May 29, 2011

Car Talk

Dad can't hear turn signal clicks

Syndicated columnists

Dear Tom and Ray:

My dad is older (87) but is still a good driver. However, his hearing is not very good. When he uses his turn signal for a gentle turn, and it doesn't shut off by itself, he can't hear it to turn it off. He just bought a 2010 Honda Element (his second one). What is the best way to make the signal louder so he can hear it? By the way, if this works, it would solve two problems: It would make the turn signal louder, and it would make my mother quieter. You see, right now she is the one who hollers at my dad to turn off the signal (smile).
-- Nancy

Ray: So, let's see if I have this right. He can't hear the turn-signal flasher. And he doesn't notice the blinking light on the dashboard. So he can't hear and can't see, but he's still a good driver. OK, gotcha.

Tom: One obvious concern is that if he can't hear the flasher and can't pick up the blinking light, he may be missing other things as well. And since hearing and seeing both are crucial to driving, you should take a fresh look, and make sure your dad's really aware of everything that's going on around him on the road.

Ray: If the issue really is just hearing, and hearing aids have not helped the problem, you can check with your dealer. The blinker noise is made by the actual flasher unit itself -- completing and then breaking the circuit. In the old days, flasher units were pretty interchangeable. But now they're specific to individual cars. So only your Honda dealer would know if another, louder flasher unit from another model would work in the Element.

Tom: If you hit a dead end there, and I suspect you will, you'll have to improvise a bit. One possibility is to buy one of those wireless baby monitors. Tape the microphone part of it under the dashboard near the flasher, and secure the receiver to the headrest next to what? Dad's ear! Then he can turn it on when he's driving and adjust the volume to hear the blinker, or turn it louder if he'd rather hear the engine than Mom.

Ray: But before you help him keep driving, Nancy, make sure he can hear an emergency vehicle coming up behind him, or the horn of another driver who needs to warm him of an impending collision. If he can't hear those types of sounds clearly and reliably, the turn signal is small potatoes.

(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk website.)

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