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Fun with rental cars - The Lyorn's Den

Sat Jan. 13th, 2007

10:08 am - Fun with rental cars

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This (Friday) evening I went to visit Snow's sister, T___, to give her some presents from her family, get the stuff I had stored at her place, talk some and pet the cat. The place where she lives is quite hilly, so what I feared from the moment I took a first good look at my latest rental car, a Chevrolet, happened: I had to use the parking brake.

Now, parking brakes. In my own car, this is a big lever between driver's seat and passenger seat, which is pulled and released with the right hand. That is how things should be, in my opinion. In the Audi, it was a button near to the driver's right knee, which had an "engage" and a "release" position. In the Ford, it was a pedal down left plus a lever slightly above it. You engaged with your left foot and released it with your left hand. I had seen that before in an old Mercedes, so, fine.

The Chevrolet had the pedal, but not the release lever. Optimistic as ever, I assumed that when the time came, I would find it. The "time" ought to have been the moment I wanted to drive away again. Which happened after a nice evening, only, what didn't happen was a sudden appearance of the release lever. I tried everything I could think of, then went back to T___ for help. She thought the whole thing very funny and was convinced that it had to be real easy and I was overlooking the obvious. (That's what I thought, too.) With the help of a flashlight we checked every square inch of the car within the driver's reach: Nichts, nada, nothing. The handbrake was engaged to be married, it seemed. And of course no manual turned up, either. I should make it a habit to ask for the user manual when getting a rental car and not leaving without one.

Finally we were really cold (it was freezing outside, in what is considered the coldest week in 40 years in this area) and decided that this was no use, and as it was a rental car from a big company, even close to midnight they must be some kind of customer service. T____ did the phone calls, much to my relief.

The first customer service guy we had on the line did speak worse English than I, but connected us to the next guy, and after about half an hour waiting in some line, we finally got someone with a clue and some answers. So I could drive off and wonder if these chinese-trick-box-like designs were done because the designers felt their lives lacked secret doors and secret codes, or if it just was a collateral annoyance because someone had decided that having another lever in the cockpit would spoil the aesthetic impression.

And in case you wondered: How to release the parking brake in a new Chevrolet
1. Step on the brake.
2. Now step on the parking brake
3. Release parking brake.


[User Picture]
Date:January 16th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
I prefer the first idea and think it was sold to the company with the excuse of aesthetic design ...
If the first guy from customer service would work here, I'm sure it would be a pizza delivery service ... I'm glad that you can tell what you want in numbers or I would never get what I want with Sushi or Indian takeaway ...
Just to tell you how weird life is, when you had the coldest week, we had the warmest ... up to 15° in some parts, we had 'just' 12° ... bears waking up from hibernation (now we have freezing temperatures, barely)
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[User Picture]
Date:January 16th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC)

Releasing the parking brake

Just my few cents to this "strange" release procedure: I would guess it was designed so that you have to have the "normal" brakes engaged when releasing the parking brake so you don't release it accidentally and create a hugh insurance bill in the process. My second guess is that the car has an automatic transmission where you don't need the parking brake for not rolling backwards when you try to get going uphill.
But getting the manual is definitely the best insurance against this type of problems - they simply won't occur since the manual takes all the fun out of it ;-)
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[User Picture]
Date:January 17th, 2007 06:43 pm (UTC)

Re: Releasing the parking brake

Thinking of it, yes, this mechanism would be extremely useless in a car with manual shift...
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