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What to Do When Your Car Steering Wheel Comes Off

Nov/Dec 2015


What to Do When Your Car Steering Wheel Comes Off
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Welcome to the June 2010 edition of “Jud’s New England Journal,” the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published since 1935 in Dublin, New Hampshire.

What to Do When Your Car Steering Wheel Comes Off

Sure, it’s unlikely. But it’s best to be prepared

There’s been a lot of chatter in the news lately about certain cars mysteriously accelerating out of control, but what about the steering wheel coming off in your hands while you’re cruising along at, say, 60 mph? No one has been talking about that possibility.

Well, some years ago the late Frank G. Smith wrote something called “The Gentlemen’s Manual for the Old and New Touring Cars,” in which he specifically addressed that particular problem. We excerpted some of it in Yankee Magazine, and readers today still occasionally request reprints.

So here’s what he said …

“Perhaps you have seen this situation [steering wheel coming off] in old-time ‘comic’ movies. As one who has survived this experience can testify, in the brief period between your perception of what has happened and the outcome, happy or tragic, there is little to laugh about. A feeling of surprise is quickly superseded by a feeling of utter helplessness. Endeavor to make this phase as brief as possible, and get on with the question of what to do.

“Note where the break has occurred, and if a sizable stub of wheel spoke remains attached to the column, you may be able to steer to some extent. Or you may seize the nut that held the steering wheel (no pun intended) with the vise grips you should always keep handy, to improvise a tiller. Before trying these maneuvers, however, look over the road and the traffic situation. Is the car holding a reasonably straight course now that it’s free to go whither it listeth, or is it veering to the left or right? A reasonably quick thinker can cover these points in seconds.

“Here is where most drivers make their mistake. If you have reason to believe you may get away with a fender bender or cut lip, you may spend your time bracing yourself, or trying to remember what your insurance covers. But if things appear hopeless, do not waste time on these trivialities, but proceed immediately to review your past life. Drowning persons have more time for this, and generally do an adequate job of it. If you waste too much time, you may not get beyond the time you flunked algebra, and may have to cut it short in order to allow a second or two to wonder whom your wife will marry, and time for a final curse, or commitment to the Almighty, depending on your religious persuasion. Some drivers do not review their lives but, adhering to a custom common among American Indians, sing a death song.”

The only problem I have with the above instructions is that very few of us know any Indian death songs. But then I suppose one could hastily make one up.

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What to Do When Your Car Steering Wheel Comes Off

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