We’ve heard of keyless driving

But I suspect that concept didn’t exist in automobile design in 1986.  It does exist for Reno in 2013, and it was a little disconcerting the first time it happened.

I pulled into the driveway and parked the car.  I moved the prandle handle to “park.”   I reached to turn the key off, but there was no key.  That’s right.  The car was running, and there was no key in the ignition.  I’ve been driving for 35 years, but this was something new and different!  How, in fact, does one turn off one’s car without a key?  And where on earth was the key?  It had been in the ignition when I started the car.

I looked around on the floor of the car, but no keys were visible.  Then I scooted my seat back (more on that in a moment) and found my keys.  They had fallen and slid partway back under my seat.  I grabbed the Toyota key, shoved it in the ignition, and turned the car off.  Whew!

Then I thought through what must have happened.  You see, I am short; probably about 5’2″ these days.  And my proportions are wrong, meaning that my legs are too short for my girth.  Therefore, in order for me to get out of the driver’s seat of a car, I have to move the seat all the way back to extricate my stomach from its extremely close proximity to the steering wheel, and when I get in the car to drive, I have to move the seat almost all the way forward to be able to reach the pedals.

With my seat far forward, in some cars (including Reno), my right knee brushes against my dangling key chain when I switch from one pedal to the other.  Usually, this is not a problem, but Reno seems to have a loosey goosey ignition, which grips the key poorly, if at all, so ANY little pressure against the key chain can cause the whole thing to fall out.  In fact, this happened the other day, as I was pulling out of the church parking lot.  The lay of the land at that driveway is such that you can’t see very far over the hills in either direction, so the technique is to look left, right, left again, right again, left one more time, and then pull out vigorously, gunning the engine, because there’s no telling whether or not someone is coming at 50 mph up either of the hills.  So, I pulled out with purpose, but someone was coming, which caused me to hit the brake really hard, and that jerk of the car was enough to cause the key to fall out of the ignition.

Since I’m driving Reno daily now, I have developed the habit of frequently touching the ignition key and pressing it back in while I’m driving.  I probably check it every minute or two, and it’s usually about halfway out.  A couple times it has fallen all the way out while driving, but I’ve been able to fish around with my feet and kick it over to where I can pick it up and shove it back in.

The other thing that’s interesting about Reno’s ignition is that when you turn the key back toward you to turn the car off, you’re supposed to have to press a little button on the steering column, and that lets you turn the key to the full “off” position.  But things tend to loosen and sag as they age, and now the key will also come out without pressing the little button.  That means that the key is being removed when it’s actually in the “acc” position.  We have learned the hard way that if you do that, the engine will indeed be turned off, but when you get back in to drive it, the battery will have gone dead.  Therefore, I am fastidious about HOW I turn off the car, so as to make sure it’s really all the way off.

My latest and greatest idea is to use a large rubber band, anchored around the base of the turn signal lever, that I can slip over the end of the key to hold it in place when it’s in the ignition.

That thought does remind me of my very first car, whose doors I had to hold shut with ropes while driving. . .


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