Hooniverse Asks- What's the Dumbest Control Placement You've Ever Seen?


Do you remember the Hummer? No not that, I’m talking about the big dumb trucks! They don’t make them anymore, and a possible reason might be the obvious committee-designed placement of the seat heater switch. You see that’s not the door panel or dashboard up there, that’s the seat side. And while you would probably get used to fumbling around down there near the carpet and the snakes you really shouldn’t have to just to warm your buns.

That’s one of the more egregious ergonomic fluster clucks I was able to find after just a couple of minutes of drunken Googling – do yourself a favor, never mistype Fisker  as fister when searching online. . . while your grandma is entertaining the minister and your boss in the same room, I’m just sayin’. Other examples that I’ve come across are window switches on the backs of center consoles – supposedly to provide access for both rear passengers and driver, but still dumb, dumb, dumb. 

What else do you find particularly aggravating about automotive control placement? Perhaps it’s horn buttons placed on the ends of turn signal stalks, making every lane change a potentially embarrassingly noisy affair? Or maybe its those confounding lights/wiper/cruise control stalks that take an engineering degree to figure out? What is the dumbest control placement you’ve ever seen?

Image: [autohausfm]


  1. When the Hummer H3 came out, the driver's seat was an ergonomic nightmare. The only, ONLY thing that they had right was the weighted shifter knob for the manual transmission, and even then the knob was so large and flat on top, it felt like you were holding a softball.
    The power window controls were placed on the armrest. Which wouldn't be awful if it was actually set up to be an armrest.
    What happened is that because of the square shape of the vehicle, the door was actually back pretty far in the seating position. Combine with a tight interior and overstuffed seats, your elbow could not go back far enough on the door to operate the windows with your arm flat, you had to raise your shoulder and elbow and point your arm down to use them.
    Proof of how terrible the placement was? GM changed the design. For GM to recognize that there is an ergonomic issue, and then actually fix it, it has to be bad.
    <img src="http://images.gtcarlot.com/pictures/56694179.jpg&quot; width=500>

    1. Somewhat similar to this, the pull handle design in the 4th gen Explorer was bad enough that Ford redesigned it a year or two in. Sadly, I have a 2006 (first year 4th gen), and it has the terrible design. Sometimes I wonder if the people making these cars test them before they sell them.

      1. Indoor or out?
        I know the interior handle was put on top of the armrest in that weird design because it was less likely to break a woman's nails, or damage the polish on them. True story.
        The exterior, I know nothing about.

        1. I'm referring to the interior pull handle as seen here. Not sure if I'm calling it the right thing, but it's the part you pull on when you want to close the door. It was underneath the armrest, then they integrated into the armrest. It may not seem that bad, but it's the opposite of ergonomic.
          <img src="http://ts3.mm.bing.net/th?id=H.4542783483545342&pid=1.7&quot; width="600">
          You can kind of see the change in this picture:
          <img src="http://memimage.cardomain.com/ride_images/3/3387/2441/33466220006_large.jpg&quot; width="600">
          As far as the door release pull, I don't mind it at all. It's always funny to see first timers in the car have a hard time figuring out where it is. 😛

          1. Yeah, I know the handle, haha. Like I said, that design was supposed to be more nail friendly for women. (Ford's primary target on that redesign) That was the basis of any button or lever design in the interior, could a woman with reasonable tips use it without risking them.

          2. The fact that it was made to be nail friendly really makes me feel manly driving my Explorer. haha

      1. I know there were a lot of them, I think they're all dumb. This was just the only one I knew for sure was set up that way.

    1. The reason the trunk releases were in the glove box was because they used to be locking glove boxes. With a locking compartment, they could serve two purposes at once, rather than have a locking box and a lockable switch.
      However, most were ultimately moved to areas closer to the driver, where they could open it every time they intended to open the fuel door.

      1. Seems silly, though- if the doors are locked, who cares if the glove box is locked, too? And if someone is breaking the windows, the button is covered by a thin cheap piece of plastic- also easy enough to break. Or they could just break the giant rear hatch window.

          1. I guess it does make a little more sense for something with an actual trunk, as opposed to a hatchback. But only a little.

        1. It harks back to valet parking.
          The door/ignition key used to be the same, with the trunk/glove box key being different, so you could keep the glove box/trunk secure, yet a valet could get into and start the vehicle.

          1. My wife's 2003 Echo has a valet key, which will not open the trunk. There is a trunk release on the floor next to the driver's seat, which is standard equipment. It is completely pointless.

          2. You can lock out the trunk release by using the master key in the trunk, but turn it right instead of left. Open trunk: key in: close trunk: turn key to the right: remove.

        2. My wife's Civic has a locking trunk release. The fun part of that was one day, I had met her at her office, and when we went to the car, she opened up the car and the trunk with the key fob. While I got in the passenger seat, she proceeded to toss the keys in her purse, toss the purse in the trunk and close the trunk. Due to the fear of break-ins, she kept the latch locked.
          Now, if you do the math, that means I was in the passenger seat, but we'd locked ourselves out of the car.
          She panicked a bit and ran inside her work (which is locked to me, so I couldn't follow her). So, sitting alone in the car, I didn't have anything better to do, so I pulled out my leatherman and started messing with the latch lock. Turned out it was a horrible design and I was able to pick it in about 30 seconds. I then rescued the keys to the car, locked it up and snagged a friend and coworker to get me into the building to find her.
          If they cannot find you handsome, at least they'll find you handy. But yeah, the only locking glove boxes and trunk releases that make any sense to me are on convertibles.

      2. On '90s-'00s Crown Vics, the civilian cars had the trunk release button on the driver's door panel, and it contained a key hole so it was lockable. On the cop cars, the button was relocated to the center of the dash where the clock used to be, and was not lockable.

        1. Yeah, my 1989 Mercury Sable had a hell of an impressive looking push-down lock mechanism for the trunk release next to the driver's seat. Had to use the trunk key to unlock it if it was activated.
          I did it once, and that was just to figure out what the hell it looked like when it was activated.

          1. My wife's old 99 Malibu (yes, it was actually beige) had a button that had some sort of interlock with the shifter, so you had to be in park to pop the trunk- I'm sure that's pretty normal. Anyway, she was coming onto base one time (I was in the Air Force at the time) and the gate guards had to do a quick check of the trunks of all oncoming vehicles. She was still in drive, and sat there hitting that button trying to get the trunk to pop, and couldn't figure out why it wouldn't open. The guard had apparently seen this before, and told her to put it in park. She was pretty embarrassed, I got a good laugh out of it.

    2. Well at least you HAD a rear trunk release. I had an Escort ZX2, which had a trunk that could open by key or remote, but had no other release. So, there was a day when I was loading something in the trunk and I dropped my keys. In a normal car, whatever, I could just press the button. In this one however, the keys were the only way in, so I had to climb through the folding rear seats to get to the trunk and get the keys. This was not an elegant process, and in the process I ripped my pants… right in the crotch area. I was 30 minutes away from home, where my pants live, and 20 minutes away from starting work. So I had to go and buy new pants, all the while awkwardly trying to make it so nobody noticed the giant hole in my existing pants, and then change and get back to work.
      All for lack of an interior trunk release.

  2. Fuel door buttons. I shouldn't need a button to open the fuel door. And then they put them on the floor, in the glovebox or some other obscure location. Happens EVERY TIME I have to fuel up the Subaru. Like someone's going to siphon the 16 gal. of fuel out of the car, when my 26 gal. truck is parked next to it without a lock on the door or cap. /rant

    1. Amen, brother. I'm frequently going back around the Subie to release the fuel door I forgot to open, that is when I'm not returning to the car to pull it to the other side of the pump island because it's the only one of my vehicles with the filler on the right side.

    2. In NJ, when you forget you just reach down and open it while the attendant taps on your fuel door with his finger.
      So annoying, oh wait, no it's not.
      i love that I'm legally not allowed to pump my own gas, especially when it is raining, or freezing outside.

    3. The only time I might have had fuel stolen was when I had my '84 Chevy K-10 truck. The gas gauge didn't work, so it was hard to tell if any actually got stolen. The truck was badged as a diesel and had a nice "DIESEL FUEL ONLY" sticker on the fuel door. The engine had been swapped for a gas 350. I REALLY hope someone thought they were getting diesel.

    4. I find there is an even simpler solution: I don't even have the door. 😉
      (But yeah, I definitely like the ones that can just be flipped open when you are standing there.)

    5. The one on the GTO is the worst… It's conveniently placed on the dash, but it's electronic, prone to failure, and has no secondary release. None. At all. So when it fails, I have to take a credit card, slip it behind the fuel door, and jimmy it open.
      So, yeah… real secure…

    6. One time I rented a car, I headed to the gas station to fill it back up before returning it. Both cars I've driven before had buttons, so I looked around the dashboard in the car, felt all the panels in the footwell, door, on the floor near the seat, nothing. Started panicking and got out of the car.
      Yup, finger-hole on the door. I'm so smart.
      I rented a Lucerne once, too: I walked around the car, fuel door doesn't have a finger-hole, and no buttons, so I panicked (again, I know), going back to the driver's seat and fumbled around some more. It occurred to me to look in the glovebox, and I saw the user's manual in there and promptly gave up.
      On a Buick Lucerne, ya press the fuel door in and it pops open. Now this one's not my fault!

      1. When I rented a Nissan Cube I couldn't find the fuel door release, and the manual was not in the car, so I had to Google up an online version of the manual to find it (it's very small, and so low on the dash that it is not visible while sitting in the driver's seat.)
        The VW Jetta has the push-in-and-it-pops-open door like the Lucerne. It took me a few minutes to figure that out when I rented one, as I also had to figure out it doesn't work if the car doors are locked.

  3. The seat back reclining adjustment on my SVT Focus was a crank wheel on the INSIDE of the seats (at the bottom, next to the seat belt buckle in the photo). I believe it had something to do with the fact that it had side airbags, although plenty of other cars have side airbags and a normal position for the reclining adjustment.
    To make things worse, I added an aftermarket center arm rest which blocked most of the access to the crank wheel. So any time someone else drove the car, I'd have to help adjust the seat for them from the passenger's seat.
    <img src="http://images.thecarconnection.com/med/2002-ford-focus-3dr-cpe_100150967_m.jpg"&gt;

    1. Reminds me of the Nissan Versa, which had the recline lever on the inside, so passengers can recline your seat while you're driving on the highway at highway speeds.
      Passenger in my case meant the Nissan salesman.

        1. It does sort of become the biggest of the Versa's problems when you're in traffic, at speed, and suddenly looking up instead of at the road.

  4. SAAB put their window switches on the console. In the 9000 they are in a horizontal panel ahead of the handbrake. In the 9-5 they are in a vertical panel, directly beneath the front edge of the center armrest. Similar position for the door lock button.
    I've heard that other manufacturers have put their trunk and fuel flap release buttons in the glovebox.
    The old American custom of putting the high beam switch as a button on the extreme left floor always struck me as ridiculous.

      1. I miss the floor button for the high beams, much better than stalk-mounted.
        In most cars, the button required a bit of a push, so you could rest your foot on it when driving. It was usually located enough out of the way that the "dead pedal" area wasn't really affected anyway.
        It could be a bit of a juggle to (de)activate the high beams when shifting, but that was a pretty rare occurrence.

    1. An old farm truck I used to drive had the ultimate in strangeness.
      It was a bench seat so the emergency brake was under the dash, foot button high beams, clutch, brake, gas, from left to right. Then it was a three on the tree.
      I didn't know if I was driving or playing a pipe organ.

      1. That used to be the standard layout. Nothing at all strange to it. Not the best, but not strange.

        1. For my generation, it would be the ultimate in anti-theft technology.
          So strange from a modern, bucket seat and center console generation viewpoint…

          1. Add a windshield washer/wiper pedal and a floor-mounted overdrive kickdown switch to that lineup and you've listed all seven of the foot controls in my first car.

    2. If they could HIDE the high beams, so that only people who read the manual could operate them…..now that would be the best.

    3. Not just American cars, Volvo Amazon has the dip switch on the floor too as well as all PVs that had high beams.

  5. My personal bugaboo isn't controls but flimsy cup holders mounted on the sides of the passenger seats in the Caravan, and the back of the console in the Subaru. They're weak and placed right where a careless foot can shatter them.

    1. Ditto the Odyssey. Having sat in the middle seats often, I can attest to this. They're worthless except for a 12 oz. soda can, and if you're tall like me and climb in by going in sort of sideways/back end first, it's very easy to break the cup holder.

  6. Not a control placement, but a dumb placement just the same.
    <img src="http://www.syty.org/old/pics/brochure/dash.jpg&quot; width=550>
    See that line that runs along the bottom of the picture? That's a shelf. You can put small items there–your wallet, keys, CD's, and things like that. Sounds convenient, huh?
    One big problem, though. Under hard acceleration, anything on the shelf will dump onto the floor.
    Well, let's just hope whoever drives this isn't into quick 0-60 times. Not likely–the pictured dash is in a Typhoon (Syclone is nearly identical).

    1. AMC had those as an option in all their cars in the late 70s and 80s. I always thought they were pretty dumb, too. Then again, hard acceleration wasn't something you had to worry about in a Pacer.

      1. One of the magazines (R&T, I think) did a review of the Syclone when it came out and said it was the quickest production car from 0-30 they had ever tested, other than a $1 million McLaren. That's a spec you flaunt at every red light without fear of tickets. Hard acceleration was the reason the Syclone went into production.
        How hard or expensive could it have been for GMC to engineer a shock-corded cargo net to keep the contents on the shelf?

    2. Later Series 3 Alfa Spiders had that too. It's beyond useless as it takes up valuable knee space in the cramped cabin.

    3. We had a vendor come in here at work, he had a Toyota Corrola or some such rental car. It had a nice little slot below the radio. He stuck is wallet in there and it disappeared into the dash. We got a tool to fish it out. Found his wallet and a couple of pair of sunglasses.

      1. I had an 85 and 87 Rx-7 that had that exact same design. In an automatic, it wouldn't be as much of an issue. But driving a manual without power steering was definitely a two-handed operation. I recall a very annoying early morning start to a road trip in which I bought a cup of coffee at the gas station before I set out.
        You don't think about how important cup holders are until you really need one.

        1. My wife's car has more seats than cup holders, unless you fold down the center arm rest, which adds two cup holders and subtracts one seating position, resulting in more cup holders than seats.

          1. But if enough seats are occupied, there's better chance someone can hold your drink, brilliant!

  7. The electric window commands on the Peugeot 206 were in the middle of the dashboard… It seems they found it easier to place them there, rather than on the more conventional spot on the doors, so that with a single set of buttons both the driver and the front passenger could open or close both windows, and with no modifications required on RHD versions. But each time someone was in my 206, they simply thought there was no passenger command for the window…

    1. The horn button on my '85 LTD is in the steering wheel (Ford abandoned the turn signal mounted horn it '83 or so). The turn signal switch on it died a few years back, so I did some junkyard hunting and found one in a Fairmont that was compatible and in good shape, so I got it.
      Wasn't until a few weeks later that I accidentally pushed in the turn signal stalk and activated the horn. I totally forgot about this feature on earlier Fords. So I can use either the stalk or the horn button.

    2. I had a chance to drive an old Torino 428. The horn was activated by squeezing the steering wheel.
      I'd get excited and squeeze a little… HONK. Did that about 5 times.

  8. My F150 has the seat controls on the side of the seat, and they don't bother me. Fortunately, the bunwarmer button has an indicator LED and is in the very front corner of the seat facing upwards slightly, so you can look down an actually see whether it is on or off.
    On the other hand…
    <img src="http://www.toyota.com/img/vehicles/2013/4runner/gallery/full/int_2010_4runner_v6_sr5_1.jpg&quot; width="500">
    A friend of mine has a Toyota Fourrunner with the "Trail Package." All the extra controls are in an overhead console. He thinks that's cool; I think it is just lazy interior design: "Hmmm, where can we stick a bunch of extra switches without redesigning the cockpit…"

    1. I think it was to avoid the dreaded no-button-here's-a-black-plug fix in the previous generation 4Runner and Tacomas.
      Customers were always complaining how ugly and half-assed it was. And unfortunately it was only a problem for the cars that didn't get all of the options (generally cheaper/discount trucks) and those were some of the louder complainers.
      <img src="http://0.tqn.com/d/trucks/1/0/-/Z/accessory_controls2.jpg&quot; width=500>

      1. It's been a pretty common thing (black or color-coordinated plugs) in Toyotas for *years*. My Tacoma looks like the one above – it has the fog light switch, mirror control, and Auto LSD (pseudo LSD, using the brakes) switch. The rest are plugs.

        1. For years is right — my Tercel stripper had a number of Mystery Switchplates way back in '81.

      2. Also annoying when you had the option, cause then you could not see the switch, like in our MPV. I guess they did that to appease the cheap skates 😉

      3. I hate those cover plates. I once owned a car that had them on the door handles where the power window and lock switches would have gone if hadn't been such a cheapskate. Funny thing is, less than a decade before that car was built, most power window controls were unergonomically and halfassedly placed over the hole where the crank should have gone.

      1. Holy crap! Midflight and there's nobody at the controls! Gaaaah, we're all going to crash!

  9. The worst to me as some vehicles that have the E-brake and hood release right next to each other. Fire it up, put it in reverse, and…. release the hood! Grrrrrrrr.!

    1. My wife's Trailblazer has the hood release on the left side of the driver's footwell. Right were the side of my size 12 shoe can catch it when I get out of the car.

    2. My Ranger and Mustang are like that.
      I've pulled the parking brake off on the Ranger while intending to pop the hood.

      1. I dunno, in both of those examples (as in my LTD), the brake handle is clear to the left side and the hood release is in the middle. Enough distance to not easily mistake them.

        1. The Mustang's hood release is where the brake lease is on the Ranger. I forget which car-truck I'm in.
          Thank goodness the fuel fillers are on the same side.

    3. That's another thing I don't have in my Jeep. I'm looking forward to getting it smogged again. Last time, the walked up to me on autopilot and asked me to pop my hood. I looked at him and said, "it's a jeep." That snapped him back and he went and opened it himself.

      1. When we bought my wife's Jeep the lady showing it to us said something like "let me pop the hood so you can see the engine." She then proceeded to open the door and hunt around for where the release was. Apparently it was her husband's Jeep, and she didn't drive it very much.

  10. I've seen too many through my career to remember the worst but I can remember the latest. 2008 Buick Lacerne in the shop yesterday, I was figuring out a heated seat problem when I found a cigarette lighter….oh, sorry, power outlet port, on the drivers seat. It was located where the back of your knee would be if you were sitting in the drivers seat.
    I tried plugging my phone in and driving the car, I couldn't make it a few blocks without knocking the phone over and out of the socket multiple times. It was poking the back of my leg and driving me nuts. So damn stupid.

    1. I think that was intended for GPS devices so you wouldn't have cables across your dash.
      Instead they would just cause your foot to catch the wire on the way out of the car and slingshot your device into the parking lot.
      Not that I ever did it…

    1. Actually, when I was shopping a replacement for my ill '94 Grand Cherokee V8 in 1999, this was one thing which put me off on the CR-V.

    2. Most Hondas from that time (up to about five years ago) would put the sunroof controls there (if equipped). I don't know what was wrong with mounting it on the roof like everyone else (and current Honda).

  11. Was it the PT Cruiser that had the window controls on the bottom of the center console? I remember fumbling around drink cups to get to the controls and cursing every time.
    Maybe it was the Chevy HHR? My wife has a knack for picking terrible cars.

          1. Oh yeah! I forgot. Working in a wash bay for Saturn for a couple of years, you think this would have stuck with me.

          2. My parents own two SL2's, and every time I visit them, I invariably reach for switches on the door. Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

  12. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hatehatehate how many new cars have their power lock buttons in the middle of the dashboard. NO! THEY DO NOT GO THERE! They go next to the door handle, so I tap the lock as I'm leaving the car. I am moving away from the dashboard as I get out of the car, that is away from the lock switch, making it super annoying.
    I've been half-heartedly considering getting a Fiesta ST or 1.0 Ecoboost, but the placement of that specific switch is holding me back.

    1. All modern Peugeots and Citroëns I've driven have that button there.
      But when the doors are locked you don't need that button to get out of the car.
      When you pull on the inside door handle, the locks come off automatically.
      I thought that was the case in all modern cars, but I could be mistaken.

      1. I tend to lock when leaving the car, just because people steal the weirdest crap around here – the folks who stole the year old sodas from my garage, for example. It's best to have the button right where my hand is anyway.

        1. When that switch is in the center of the dashboard the passenger can reach it easily as well.
          And when you leave your car and lock it, you have either your key or better still, the remote.
          I can't imagine how many people would lock themselves out if it was the way you would like.

          1. In my car the passenger has a power lock switch too.
            It's the way every car I've owned has had the locks set up – well the one didn't have power locks, but the lock switch was next to the door handle – and it's just a more logical way to handle the locking mechanism. The dashboard system is probably cheaper – one switch vs. two – but it's in the wrong spot and every time I've driven a car that does the locks that way I've hated it.

    2. <img src="http://images.matthewsvolvosite.com/850-antenna-switch.jpg&quot; width="650"> Volvos used to be like that at least, haven't spent enough time in newer ones. Even if you did not have the fob, if you locked the door with the key, all the doors closed. I thought it was clever, a protection against locking your keys in the car. I love this mystery button that used to be on the dash of many old Volvos, "Let's play a guessing game!" I don't want to give it away, but there are in fact two more controls in that photo showing other ways to very anally control this item. I love Volvos!

        1. Pretty close, it is one of the power antenna controls. So say you are in the car wash and want to listen to a CD or tape, that's when you use that. The power button on the radio automatically raises the antenna when on and lowers when off (after a delay). But get this, not only can you just turn the knob on the radio all the way down to quiet the radio momentarily and not need to wait for the antenna to come back-up (like at a drive-through spkr/mic), you can just push it. Then the radio goes silent (says PAUSEd on the screen) and then when you push it again, goes right back to how loud it just was instantly. Same knob that controls volume, does that pause, and if you pull it out, then it does L-vs-R balance. Yup Premium Sound System indeed in that Volvo!

    3. I sort of get the centrally mounted lock switch, but Ford does a terrible job of it on the Fiesta – there's no physical lock plungers, and the button isn't set up so you press one side for unlock and the other to lock, you just keep pressing until the little light tells you the state of the locks. Which, I don't know what the little light means.

  13. my miata's trunk and gas door release are both in the center console. i like it…makes me feel like bond.

  14. I had a Nissan Maxima rental over Christmas. I like to play with buttons and switches on rental cars. There was a switch, just to the right of the mirror controls to the left of the steering column under the air vent. Whilst sitting in the driver's seat, you can clearly see the traction control button is the traction control button, the mirror controls are the mirror controls, but that switch…what is it? I couldn't see the label unless I pulled over, got out and crouched down. I push it anyway. Luckily, we were only going 40 while stuck behind a blue hair.
    <img src="http://2-photos4.zibe.com/used-2012-nissan-maxima-4drsdnv6cvt35ssedan-5099-9586028-30-400.jpg"&gt;
    <img src="http://2-photos4.zibe.com/used-2012-nissan-maxima-4drsdnv6cvt35ssedan-5099-9586028-22-400.jpg"&gt;

  15. I always hated the old 1970s hazard light switches on the steering column. Especially when your engine died on the highway and you were trying to steer without power with one hand and find that thing with the other. And they were always the same color as the interior.

  16. <img src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/gearbox-yearone-com/part-images/b/bf622.png&quot; width="300/">
    The Emergency Brake Release on my 2005 Chrysler Town & Country.
    It works just fine if you’re sitting in the driver’s seat. No problemo, hombre. El pollo es delicioso.
    But–BUT!–let’s just say you’re working on the car and have the e-brake engaged and you’re sitting on the ground next to the open driver’s door and for whatever reason, you want to release the brake. You with me still?
    So you reach up from where you're sitting and pop the E-Brake Release and SMASH! the spring-loaded pedal crushes your hand against the dash like a blacksmith's hammer.
    I learned very quickly that the only safe way to release the brake was from the driver’s seat, or at least pretending I was in the driver’s seat and positioning my hand accordingly.

  17. The only real complaint I have about control placement in my Focus is the hand brake – it's way too far back, and half tucked under the stubby arm rest. I can't grip the brake like it's designed to be because of this; I end up releasing by pressing the button with one finger with holding the very end of the handle with two fingers.

    1. Dodge L-body consoles have an arm rest that slides forward for driving comfort, then goes back for handbrake access.

      1. I remember discovering that the 2nd day into ownership of a new turbocharged L-Body. I must have sat there for 5 minutes gleefully setting the parking brake to watch the armrest release mechanism in action.
        That raises a question for me; since we have been treated to various spiffy and useful ergonomic bits throughout the history of the automobile, why are many of them no longer in use, instead of remaining in the interior designer's bag of tricks?

        1. The Italians, being their allies in the automotive axis of evil, adopted the exact same approach in my Alfa. The best/worst way to find the knob is by braille, assuming you don't cut your hand on an errant bit of sheetmetal first.

          1. When I got my MGB I honestly began to think the previous owner was playing a prank just to see how long I'd keep gouging my right hand as he explained where that thing was.
            Looking back, I see it as more of a test of character to determine whether I was the right person for the car.

      1. Close, that's Amazon, as in same on those too. Well the knob is a bit wider, and its also surrounded by mostly flat slightly curved sheet metal near the column, so bit more tidy, but you do need to turn it two directions and with the car not in motion.

  18. I rented a Jaguar once (Budget had the Jag cheaper than Hertz had a Taurus). I drove it for two days before I figured out the steering wheel tilt control was electric and controlled by a knob on the steering column.
    I've owned more than one car that had buttons or switches that I never did figure out the purpose of them. My F-150 had a toggle switch by the hood release (looked aftermarket), maybe an alarm was installed at one time??? My E30 had a mystery button on the dash, never did figure out what it did, the button looked OEM.

    1. The paddle for the tilt wheel on my wife's old Malibu was in a position that was normally ok, but while shifting in the seat on longer road trips I would occasionally hit it with my knee, and it was spring loaded to go as far up as possible as soon as that button would hit. It's a lot of fun having a steering wheel jerk up unexpectedly at 75 mph.

  19. i know this isn't what you're looking for, but the dumbest placement for any controls is on a touchscreen.
    i have a touchscreen phone now and if i happen to be driving a car without bluetooth and expecting an important call, i'll probably just die. there are many people who try to assuage my fears by letting me know that their touchscreen is very big and has real good buttons, and it's very responsive. nope, don't believe it. i've heard all the reasoned counterarguments explaining why touchscreens can be as good as regular buttons (haptic feedback! audio and visual feedback!) but despite using devices with all those features touchscreens just aren't as good as buttons.
    on a phone it's frustrating, but on a car it's downright dangerous. buttons and knobs make safer cars. people will crash more teslas while adjusting the radio or air conditioning than any other car.
    again, i know it's totally not what this post is about but i like to bitch about it.
    my old 380sl had foglights for which one had to pull the headlight switch out of the dash, i guess that surprised me.

    1. There's something to me, maybe cause of where I work, but just until the most recent iPhones, when I would bring my finger close but not touching a touch screen, the thing would think I was touching all over very close to but not under where my finger was. I have to use this very deliberate quick finger BAP and hold with my wife's Garmin for example.

  20. second nomination: older Toyota Tacoma parking brake handle/lever/thing. Can't find a good picture for some reason. It's a rod that sticks up below and to the right of the steering wheel. You pull it out to lock. Pull more and turn it clockwise to release. Huge pain in the ass – how was that better than a foot brake, or a regular hand brake? They always get stuck. Half the tacos I work on have the "park brake" light on because the owners don't release them all the way. Baffling decision.

    1. I had a '99 Taco, and I actually thought that handbrake was great, especially off-road. A footbrake is useless for hill starts when you need your left foot on the clutch.
      A standard handbrake would have been nice too but there's nowhere to put it with a split bench seat.

    2. New Tacomas with the manual still have this. It was the predominant parking brake design until the '60s

    3. Had a 93, have a 99. I quite like this style parking break. Better than the foot pedal and works in a bench seat car.

  21. My buddy bought a ratty type I in HS, we'd push it whenever he had to reverse cause none of us had any idea of where R was. Fortunately our German teacher knew.

      1. The Mazdaspeed 6 had it (difficult to use.)
        And the Infinity G35 has it (easy to use.)
        (Or are you talking about something different?)

        1. Maybe it was that particular car, but you had to be in the easily moving side-to-side N, near the middle of it, and push down there, then while pushing down move over to the left until you got some resistance, don't worry give it a bit more (something was probably bent), and then you were in R 9 times out of 10 😉 Plus there was nothing on knob, floor, or dash to let you know how to get it into R. There may have been at some point, but not when he got the car.
          It's a lot easier on newer VWs, pretty much just push down anywhere and move the shifter over.

        2. What I meant is: to put the gear lever in reverse, there are 3 systems (I know of) generally used.
          1. You push / pull the gear-lever through a spring resistance to move the gear-lever in to reverse.
          2. You lift a ring around the gear-lever, which enables you to move the gear-lever in to reverse.
          3. You push the gear-lever down in to the gearbox to move the gear-lever in to reverse.
          No. 3 = the VW-principle, if you've never driven one, you can search for ages and still you won't think of doing that!

          1. Right, that's what I thought.
            And I spelled Infiniti wrong.
            And I used to pronounce it how it is spelled.

      2. My mom's Mazda 3 has it. Terrible transmission, but easy to get into reverse. Then there's the opposite, the Austin/Leyland/Morris Mini was Right/Up/Back.

  22. The first thing that came to mind was the cruise control master switch in 80s Japanese cars. The actual cruise control stuff was in a normal spot either on a stalk or on the steering wheel, but there was a rocker switch down on the dash to turn the whole thing on and off. The idea of a switch to control another switch is often pointed out as the height of WTF in interface design.

      1. That looks like the standard British symbol for motorways so there is some warped logic there.

    1. All cars have some sort of a cruise master on/off. Probably to prevent you from accidentally engaging cruise. I actually miss that design, at least on my old Hondas where the button pushed in and lit up, so you could tell if it was engaged or not; A separate "Cruise Control" light illuminated in the dash cluster once the Set button was pushed on the wheel.
      No, what sucked was my Toyota, where the On/Off switch was on the little cruise stalk on the wheel. A "Cruise" light on the cluster illuminated on the cluster when that button was pushed, but there was no other indicator whatsoever to tell whether or not cruise was actually set. That was dumb.
      Dumber still was the Mustang I had with the On/Off switch on the wheel, but no Cancel button. What's worse is that the rarely-used cruise buttons were on the left side of the wheel, while the redundant radio controls were on the right; This sounds minor, except that this was a manual transmission car, where your right hand is almost never on the wheel. The maddening part is that I've driven other, automatic Fords that have the buttons on the left. Every car in the free world has the buttons on the proper,side of the wheel, except for the car with the highest take-rate for stick shifts. Unbelievable.

  23. The power seat controls in the original Infiniti G35 actually physically caused my leg to ache when I rode in one for a couple of hours. Yep, put a plastic box in the seat edge where the outside of a thigh will press against it. That's ergonomic!

      1. Yeah, I really had high hopes for the new generation GM pickups. Mostly, I had high hopes, because we helped pay for the development of the damn things, so I hoped that they would be something of quality and something that was competitive in todays market… They have been behind the curve for several years now, so they had time to make something great, and I was anxious to see what they had come up with.
        But, alas, they made this. The seats look pretty 'OK', but as you said, the rest of the dash/interior looks terrible. As for the outside of the trucks, they dont look TOO terribly different than the '07-'13 trucks except for the headlight housings and they look like a cheap Ebay specials. In my opinion Ford has done a MUCH better job than GM, and even Dodge is substantially better.
        <img src=http://gmauthority.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Car-Clash-2014-Chevy-Silverado-vs-GMC-Sierra-582×308.jpg>
        Excuse the tacky 'lightning bolt' through the pic, but it is the best pick I could find of both.

        1. Yeah, the new trucks are hideous inside and out. They look like Chinese knockoffs of the old trucks.
          Or is if the other way around? The old trucks are easily the cheapest and chintziest in the segment. The worst interiors, the most outdated powertrains. Which is too bad because, save for the latest Ram, I thought they were the best looking trucks.

  24. When dashboard light switches went from the traditional 3-position pull knob with pull-to-set for running and main lights, twist-to-adjust dashboard lighting controls, and detents at both ends to lock interior lamps on or off, to the modern multiplicity of push buttons, rocker switches and roller dials scattered all over the fershlugginer interior, is when ergonomics lost the plot in modern automobiles. Bring back the all-in-one dashboard light knob, damn it.
    And yes, you can modernize it to control various auxiliary lamp circuits via the addition of a 2-axis 4-pole switching mechanism. C'mon, do it!
    The next example isn't a control switch, but it directly affected them. A favorite brain fart from Toyota, later copied by Subaru, was the elegant slot-mounted cup holder in the dashboard, which blocked the climate controls when it was in use. A masterful design, with 2 slide-lock positions to accommodate various cup and can sizes, along with a spiffy little squared-off lever designed to hold small diameter drink cans securely, yet unobtrusively pivot away when a larger container was inserted. Just don't try to adjust the temperature or fan controls once the cup holder has been deployed.
    My beloved B-body Buick Roadmaster wagon features heated seats with an SPTT switch to activate the function. However, the switch is very easy to move and can activate with the slightest touch. This wouldn't be much of a problem to counteract but for the switch being wired in a HIGH-OFF-LOW pattern, thus ensuring additional fiddling with the switch to carefully restore it to the easily-bumped center position should one detect the seat heaters being active during the summer months.
    And the Roadmaster's electric seat back tilt switch is set near the rear of the seat itself, separate from the arm rest controls, and away from the seat heat/lumbar switch control panel.

  25. The interior light switch on Opel / Vauxhall cars, it's in the light switch: the blue switch on the left.
    You have to pull the light switch to put the interior light on, there is no button on the Interior light itself.
    When you are not familiar with this quirk the search for the interior light switch in the dark is endless!
    <img src="http://corsab.free.fr/photos/231/1226087871.jpg&quot; width=600>

    1. Oh, brilliant. On most cars I've driven with that kind of switch, that's how you turn the foglights on.

  26. The Z3 Coupe Rear Window Defroster. I never knew that there was even a switch there until I was cleaning it one day. Almost impossible to hit when you're driving, painful in fact, and you'd NEVER know it was there if you weren't familiar with the car. <img src="http://i.imgur.com/UbSiMl.jpg"&gt;

  27. That clusterf**k turn signal/windshield wiper/cruise control stalk that GM used for at least 20 years.

  28. When Ford (and others) made pulling or pushing the turn signal lever into how you sounded the horn.
    Apparently it's because they were "making room for the new airbag technology". Bad move.

  29. Fourth generation Nissan Maxima. Close the drivers door with something in your pocket, and you open the trunk. My mother did it so many times, she knew how to hit the end of our driveway to bounce the trunk closed without getting out of the car.

  30. On the Corvair:
    – The handbrake is transversely mounted under the dash, above the driver's knees. This makes using the handbrake for a hill start in a manual transmission car just about impossible.
    – The fuse box is located all the way forward in the driver's foot well, above the pedals.Replacing a fuse requires slithering in through the driver's door, resting your lower back on the door sill (so comfortable!) and worming your upper body into the foot well. Replacing the fuse box itself is an even better trick: while facing up with your upper torso wedged in the foot well, remove the fuses that hide the screws which hold the box in place, remove the box. Then hold the new box in place with one hand, place the screw in its little slot with your other hand, then use your third hand to operate the screw driver (without dropping fuse box, screw or screw driver on your face). Was this REALLY the best location for a fuse box?

    1. My Falcon (and many mid 60s Fords) the the 4 fuses integrated into the headlight switch.
      Roughly the same location, with the benefit of being tucked up under the curved steel of the dash to ensure no human wrist can ever bend to install or remove a fuse.

    2. Agreed. Why didn't GM just copy VW on this one feature and put the handbrake between the seats. It's not even the greatest thing on an automatic Vair, as it is a very awkward reach down and forward to release fully, especially if you aren't particularly tall.

  31. Do you see the problem here? No? Well, if you're like me, 6'0", there is an issue. The steering wheel on a Z3 Coupe(maybe roadster too?) covers the majority of the speedo no matter what height I set the steering column. Also, the top of my head is up in the sunroof area. I kind of wanted a Z3 Coupe, until I realized they were built for people who are 5'6"
    <img src="http://www.knology.net/~Gibber66/bmwpics/Steering%20Wheel-1.jpg&quot; width="600">

    1. I'm 6'1". I drove a Z3 Roadster for a year or so. I didn't have any problems. It did have Corbeau seats that sat lower and further back than the stock ones though.
      There are many cars I can't drive if they have a sun roof, those things take 2-3" of valuable headroom.
      On my 1994 Corvette coupe I had the body color targa top and the clear targa top. I could wear a ball cap with the clear top on, couldn't wear a cap with the soild top on, it had a headliner that took up 2" of head room.

  32. How about some of the Fords in the 80's that had the horn button on the turn signal stalk? It wasn't even a separate button. You had to push the entire stalk in instead of having a button on the steering wheel to sound the horn.

  33. The left side of the 1975-76 full size Olds dash (Toronado, 88, 98) is a mess. A whole bunch of similar controls randomly placed in a small area. The wiper control is an up-down switch practically right next to the up-down switch for the A/C fan. On top of that is another switch that moves in the same direction which controls the airflow to the left dash vent. Moving over a bit, there's a toggle switch for the cruise control conveniently placed where you can accidentally hit it while trying to adjust the climate control. In the midst of all these switches and sliders lurks a typical GM pull-out light control, looking like the answer to "which one of these is not like the others?"
    <img src="http://jjbestcars.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/DSC_09-23-Copy.jpg&quot; width="640">

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The maximum upload file size: 64 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop files here