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#1
Old 07-30-2003, 05:40 PM
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Floor mounted high beam switch - why?

Hi. Reminiscing about our old '77 Plymouth Volare wagon, I recalled that it had a floor mounted foot switch to activate the high beams. I believe this was fairly common at the time, but it seems like a really odd engineering decision, compared with the dash or stalk mounted switches that are common now. So why were these floor mounted switches used at the time?
#2
Old 07-30-2003, 06:09 PM
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As far as I know all dimmer switches were on the floor board once upon a time.

It was easy to reach over and hit the switch with your left foot. Which doesn't do much most of the time anyway.
#3
Old 07-30-2003, 06:15 PM
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Could be a factor of not having small enough microswitches, etc. to fit all that harnessing into the steering column. Perhaps it just makes more sense to have all the lighting functions in one location.
#4
Old 07-30-2003, 06:21 PM
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Back in the old days cars did not use relays. (a relay is a device that uses a small amount of electrical current to switch a much larger current. By using a relay you can use a smaller lighter switch with smaller wires to control a large current) So the highbeam switch had to have wires to and from it that were capable of handling the fairly large current going to the high beams. Also the switch contacts had to be large enough to handle the load.
So going back to the days of old, it was easy to put in a foot operated switch that was
A) large enough to handle the current, and
B) easy to route large wires to,
C) reliable and lastly
D) cheap to build
It was the influence of European cars that caused the switch over. By the sixties most if not all European cars had stalk mounted high beams. During the foreign car boom of the sixties (which was mostly European) the new (to the US) stalk mounted control made the foot switch look old fashioned. Needless to say Detroit did not want to look old fashioned so they started to convert 'merican cars to the latest style.
#5
Old 07-30-2003, 06:27 PM
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Moving off at a slight tangent, why do a lot of US built cars still have the park brake control foot-operated? It rarely seems to be used (too cumbersome?) with the driver content to shove it in Park and leave it. (I speak as a UK driver, where we only have hand-operated park brakes)
#6
Old 07-30-2003, 06:28 PM
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I learned to drive with the dimmer switch on the floor. I remember the shame and humiliation of my brothers laughing their asses of at me as I searched frantically for what seemed like hours for the dimmer switch on my father's van one dark night on a crooked and narrow Kentucky lane.

Frankly I wish they'd move it back to the floor. My hands have plenty to do already. On the hand Mr. Left Foot spends my driving time lolly-gagging around not doing much of anything. It's about time he started pulling his own weight again.
#7
Old 07-30-2003, 06:29 PM
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Because, at the time, it was thought that having the switch on the floor left the driver better able to concentrate on the few dash switches he needed; also, fumbling around on the dash in the dark was dangerous. Column-mounted switches were rare, and possibly difficult to install, back then.

Personally, I liked the old floor-mounted switch, and I don't much care for having the switch on the signal lever.
#8
Old 07-30-2003, 06:34 PM
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Quote:
why do a lot of US built cars still have the park brake control foot-operated?
I'm not found of the foot opperated E brake but it has the advantage of not taking up any valuable center console room.
#9
Old 07-30-2003, 07:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by kanicbird
I'm not found of the foot opperated E brake but it has the advantage of not taking up any valuable center console room.
Honda had the good sense to put the E-brake on the dashboard in the CR-V. It looks just like the hand grip on the opposite side of the heat/CD/etc contols, except for a release button.
#10
Old 07-30-2003, 07:28 PM
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I think I remember Cadilacs having some sort of electric eye device mounted on the dash. It automatically dimmed the high beams when an approching car came into its range.
#11
Old 07-31-2003, 10:38 AM
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In these parts a lot of salt is used on the roads in winter, and with my first car, a '69 Chevelle, having a floor - mounted dimmer switch, this meant that eventually tracked-in snow and salt corroded the area around the switch, making it more difficult to use.A hand-operated switch is much preferred, IMO.As far as the "un-used" left foot is concerned, our driver ed. teacher taught us to brake with the left foot.(Og forbid I ever have to drive a standard.)
#12
Old 07-31-2003, 11:02 AM
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Light Dimmers: Once upon a time, steering wheels did not lock and the steering column was only a couple inches wide. The turn signal and the horn were the only electrical controls. The turn signal did not control the windshield washer. It did not control the windshield wiper. It did not control the hi-beam dimmer. It did not control the cruise control. Partly, I guess, because it hadn't occurred to them; maybe partly because if it did occur to the designers they figured it would be confusing -- you'd risk turning on your wipers when you were signalling for a turn, or you'd accidentally blind someone with your hi-beams when you tried to turn the wiper off; and maybe partly because the tiny column did not readily lend itself to a mechanical lever that would need to be able to rotate, move forward and back, and move side to side, along with the attendant switches and the wiring.

The part about "confusing" is still applicable. I'll have to admit I like having the hi-beams controls there at my fingertips but I wish they'd put the washer and wiper back on the dashboard.

As far as the parking brake: It was originally popular for American cars to have a hand brake, and it was generally below the dash around knee level and you pulled it out towards yourself; to release it you'd rotate it. The floor model was nicer, actually, as you could get more leverage pushing the pedal down with your foot than by pulling out on a stick with a handle. The third type, the upside-down puppy-penis model, is nicest of all but it only makes sense if you have bucket seats.

Quote:
I think I remember Cadilacs having some sort of electric eye device mounted on the dash. It automatically dimmed the high beams when an approching car came into its range.
I had one of these in my '65 Pontiac Bonneville. It utilized vacuum tubes!! The tubes were in a little box inside the glove compartment.
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#13
Old 07-31-2003, 01:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by hertz
Moving off at a slight tangent, why do a lot of US built cars still have the park brake control foot-operated? It rarely seems to be used (too cumbersome?) with the driver content to shove it in Park and leave it. (I speak as a UK driver, where we only have hand-operated park brakes)
I would attribute that to the fact that a few years ago, when this became the norm, most domestic cars had a bench seat in the front.
It's hard to sit in the middle of the front bench if you have a parking brake beneath you.
#14
Old 07-31-2003, 01:23 PM
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In a similar vein, and for similar reasons (in re: dimmer switch), a number of older cars had a floor-mounted starter switch. You'd turn the keyed ignition switch in the dash to on, then press the spring-loaded starter switch on the floor to crank the engine.
#15
Old 07-31-2003, 01:27 PM
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Another point to consider is that when these switches were first designed, cars had 6-volt electrical systems. The wires and switches for any given item had to be pretty stout, as they carried twice as much amperage as in a 12-volt system.
#16
Old 07-31-2003, 02:03 PM
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This reminds me of a funny story from my youth (gather 'round kids!) I had "inherited" my mom's '69 Ford Fairlane, which had the high beam switch on left side of the floor. One night, I don't remember why, I borrowed her "new" Ford Fairmont ('79 or '80 I believe). During a heavy makeout session, my left foot hit a switch on the floor, and I thought "No big deal, just the high beams". After doing my duty, saying goodnight, the car wouldn't start. 1 am. Ended up waking up her dad for help, he couldn't, called my dad, he drove the 15 miles in PJs to eventually manually connect the battery to the starter (or something like that). Turns out it wasn't the high beam switch I had hit, it was a "disable" switch that totally cut off the electrical system, somekinda primitive theft deterrent. Fun and embarrassment all around. What was her name again?
#17
Old 07-31-2003, 03:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by williamweigand
As far as the "un-used" left foot is concerned, our driver ed. teacher taught us to brake with the left foot.(Og forbid I ever have to drive a standard.)
Please tell me you are joking.

On an automatic, gas with the right foot and brake with right foot. On a manual, right foot is gas and brake, left foot is clutch.
#18
Old 07-31-2003, 04:00 PM
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Our old '74 (?) Chrysler Newport had a floor mounted switch, next to the high beams, that would scan the radio to the next station. I thought that was the neatest thing since sliced bread.
#19
Old 07-31-2003, 05:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by AHunter3
Light Dimmers: Once upon a time, steering wheels did not lock and the steering column was only a couple inches wide. The turn signal and the horn were the only electrical controls. The turn signal did not control the windshield washer. It did not control the windshield wiper. It did not control the hi-beam dimmer. It did not control the cruise control.
Once upon a time (when I originally got my driver's license) there was NO turn signal. A driver signaled a right turn, left turn and stop (no brake lights either) with his left arm.
Quote:
originally posted by Gary T
In a similar vein, and for similar reasons (in re: dimmer switch), a number of older cars had a floor-mounted starter switch. You'd turn the keyed ignition switch in the dash to on, then press the spring-loaded starter switch on the floor to crank the engine.
My grandfather had a 194? Chevy coupe with the starter on the floor and it worked exactly as described.
#20
Old 07-31-2003, 05:32 PM
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One time my brother borrowed our truck to haul some stuff and left us his car to use in the meantime. It had an after-market windshield washer with a left foot switch where the old headlight dimmers were located.

I had my wife convinced that the car had voice-activated windshield wipers. I kept both hands firmly on the wheel and said loudly, "The windshield is dirty," while surreptitiously pressing the pedal.

She about killed me when she found out.
#21
Old 08-01-2003, 10:11 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Mort Furd
Please tell me you are joking.

On an automatic, gas with the right foot and brake with right foot. On a manual, right foot is gas and brake, left foot is clutch.
You've got me embarrassed now for revealing that, but it's true.The teacher's reasoning was that you can brake faster with your left foot. I've driven that way for close to 30 years now, and AFAIK it hasn't caused any problems.To change now would be like trying to write with my left hand.
#22
Old 08-01-2003, 11:15 AM
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You've got nothing to be embarrassed about. Braking with the left foot on an auto is preferable because you will have better response times by anticipating a potential braking situation coming up. The only problem with left foot braking is that the clueless masses tend to "ride" the brake leaving the brake lights on constantly. Not to mention the additional wear to the brakes.

If you have the presence of mind to keep your foot off the brake pedal when not braking, left foot braking is a good thing.
#23
Old 08-01-2003, 12:25 PM
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Push button transmissions, oil heaters, split sliding rear windows and numerous other innovations permeated the car industry, some just cause they were 'cool' or neat. Not much concern was given to safety, or to ergonomics, and if it was, it was mostly misunderstood, so all sorts of interesting things went on in cars.

So how did a push button tranny in the center of the steering wheel work anyway???
#24
Old 08-01-2003, 01:06 PM
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As an interesting aside, every bus I've driven has floor mounted turn signals as well as floor mounted bright switches. The intention is probably to keep both hands free while driving, which is sometimes very necessary.
#25
Old 08-01-2003, 04:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by Philster
Push button transmissions, oil heaters, split sliding rear windows and numerous other innovations permeated the car industry, some just cause they were 'cool' or neat. Not much concern was given to safety, or to ergonomics, and if it was, it was mostly misunderstood, so all sorts of interesting things went on in cars.

So how did a push button tranny in the center of the steering wheel work anyway???
I owned a 1959 Plymouth Savoy (my first car!) with a push button transmission, mounted on the dash, to the left of the steering column. It was vertical, starting with P at the top, down to L on the bottom.( I guess like todays automatics, Park, Rev., Drive and Low) I was reading on a Plymouth website, that, the Chrysler Corp. was the only company that had success with it, since it was the only one of its kind that was mechanically controlled. I remember it being a little hard to engage each gear, when you pushed a button, it was a good one inch in travel before you were engaged. There was a resounding 'click'. Think of the click on todays automatics..same thing.
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