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December 20, 2013 7:58 AM   Subscribe

An explanation of the most confusing car buttons and symbols is illuminating (what does the "Funk" button do?) but even better is this comment thread featuring an incredibly funny interpretation of some particular obscure symbols. If bad design has you down, look at some of the most amazing in-car graphics for contrast. Jalopnik has been compiling these lists for awhile, with the help of their readers. Some other favorites: the cheapest cars ever sold, the worst highway exits, worst taxi experiences, misleading car names, coolest non-US space projects, oldest military vehicles in service, best car print ads, coolest car keys, and, more practically - things you shouldn't ignore on your car if they go wrong and the 10 cars most recommended by readers.
posted by blahblahblah (45 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh man I wish my car had a funk button. I mean sure I can go to pandora and select it, but that ain't funky enough.
posted by Big_B at 8:01 AM on December 20, 2013


Funk button? Party mode? I've been buying the wrong cars.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:16 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love that tire pressure light. It so conveys someone with arms in the air, screaming in fear. Panic!
posted by Goofyy at 8:17 AM on December 20, 2013


My first car, a '74 Dodge Dart had the floor mounted high beam switch. I had no idea what it was for until I was legal to drive after dark. Up until that point, we referred to it as the "eject the engine" button.
posted by jeribus at 8:18 AM on December 20, 2013


I thought that all american cars had the floor mounted hi-beam switch until around 1980.
posted by octothorpe at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2013


I pressed the FUNK button once and the car began to smell of raw sex.

Does what it says on the tin.
posted by grubi at 8:22 AM on December 20, 2013


It had that nude car smell?
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a standard s symbol for passenger ejection seat. (Perhaps and icon representing talking too much?)
posted by sammyo at 8:23 AM on December 20, 2013


It had that nude car smell?

And a wickedly loopy bass line punctuated by horn stabs. Best ride ever.
posted by grubi at 8:25 AM on December 20, 2013


Funk button?

Screw buttons, you need a whole Funkbus.
posted by backseatpilot at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2013


Funk means "radio" in German

It brings the noise.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:28 AM on December 20, 2013


Oldest vehicle in military service is the USS Constitution and not HMS Victory?
posted by Thing at 8:31 AM on December 20, 2013


I was at UT in the 1980s as the dimmer switch was migrating from the floor to the steering column. Which is why I love this joke:

Did you hear that Detroit was going to start putting the dimmer switch back on the floor in its new cars?
The Aggies kept getting their foot caught in the steering wheel.

posted by TedW at 8:35 AM on December 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I used to have a Linn stereo and the remote had a button labelled WHAT.
posted by colie at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oldest vehicle in military service is the USS Constitution and not HMS Victory?

HMS Victory is in dry dock. Old Ironsides can still be sailed.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:45 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still haven't figured out what the turtle light on my Prius is. You can see it when all the dash indicators light up when you are first turning on the car.

Yes, it is a little turtle. "Warning: Turtle!"
posted by eye of newt at 8:50 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Old Ironsides can still be sailed.

And after a global EMP attack disabled every other ship in the Navy... it's out for revenge. IRONSIDES. SUMMER 2015
posted by theodolite at 8:59 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


HMS Victory is in dry dock. Old Ironsides can still be sailed.

I didn't know that was the criteria. They simply said, "in service". Seems like a bit of wangling to me.
posted by Thing at 9:00 AM on December 20, 2013


I used to have a Linn stereo and the remote had a button labelled WHAT.

Linn stereos were apparently very easily annoyed.
posted by grubi at 9:03 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Screw buttons, you need a whole Funkbus.

After seeing those photos, yes. Yes, I do.
posted by grubi at 9:04 AM on December 20, 2013


I like how they mentioned the "function" of the lambda light. I only wish they had described it as helping you to better reduce engine problems.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:05 AM on December 20, 2013


Clearly the funk button is the opposite of the suck button.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 9:16 AM on December 20, 2013


Linn stereos were apparently very easily annoyed.

Here is a pic of the aforementioned Linn remote.

It also has buttons marked DO, WHERE, and LISTEN (I mean, what the fuck is a button marked LISTEN doing on your stereo remote?). I inherited the equipment and then sold it on eBay before ever finding out.
posted by colie at 9:17 AM on December 20, 2013


They'd be no happier if the check engine light actually threw the P-code up to a little LCD on your dash. What they're really wanting is the day when we'll have artificial intelligence and can equip our cars with a whole crew of entities that can argue about what P2071 actually means for longer than it will take your mechanic to diagnose and fix the problem.

At this point I will say that the Volvo XC Forums have saved me a lot of stress and money over the last few years, but man, some of those guys must REALLY like to type.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:20 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why would you have rear fog lights?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:32 AM on December 20, 2013


Will someone ever explain how the standard windshield wiper controls ever became:

1) interval, which has 5 sub-settings
2) low
3) medium
4) high

Instead of just an 8-position rotary control? Why are the top three not "intervals"? They're shorter intervals, sure, but they're intervals. There's no logical reason windshield wiper speed controls should be any different than a radio volume control.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2013


Rear fog lights are required by law in many countries.
posted by colie at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2013


theodolite:
And after a global EMP attack disabled every other ship in the Navy... it's out for revenge. IRONSIDES. SUMMER 2015
No no no. After the aliens have subjugated humanity and taken our weapons, we secretly retrofit Ironsides as a SPACE SHIP to fight the GAMILONS!
posted by charred husk at 9:37 AM on December 20, 2013


Also, I see in the reader recommendation link that the Ford Focus is listed.

Fuck these people. They can have mine and it's shitty "green clutch".
posted by charred husk at 9:39 AM on December 20, 2013


I still haven't figured out what the turtle light on my Prius is.

Heh. I built some training material for the Prius years ago and that was one of my first questions, too.

I like this answer better than the one I had to write down[1]: "It means that Rabbits will be able to pass you on the freeway for a short period... usually less than 5 minutes... but that, because you have a Prius, you will be the Winner in the end!"

[1] If it stays on, your battery is battling adverse conditions at the moment e.g. accelerating hard, going uphill, you're in the middle of a Canadian winter, etc.

posted by maudlin at 9:40 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised not to see the oil pressure light on that "do not ignore" list.
posted by invitapriore at 10:13 AM on December 20, 2013


Why would you have rear fog lights?

So other drivers can see you.

My father had to explain this sort of thing to me when I was first learning to drive. I wondered (like many people still do) why I would have to turn on my headlights if I can see just fine? He pointed out that 1) I likely don't see as "fine" as I thought and 2) so that other drivers can see me. To this day, many drivers do not see the point of headlights as a way for other drivers to detect them; here in a rain-heavy city like mine, tons of drivers insist on driving without lights on. It often seems like the people who do that the most are driving silver, grey, black, or white cars — the ones most likely to disappear into a heavy fog or rain. Headlights cut through that.

As he summed up: the lights are for visibility... yours and theirs.
posted by grubi at 10:15 AM on December 20, 2013


I still haven't figured out what the turtle light on my Prius is.

Your Prius is a big fan of University of Maryland athletic teams.
posted by grubi at 10:17 AM on December 20, 2013


I'm funky
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:52 AM on December 20, 2013


Even the most DIY, grimy-fingernailed Volvo nut will still be at a loss to explain the mysterious lambda light: "It, uh, means something's wrong. Probably with the engine... The, um, exhaust part. I think."

Personally, I like to think it means the car is reporting my whereabouts back to the very Swedish Illuminati group in the basement of a building somewhere in Göteborg... A single red LED on a large board begins flashing. A manila file is quickly found and opened. A dapper man, all in grey and wearing wire-rimmed glasses, quickly skims the file and then checks the "still running" box using a small, unpainted Ikea pencil on a cleanly designed form. Afterwards, a quick nod, and a serious "Ja." and the file is returned to the matte grey cabinet, and they go back to whatever world domination plans they we previously doing.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 11:02 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, I see in the reader recommendation link that the Ford Focus is listed

the recommended car is the focus ST. Which is the first hot hatch from an american car company actually sold in America. Except maybe for the merkur xr4ti. Which no one remembers. or the escort GT. Which was pretty much an escort with some plastic bits, not really hot hatch like a Golf GTI or Civic SI or Corolla FX16 (sniff, sniff I miss the crappy dream cars of my youth). And car enthusiasts love hot hatches about as much as they love E30 BMWs.
posted by bartonlong at 11:46 AM on December 20, 2013


The Subaru love makes me happy.
posted by wintermind at 11:59 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Will someone ever explain how the standard windshield wiper controls ever became:

I believe this is how the US Patent System works.
posted by sammyo at 12:16 PM on December 20, 2013


Woo, my car's #4 on the "most recommended" list! I can confirm that it's a hell of a lot of fun to drive, AND can accommodate 4 people comfortably.
posted by Greg_Ace at 12:29 PM on December 20, 2013


Back in 2007, a coworker and I flew from California to the UK for the Plymouth-Banjul rally. A friend had purchased an old Renault 19 on our behalf but we had no access to the key until the day before we were due to depart. We fired it up for the first time and headed out on the road. There was one strange gauge that didn't seem have any familiar symbols attached and the French only owner's manual was no help. The gauge always read zero so we labeled it the "Danger Meter".

Turns out that it had something to do with oil pressure. Still, we made it 3200 miles.
posted by flyingfox at 1:44 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Now I want a monel car key so my keys don't affect my survey tools.
posted by arcticseal at 3:22 PM on December 20, 2013


Even the most DIY, grimy-fingernailed Volvo nut will still be at a loss to explain the mysterious lambda light:

Headcrab in the engine bay.
posted by dirigibleman at 5:19 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Benny Andajetz: "Why would you have rear fog lights?"

They are there so people approaching from the rear can see you better during heavy fog.

grubi: "To this day, many drivers do not see the point of headlights as a way for other drivers to detect them; here in a rain-heavy city like mine, tons of drivers insist on driving without lights on. "

It's required by law for your lights to be on whenever your windshield wipers are on in my province and that is a common regulation in many states and provinces.

tylerkaraszewski: "Will someone ever explain how the standard windshield wiper controls ever became:

1) interval, which has 5 sub-settings
2) low
3) medium
4) high

Instead of just an 8-position rotary control? Why are the top three not "intervals"? They're shorter intervals, sure, but they're intervals. There's no logical reason windshield wiper speed controls should be any different than a radio volume control.
"

Part of this (like so much weirdness in cars) is historical and some is actual functional difference.

First off in most cars low constant and high constant are two different speeds constantly engaged not different intervals. IE: on slow it might take 3 seconds for a wipe and there is a wipe every 3 seconds and on fast there is a 1 second wipe every second. The intermittent setting will have a 3 second wipe every 5-10 seconds. The interval control is a different control because it allows one to select low speed with just two clicks and it allows one to change the interval without over shooting into constant operation. I've driven cars with just a single knob and it's a pain in the ass.

In the way back old days windshield wipers were powered by manifold vacuum. speed of the wipers was directly proportional to engine vacuum which wasn't in anyway desirable (your wipers would essentially stop working at wide open throttle because of a lack of vacuum).

When they went electric they were single speed but still pretty undesirably variable in practice because 6V generator electrical systems were pretty inadequate. It was often the case that you could power the lights or the your wipers but not both at low engine rpms (generator output was fairly proportional to engine RPM). Once Chrysler brought out the alternator things got a lot better and but interval wipers still required relays (remember no transistors) to operate and so were a fairly high cost add on. Chryslers in the 60s had variable speed wipers which was much cheaper but some what less effective alternative. Intermittent wipers became more common back when controls were still mounted on the dash and they were often completely seperate knobs/sliders.

IMO my Storm got this control right: they have a series of push buttons on the edge of the instrument cluster that is visible and reachable without moving your hands off the wheel. Much more users friendly than these stupid stalks that have become the norm.
posted by Mitheral at 7:34 PM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't wait for fully automated cars so computers can deal with incomprehensible warnings and controls so I don't have to.
posted by tommasz at 12:49 PM on December 21, 2013


On the off chance you're ever driving a DeLorean, it helps to know what the oddball "Lambda" light on the dashboard means.

Your flux capacitor is at risk of causing a resonance cascade.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:58 AM on December 23, 2013


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