabin layout that looks stylish but ignores comfort.
Power mirrors are about as low-tech as you can get with an electrically powered device. So, why do some of them adjust with jerky motions, rather than smoothly? If one automaker’s mirrors operate gently, all of them should.
No doubt, many drivers grasp the benefits of driver’s side mirrors that power downward when the transmission goes into Reverse. Maybe it’s an urban-versus-suburban-rural issue; but for some of us, those automatic-down mirrors are a hindrance, not a help, when backing up. The only way we can see what’s to the rear is to scrunch down in the seat, to extract a view from the misplaced glass.
Where’s the Gas Cap?
Ever since the 1950s, some automakers have sought to hide their gas-filler caps. Cadillac used to put them under one of the tailfins. Several cars hid them behind the rear license place. Nowadays, the filler is usually fully visible. What’s hidden, or nearly so, is the release button inside the car. Sure, if you own the car, you quickly learn where it’s located (and which side of the car contains the filler door). But when you’re ready to fill up a rental or loaned vehicle, searching in vain for that release button or lever can make a person want to tear out a sizable hunk of hair.