How to Handle a Stuck Accelerator Pedal
Stories of cars with sticking accelerators have been in the news often in recent years, due largely to an issue with Toyota vehicles that prompted a large scale recall in 2014. A stuck accelerator, however, is an electrical or mechanical failure that could occur in any vehicle.If you find yourself driving a vehicle with a stuck accelerator, stay calm and utilize safe driving fundamentals until you are able to get the vehicle off the road. Once safe, you will need to have the vehicle repaired by a professional technician.
Taking Immediate Action
Remain calm.If you find yourself in a situation where your accelerator pedal is stuck, your first reaction may be to panic. Panic can be dangerous to you and the other drivers on the road, so it’s important that you take a dep breath and stay calm.
- Take deep, controlled breaths to help slow your heart rate.
- If possible, breath in through your nose and out through your mouth until you feel in control.
Be aware of your surroundings.When driving, you usually should maintain a general level of awareness of everything going on around you, but it becomes extremely important if you find yourself with a stuck open throttle. You will need to find a way to get your vehicle off the road without putting yourself or others at any additional risk. This means quickly looking all around you to ensure you are aware of everything going on in your environment.
- Use your mirrors to identify other cars around so you can find the shortest route to the breakdown lane without risking an accident.
- Look for pedestrians on the side of the road or in upcoming crosswalks.
- Consider the type of road you are on. Are there breakdown lanes? Are there guard rails that may prevent you from pulling over right away?
Attempt to lift the accelerator pedal with your toe.The issue with your accelerator may be with the pedal assembly. If this is the case, sliding your toe beneath the pedal and lifting it upward may bring your vehicle back to an idle and allow you to safely pull over. Keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel as you attempt to lift the pedal with your right foot.
- Do not attempt to use your left foot, as you may need to transition to braking quickly. You will be able to do so with your right foot faster if your left hasn’t gotten in the way.
- If the pedal comes up freely without affecting the RPMs of the vehicle, the gas pedal assembly is not the issue.
Press firmly on the brake with your right foot.If you are going slowly enough, you may be able to overcome the acceleration caused by your open throttle by firmly pressing down on the brake with your right foot. Be careful, your vehicle may respond differently than it normally does under braking as a result of the engine attempting to power the wheels forward.
- At high speeds, simply pressing the brake likely won’t bring the vehicle to a complete stop.
- Be aware that some vehicles may pull to the left of right under hard braking. Keep both hands on the wheel as you attempt to stop a slow moving vehicle by applying the brake.
Do not use the emergency or parking brake.The emergency or parking brake was not actually designed to stop a vehicle in motion, but rather to keep a vehicle from moving once it is stopped. As a result, the brake may fail if you attempt to engage it while moving, and the vehicle is likely to move erratically if you engage it.
- The emergency brake should only be used to stop a vehicle in an emergency that includes total brake failure.
- Using the emergency brake can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
Disengaging the Wheels from the Driveline
Press the clutch in vehicles with a standard transmission.If your vehicle came equipped with a standard transmission, you can easily disengage the driveline of the vehicle from the wheels by pressing down on the clutch with your left foot. The engine is likely to begin revving (increasing its RPMs), so be prepared for it to make quite a bit of noise.
- With the clutch pedal pressed to the floor, the engine will no longer be powering the wheels.
- Be sure to look behind you before slowing down dramatically to avoid being struck by an approaching vehicle.
Shift the transmission into neutral.In a vehicle with a standard transmission, shifting in neutral involves pulling the vehicle’s shift lever out of gear while pressing down on the clutch. For automatic vehicles, you will simply need to push forward on the shift lever (or up if the lever is on your console) to take the vehicle out of drive and put it into neutral. You can usually identify neutral by looking for the letter “N” next to your shift lever.
- Neutral is almost always the gear directly above drive in automatic vehicles.
- You should not have to push the button on the shift lever to shift from drive to neutral.
Be careful not to shift the transmission into park or reverse.If your vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission, all of the gears are in a line. When shifting the vehicle into neutral, be extremely careful not to push the shifter further than you intended. Accidentally shifting into reverse or park could cause significant damage to your transmission and even cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Most newer vehicles will only allow you to shift the vehicle from drive to neutral while moving.
Turn the engine off only if all else fails.While turning the engine off will stop the vehicle from continuing to accelerate, it can also compromise your ability to steer and apply the brakes. Your power steering is powered by a pulley on your engine and it receives power only when the engine is running. Likewise, in some older vehicles the engine must be running in order to produce vacuum pressure for the brake system to function properly.
- If you cannot get the vehicle into neutral, you may need to turn off the engine to stop accelerating, but it should be seen as a last resort.
- If you turn off the engine, be prepared for your steering to become extremely difficult.
Pulling Over Safely
Turn on your hazard flashers.Your hazard flashers are a great way to let the drivers around you know that you are having an issue and that they should keep clear of your vehicle. Turn them on by pressing the appropriate button on your dashboard. In most vehicles, your hazard flashers should be marked with an exclamation point (!) in a triangle.
- You should make sure you know where the hazard flashers button is in your vehicle before encountering an emergency so you don’t have to look for it.
- If you are unsure where to find yours, look it up in your owner’s manual at some point when you are not driving the vehicle.
Look for the closest safe place to pull over.Once you have shifted the vehicle in neutral, you will have only the carried over speed from before disengaging the engine to get you to a safe place to stop, so you should do so as quickly and safely as possible. In many situations, simply pulling over to the side of the road will do.
- If possible, look for a place you can leave the car for a little while, as it will be unfit to drive until it has been repaired.
- Breakdown lanes, rest stops and parking lots are all better alternatives to the side of the road when available.
Bring the car to a complete stop and turn off the engine.Apply the brake with your right foot until the vehicle comes to a complete stop just as you normally would. The disengaged engine is likely spinning a high number of RPMs (Revolutions per Minute) as a result of the stuck accelerator. Turn it off as soon as you’ve come to a complete stop to avoid causing further damage to the engine.
- Holding an engine at “redline” for an extended period of time can cause significant damage to the vehicle. Redline can be identified by the range of RPMs indicated on your tachometer with a red bar.
- Your vehicle may have come equipped with an RPM governor that will prevent the engine from being over-revved. If the vehicle’s RPMs are surging and dropping repeatedly, it is likely because of the governor.
Press and hold the ignition button for three seconds (if equipped).In newer model vehicles equipped with a start/stop ignition button, it may not shut off immediately upon pressing the button. The vehicle’s on board computer may think you are still driving because of the gas pedal being engaged. In these vehicles, holding the start/stop ignition button for three seconds should shut down the motor.
- Vehicles equipped with start/stop ignition buttons are designed to prevent you from accidentally shutting off the vehicle while driving.
- Holding the button down for three full seconds sends a message to the computer that you want it to override that safety feature.
Do not drive the vehicle until it has been repaired.Once you are safely pulled over and the vehicle is shut off, do not start it again or attempt to drive. The vehicle will need to be towed to a repair facility and repaired before it will be safe to drive again.
- If law enforcement arrives and asks you to move the vehicle, explain the issue you had to them and they can help get a tow truck to you quickly.
- Remember that it is illegal in many places to leave an unattended vehicle on the side of public road, particularly if it is in an unsafe place.
QuestionThe accelerator pedal pinged while driving. Could it be a spring or something?.Julian ReevesCommunity AnswerIt may be something that fell onto the floor and got underneath the pedal. Pull off the road and check the foot well for objects that shouldn't be on the floor. Be thorough in your search. Be sure there is NOTHING under the gas pedal. Check the movement of the pedal while the engine is off and again after restarting the engine. If you can, go under the hood and find the mechanical linkage to the fuel system and move it to check that it is properly connected. If you don't know how to do this, stop at a service station and ask a mechanic to check for you.Thanks!
QuestionCould snow cause a gas pedal to get stuck?Julian ReevesCommunity AnswerPossibly, if you live where snow can accumulate under the pedal and not melt sufficiently to be displaced. Be sure to bang your boots together after sitting down but before turning into the seat to knock off the snow. That will keep it from getting into the foot well and under the gas pedal. If you're too lazy to do this, turn on the heater high enough to melt the snow.Thanks!
QuestionWhat do I do if my accelerator pedal is stuck?Julian ReevesCommunity AnswerPull onto the shoulder and turn off the ignition. The problem is most likely a carpet that is on top of the accelerator that was placed there improperly after having been removed during car vacuuming. Also look for items that may have fallen onto the floor such as drinking cup, can or bottle. Many small items can become stuck against or atop the gas pedal, causing the car to accelerate unexpectedly or refuse to slow down.Thanks!
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