We pretty much take the horn on our vehicles for granted — until the day they don't work.
That happened on my motorcycle the other day. The button that used to create either a light beep or a prodigious HONK barely managed a pathetic blaap, and that only after a lot of static.
It's going to be fixed, but the failing made some observations by Ford's Patricia Seashore resonate as she talks about the differences in horn-blowing behavior around the world.
It seems that we in North America use our horns less than drivers elsewhere in the world, mostly as a light toot to greet neighbors, a quick chirp when we arm our alarms after parking, or another one to help find our vehicles in big lots.
"We're getting away from using the horn strictly as a warning," Seashore says. "Of course you'll hear them when someone gets cut off or when things are happening in traffic, but you hear them when people say 'Hi' to a neighbor or pull into a driveway to pick someone up."
That's why most cars in this market have trumpet horns with frequencies that, while not truly unpleasant, are slightly discordant.
South Americans want a horn they can honk frequently in short bursts.
In India, horns get heavier use from drivers on congested roads in urban areas and unimproved roads in rural areas. "There we use a disc horn, which has a longer life," she says.
"In China, customers drive with one hand on the wheel and one on the horn. The horn is huge," Seashore says. "Still, they want it to sound nice. So there we use an electronic trumpet."
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About Boston Overdrive
|Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
|Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
|John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
|Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
|Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on About.com. He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
|George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee